Movie Review: The Wicker Man (1973)
“Flesh to touch…Flesh to burn! Don’t keep the Wicker Man waiting!”
The Wicker Man (1973)
Director: Robin Hardy
Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento
Synopsis: A repressed police sergeant is sent to a remote Scottish island to investigate reports of a missing girl.
WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!
Edward Woodward plays police Sergeant Howie, a somewhat buttoned-down unmarried Presbyterian who, as we see at the beginning of The Wicker Man, flies into a remote Scottish Isle community to investigate the anonymous report of a missing teenage girl. What he finds there is a creepy closed community of pagans who initially deny the girl even exists and then, when Howie uncovers evidence of her existence, openly admit that she is dead. But where is the body?
The Wicker Man is a unique film – or at least it was when it was made. Some dispute its status as a horror movie, but that surely is what it is. It’s not the slash and gore fest that most associate with the genre – there are no jump cuts, no sudden noises, no shadows flitting across the screen – but the quiet, creeping brand of horror that is slowly revealed to both the audience and the main protagonist, and which stays with the viewer long after memories of more in-your-face horror have long faded. Woodward gives a convincing portrait of a man whose stern authority is incrementally eroded as he witnesses pagan scenes that fly in the face of the faith that is so important to him – and so crucial to the plans of the villagers.
The final scenes are extremely powerful – the memory of my first viewing maybe thirty years ago was still vivid when I revisited the film – and utterly horrifying as the villager’s semblance of normality is finally stripped away, and Howie’s fate sealed.
(Reviewed 11th January 2012)