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May 6, 2012

Movie Review: The Wicker Tree (Blu-ray, 2012)

Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man was one of those unique genre films that defined what was so great about seventies horror; it was atmospheric, disturbing and more importantly had the legendary Christopher Lee (Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Lord of the Rings). Movies that good seem to get remade nowadays, which is exactly what happened in 2006 when Nicolas Cage starred in Neil LaBute’s remake of Hardy’s film. Now we have The Wicker Tree, with Hardy returning, a fresh young cast and Lee reprising his role as Lord Summerisle.

A popular young gospel singer, Beth Bootheby (Brittania Nicol) decides to take her talents along with her cowboy boyfriend (Henry Thomson) across the world to the Pagan worshiping Scottish town of Tressock. Both are strong, celibate, promise ring wearing Christians who would just like to take their religion and very gently shove it down the throat of the pagan villagers. Not a good idea, especially with the towns history of treating outsiders.

The Wicker Tree really doesn’t work as a horror film, something that even the paltry remake did much better. If anything it’s an unfunny comedy about a few dopey, cliché, evangelicals. The best part of The Wicker Tree, and possibly the only saving grace is the performance by seductive, forbidden fruit waving Honeysuckle Weeks. Week’s goal as “Lolly” is to wrangle dopey Steve away from Beth. All of you The Wicker Man fans looking for Christopher Lee, need not blink, as the actor is only shown in flashback very briefly talking with main villain, Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish). While McTavish is solid in his role there’s really nothing else notable from any other players aside from Weeks.

Hardy’s choice to make The Wicker Tree more comical than frightening wasn’t wise - especially with how powerful the original is. To me it’s similar to when Tobe Hooper made Texas Chainsaw Massacre II; its predecessor another powerful horror film. You're welcome to climb up The Wicker Tree if you must but your chances for finding a decent flick are slim.

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