DVD Review – The Wicker Tree
The belated sequel to The Wicker Man is finally due out on on general release but has it been worth the wait or does it tarnish the memory of the original? Here is Tom’s review of The Wicker Tree
Robin Hardy had such a tough time directing his feature debut The Wicker Man that it nearly put him off returning behind the camera for good. Despite Hardy’s troubles, it is rightly revered as a horror classic that still retains the power to shock with its depiction of a religious cult who partake in human sacrifices, and he did a commendable job of bringing Anthony Schaffer’s screenplay to the big screen in style.
Nearly fourty years later Hardy has returned to a familiar theme with his latest film The Wicker Tree which was initially billed as Cowboys For Christ until studio pressure led to a name change, presumably to attract audiences longing for a return to Summer Isle, the infamous isolated setting of The Wicker Man. This time around the newcomers to a deeply religious community are invited to take part in a local festival in the Scottish village of Tressock, and although a Wicker figure does return, this lacklustre sequel of sorts has none of the charm of his debut.
Although their performances are enthusiastic, the main actors fail to provide the story with any likeable characters, and the villains lack a certain unlikeability factor, in fact I was ambivalent about every person in this film. One of a horror films main aim is for the audience to sympathise with the victims and despise the villains and The Wicker Tree fails at both. With no-one to root for, I was left waiting for the appearance of Christoper Lee to rescue the film but the two minutes of screentime he had in which to mutter some mumbo jumbo about mysticism and religion was very disappointing.
It is not often I spot continuity mistakes in films as it is not something that grabs my attention when I am deeply entranced in a film’s story but there was a glaring error in The Wicker Tree that did make me chuckle. The main character falls asleep in checked boxer shorts only to awake in striped boxer shorts of a different colour, even worse is the fact that the shot is set up identically and follows in sequence but all present, including the actor, failed to realise he was wearing a different outfit! This is not the result of meticulous first rate film-making, and when a man is bleeding profusely but fails to leave a bloody stain on a table he has laid down on for some time, it gave the impression that I was watching a film where its creators were half-arsed about the end result. It may sound like I am nitpicking but if the film was more captivating I would be far less likely to be noticing mistakes such as these.
Hardy does show some promise, with a brutal murder in an ruined castle standing out as a highlight, it is just a shame that The Wicker Tree is essentially a retread of his finest hour but without the foreboding atmosphere of doom that left audiences on the edge of their seats the first time around. Completists will no doubt seek out The Wicker Tree on its release and if you don’t go in expecting another Wicker Man you may be pleasantly surprised. However, I have a feeling that most fans of the original will regret watching this sequel, as it is not the return to form from Hardy I was hoping for.
The Wicker Tree is on general release from Monday 30th April through Anchor Bay Entertainment
Are you a fan of The Wicker Man? Does the idea of a sequel leave you uncertain? Let me know your thoughts below…