Standard Issue writers are revisiting a film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. As news of a ‘threequel’ emerges, Bertie Bowen takes another look at the classic British horror film. WARNING: Contains spoilers.
Rated or dated: The first time I saw The Wicker Man I’d never heard of it and knew nothing about the premise. I was mesmerised from the beginning ‘til the very end. Even when the credits were rolling, I was still convinced it couldn’t possibly be the end because this was the most shocking ending to a film I’d ever, ever seen. And it was AMAZING.
This film was the start of a small obsession with horror, especially 1970s horror. I must have seen The Wicker Man at least 50 times, more probably. I have seen it at the cinema twice (once was a sing-a-long and I think me and my mates were the only ones who printed out a copy of the words to take with us. No one else sang.); I even ended up writing my final thesis on The Wicker Man. So I may be somewhat biased…
The film begins with haunting folk music and aerial shots of the bleak and remote island of Summerisle. A policeman from the mainland has received a letter reporting a missing girl on the island and has come to investigate. He is received with coldness and suspicion from the odd-looking locals and so unfolds a mystery that just keeps getting queerer.
When it was released in 1973, the film was not very well received. I think it confused most people. Was it a horror? Or maybe a comedy? It could even be a musical! It transcended genres and couldn’t be compared to anything before it and that, perhaps, was its downfall. Audiences didn’t know how to react when they saw it; it made them feel uncomfortable in its strangeness. Yet eventually it became a cult classic. It actually improved with age.
When I watch it, I always wish it was the first time I was watching. If you haven’t seen it, I envy you, especially if you don’t know anything about it. Just do not ever mention that horrendous Hollywood Nicolas Cage remake atrocity to me. It makes me SICK to think of it.
It’s not just the fact you cannot tie down the genre of this film; also, controversially, the viewer wants to side with the baddies rather than the good. The islanders just seem to have so much fun in comparison to the arrogant, uptight, Christian copper. And who can resist the amazing Christopher Lee? He claimed the role of Lord Summerisle was one of the greatest he ever played, God rest his beautiful soul.
Let’s get this straight: this film is of its time. It is so of its time it must have looked humorously dated by the time it was released on VHS. But the datedness of the film is mainly in its looks, the costumes and haircuts, and this is also part of its charm and its uncanny appeal. The Wicker Man is freakishly modern in the way it inverts the Hollywood rules; the typical assumed happy ending with its completeness and unchallenged rightness is snatched away, leaving a gulf of questions and disbelief. How refreshing.
In fact, it’s much more like real life in that respect. HUGE SPOILER ALERT Life’s a bitch and sometimes people get burned alive, screaming. Even if they’re the good guys.2882 Views
Stylist, writer and mother living in East London. A clompy shoed, curly haired, Radio 4 enthusiast. www.mothershoppers.com