The Wicker Man (1973)

NO DON’T WORRY IT’S NOT NIC CAGE!!! Today we have one of my all time favourites of the genre…A complete turnaround from the last post. Again, its a religion-based horror film but far greater in my opinion than our last. It’s Robin Hardy’s 1973 film, The Wicker Man!!

It’s a British cult classic and another example of why I’m proud of British Horror. The Wicker Man tells the story of Scottish policeman, Sgt. Howie, who travels to a remote hebridian island to attempt to find a missing young girl. When there however, Howie, a devout and virginal Christian, finds the island to be inhabited by Pagans who completely go against everything he stands for and ultimately, make his trip a very difficult one. There are a few twists in this one so I won’t spoil anything with the details but just know that Howie’s investigation goes way beyond a simple missing girl. He finds things that truly horrify him.

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Fertility rituals in practice on Summerisle

It’s an internal, more psychological and suggestive horror as most of our religious horrors have been and it is the way that these ‘horrific’ elements are put across that really makes this film feel special. The ‘villainous’ pagans within the film are more like the kind of people we favour in today’s culture which proves quite different to how it must have been received back in 1973. Still, this takes nothing away from the film apart from slight distancing from the character of Howie but I expect, even in the seventies that he was quite a distant and unidentifiable character anyway. That’s just my thoughts and how I view this film though.

Personally, I actually identify more with the pagan natives in this film and actually rather enjoy the psychological torture that they put on Howie but there are moments where it does become rather disturbing and horrifying. I can identify with Howie to the extent that he’s dedicated to what he believes in and I do believe that he does not deserve the torment he gets throughout the film but that’s about it. The Wicker Man of course, is still a horror film to me, not only because it comes under the category but because it has many key elements of horror films within it. Religion of course, as well as internal torture, in this sense, it’s similar to Rosemary’s Baby albeit this is direct and RB is paranoia.

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Edward Woodward as Sgt. Howie

It’s like no other horror film I’ve ever seen before and actually came under the very small subcategory of ‘folk horror’ that being horror that includes conflicting beliefs, often traditional vs progressive. Folk horror and even The Wicker Man itself for that matter, by today’s standards, wouldn’t be considered as horror by many people. But it’s important to realise that there was a time when the idea of different beliefs was horrific…a narrow-minded lot I know. Part of me feels that Robin Hardy was rather progressive in his beliefs as he makes the island natives quite likeable…or maybe that’s just now. Apart from the obvious harshness and ultimate disturbing brutal lengths they go to of course. The joy on their face as they dance in the final scene is actually rather terrifying when you think about it, as is the complete refusal to give any help whatsoever to Howie.

The film also stars master Christopher Lee as the leader of the island of Summerisle, aptly named, Lord Summerisle. It’s possible that Lee has a strong part to play in the likability of the supposed villains as his on screen persona is so charming in everything he was ever in. Speaking of performances, Edward Woodward (yes that’s an actual name) is excellent as Howie. His disgust and growing impatience with the natives is at times comical but is at times very, very justified. I expect the view of The Wicker Man has changed from a film that was originally rather frightening indeed to one that is less so with a few pleasant charming elements. As I said, it’s quite unlike any other horror film I’ve ever seen but it is still an absolute blast to watch. I love every second of it, for both the genuinely shocking parts (the final scene comes to mind) and for the rather delightful confusion between Howie and the natives.

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Master Lee as Lord Summerisle

The Wicker Man is certainly not a film that is for everyone but as you can see with how highly it still regarded, it’s well worth the watch and I love it as a very different entry into the vast genre that is horror. Go and watch it!!

Next up we have a very different film indeed, but one I love equally, maybe more in fact. Made on a real shoestring budget, it’s one of the most brutal, cruel, memorable, entertaining and damn terrifying films out there. From 1974 and the main killer loves his leather…and his chainsaw…I’ve give it away now!!

Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

The Journey Continues

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