The Wicker Man (1974)

Having been pained enough by the Nicholas Cage remake, I felt it was about time I acquaint myself with the original version of the Wicker Man, a movie that has been called the “Citizen Kane of Horror movies”.  This, of course, was not by me as I wouldn’t say this movie is THAT good, especially having not seen Citizen Kane.  But let’s see if I would call this movie “The Tombstone of Horror movies”.  The Wicker Man stars Edward Woodward (who I know from a small part in Hot Fuzz), Britt Ekland (who I don’t know but was apparently in one of the Bond movies), and Christopher Lee (who I DEFINITELY know as Count Dooku in the prequel Star Wars and Saruman in Lord of the Rings).  I’ll again spoil this movie, not because it’s so bad you shouldn’t see it, but because I already spoiled the other Wicker Man and the stories are pretty close.

Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) comes to Summerisle, a privately owned island famed for it’s fruit produce and crazy religious folk, to investigate the disappearance of a young lady named Rowan Morrison.  Howie, who loves him some Jesus, is disturbed by the pagan society.  People run around naked, talk about the phallic nature of a tree, and breastfeed in graveyards.  Also, the girl in the room next to him in the inn, Willow (Britt Ekland), gets naked and does a rendition of a Stevie Nicks music video to try to get him to come over and bump uglies, but he’s married to Jesus and won’t give her none.  People on the island give him the run around, acting like Rowan doesn’t exist, then say she “doesn’t exist” because she died and no longer exists as Rowan.  He finds her grave, then goes to meet Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) in order to get permission to exhume her grave.  When he does so, he finds a dead hare and no Rowan.  He starts finding out that the island blames her for a poor harvest in the previous season.  He intends to go back to the mainland to get backup, but his plane has been sabotaged and won’t start.  Instead, he knocks out he innkeeper and takes his costume for the May Day celebration.  The costume is of Punch, a principal character in the festival of the fool.  He finds that they are going to sacrifice Rowan, frees her, and they escape through the caves to the shore.  Here, Rowan ditches him and rejoins Lord Summerisle, who explains that he will be sacrificed because Howie came there with the power of a king (as a cop), with the power of God (as a devout Christian), as a virgin (as he has not gotten nookie), and as a fool.  He’s then burned alive in a giant Wicker Man.

Now, I don’t know if I’d go anywhere near so far as to say this is the greatest horror movie ever, or the greatest British movie ever, or anything of the sort.  I have a hard time with older movies as they almost always feel so dated.  This movie suffers from that as well, but it’s still a very interesting and watchable movie.  I would go so far as to say this movie is FAR superior to it’s 2006 remake.  That being said, this movie is pretty damned strange.  The weird examples of their crazy pagan lifestyle are as off putting to me as they seemed to be to Howie.  Of the ones I can remember was the girl crying naked behind a tombstone, the girls jumping naked over a fire pit, and the girl breastfeeding in the graveyard.  Odd that all the ones I remember involve naked girls.  Another weird thing is that there’s a gravestone that says the dude is “protected by the ejaculation of serpents”.  But by far the weirdest thing about this movie is the fact that it’s kind of a musical horror movie.  There are about 4 times in the movie where people break into strange songs for about 5 minutes a piece.  I’m not a fan of musicals, personally, but I especially don’t get the musical horror mash up.  All that being said, this movie does create a creepy atmosphere, it lands the tension it aims at, and it makes a good horror movie that’s just a little bit dated by now.

Unlike the remake, the acting in this movie is all good.  But it’s British.  They pretty much invented acting.  Okay that’s probably not true, but they’re still good at it.  Woodward was probably the most standout of the performances in the movie.  You could always tell that he was doing all he could to hold back his distaste for their religion, although he still expressed it often.  The thing I thought was cool was that, unlike the remake where everyone else was an asshole, in this movie Howie was the biggest asshole.  I mean, how you gonna go to someone else’s house and tell them their religion is wrong ’cause they’re not lovin on the Jesus?  Let them do their thing.  If you had loved Jesus a little less (say, the amount I do), you probably wouldn’t have died.  See, I love Jesus, but I will also have sex before marriage.  And, when that Willow girl was offering up the vagina, I’d have taken it, and then I wouldn’t have been a virgin and I wouldn’t have been sacrificed.  There, I said it, premarital sex saves lives.

So, if you’re like my friend Loni and you want to know the story of The Wicker Man without sitting through the 2006 abortion, watch this one instead.  If you don’t care about the story, you can probably do without either.  I’ll give this movie a “Come.  It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man” out of “…weird”.

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.