The Wicker Man (1973)

The Wicker Man 1973Wicker-Man-poster-2-400x283
Director: Robin Hardy
Notable Appearances: Christopher Lee
Genre: Thriller, Horror

For some reason I’ve managed to make it through a quarter-century without seeing this great work of cult filmmaking and if for nothing else than that, I regret the way I have been living this life.  What we’ve got here is an oddball feature about a devout Catholic police officer setting out to an isolated island off the coast of Scotland to find a missing girl.  That’s a pretty simple plot that becomes twisted into an allegory about the effects of religion, both positive and negative.  It expresses the strength and security which it can provide – both mentally/physically within the individual and within a society – while simultaneously propelling certain misguided souls into madness and intolerance.  The most compelling aspect of which is that this film does not discriminate between the two; leaving it up to us to decide who is the madman and who is the stalwart protector.  The director’s concern with the subtext is telling and he should be commended for his success in expressing that, but the meaning tends to overtake the medium.  It’s storytelling method lies somewhere between Hitchcockian thriller and 70s acid trip filmmaking.  Using this technique, it does at times touch the heights of David Lynch’s finer moments, but often this film doesn’t know what it is doing.  Things don’t feel foreboding enough for this to be a horror film, but it’s subject matter doesn’t allow for it to be considered much else.  The tone gets lost and some scenes stretch too long while others feel horribly thin and rushed.  The obvious budgetary limitations may be to blame for the latter.  They remade this pretty recently with Hollywood backing and Nicholas Cage in the main role (I’m pretty sure about that…), but I’m willing to wager that money and star power did not improve upon those points.  Besides, this one’s got Christopher Lee in it.  He was Dracula AND Saruman!  Totally awesome; that would be the best way to describe the ending of this film and for those who have yet to experience it’s excellence, I won’t give any of it away.  In the end, it’s an uneven film, but this is a singular, unimitatable affair whose achievements far overshadow it’s shortcomings.
Four out of five stars.

Note: This review was written in 2010