Due to it being a really old movie the twist near the end was unfortunately spoiled for me. However The Wicker Man still packs quite a punch and exists as a classic example of English folk horror that has stayed with me and others ever since. The casting sure helps, particularly as Christopher Lee gives one of his best performances in a long line of great ones, Edward Woodward as the policeman investigating a mystery, plus Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt in a smaller role. This movie fully embraces paganism and uses it as a horror movie device, similar to later horror films that this movie helped inspire. Considering how the film ends much of the movie has this eerie sense of foreboding, as if the audience and most of the characters know how it all ends save for one particular individual who is unaware of the dangers they face.
I don’t know Robin Hardy’s movie would be as effective if it was not made in the 1970s, as the movie fits in with the decade’s overall horror aesthetic. Woodward is both arrogant and yet likable as the police sergeant who thinks he knows what is going on but has no idea. Lee’s Lord Summerisle is both welcoming and clearly hiding many secrets. The Wicker Man seems to be a duel between religion and logic, although the island’s inhabitants would argue that both are intertwined and exist in the same sphere. I’m reminded that despite being a Christian I am fascinated by pagan beliefs, particularly ones concerning nature and the harvest.
Oh and Hardy makes the film into a bottle episode type movie of sorts, as all of the action takes place on the island and Howie (Woodward) is unable to leave in what is now a typical horror movie cliché. Never venture to an island without any backup, although I’m not sure it would have helped in this case. The Wicker Man also has one of the best uses of blasphemy ever in the “Oh Jesus Christ!” line, which is probably what the audience was thinking to at that part of the movie. The credits scene part which thanks the island’s residents for their cooperation was a nice touch, very cheeky indeed. Shudder has this movie as part of their folklore collection, and so a second viewing is in order. I believe I viewed this movie back in 2014 thanks to Netflix, when their horror movie collection was a lot better. What a picture.
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