Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Wicker Man (1973)

Fig 1: Poster
Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973) is a thriller, horror, mystery and crime film. It was based on  David Pinner's novel Ritual. The movie tells a story about Neil Howie a police sergeant, as he sets off to the remote coast of Scotland to investigate a case of a 12 years old girl who went missing, after he received a letter addressed to specifically to him. The place he goes to is owned by Lord Summerisle, known for their crops and fruits. After lots of very strange events, Howie realises that the locals are pagans and practising old rituals, which leads to him figuring out that the young girl is still alive and is held to be sacrificed for successful growth of crops and fruits for next year. However, everything takes a tragic turn when he ends up being the sacrifice, as the whole missing girl case was only a set-up for luring him to this horrible and lunatic place.
Fig 2: The devastating end scene
The movie is claimed to be one of the best British horror film and is classified as horror, however it is better described as only a folk horror, as it lack what a typical horror is described as. Said by Anne Billson in a article "The Wicker Man is influential not just on subsequent horror cinema, but on the thriller genre in general in the way it sets an artfully composed series of traps for its unwitting protagonist, expertly wrong-footing both him and the audience until the devastating ending..." (Billson, 2010) If the audience is looking for gore and monsters, this movie is not the one, but the ending of the film is a perfect fit the category, paired with some creepy scenes and the animal costumes.
Fig 3: Strange and unsettling costumes
The release of the film was very troublesome, as the director was told to cut lots off of the footage, and the original cut was considered to be lost, however later on it has been found (quite damaged) and after restoring what still could be saved, the film we see today (said by the director) is the closes to the original. Sometimes it is noticeable where the film was damaged and repaired by the quality and cuts, but the events on the screen take the audience's attention away from the little flaws in the footage.

The movie displays two main religion that could be considered as very opposing religions. The main protagonist is a faithful Christian, while all of the locals are pagans. Said by Steven D. Greydanus "Is The Wicker Man anti-Christian? Anti-pagan? Anti-religion? Where are its sympathies? Does it have any?...The two worldviews stand face to face, both unmasked, and in the end nothing is resolved." (Greydanus, s.d.) Throughout the film the audience is presented with a quite detailed exploration of pagan beliefs, while showing strong contrast as Howie keeps true to his Christian beliefs and often preaches about it. At the last scene the differences finally meet and that is the part that makes the whole film questionable if it is against Christianity, claiming that there is no God or God has failed and is dead, while Howie pray and keeps strong; or it tries to show Paganism in a negative light, as they do lots of strange and creepy things throughout the whole film and they happily dance and sing while the sacrifice screams and burns to death. But in the end it is left to the audience which part they are taking and what they read into it.
Fig 4: Howie placing a Christian cross in the unused church
The film had a troublesome past, and was not very recognised until after it has been repaired from the damages. The general opinion about the film is highly positive and is often said to be one of the greatest British horror film, with high ratings from various websites or magazines; finding negative opinion of the movie is quite a challenge. However, those who did not find enjoyment in the film, often criticise the plot, message, pace and the incorrect categorising of 'horror and mystery'. As said by a review on IMDb "If this film deserves any credit at all, it's for an underlying metaphor that puts the viewer in the very same emotional state as the main character." Agreeing with this statement, the movie does quite actively achieves to put the audience in the shoe of the main character, building up frustration and confusion, as the hints and clues of the missing girl points to another direction, but it has an incredibly slow pace and questionable, unnecessary or disturbing scenes and elements. Another review states "This is definitely one of the worst movies I have ever seen. At the ending, I was very confused as to what I should take away from it. That Christians are pure and above reproach and pagans are evil? Is there even an underlying theme to this movie? If so, it was completely lost on me having to sit through all its incredibly dull scenes." Overall, most people have greatly enjoyed the film, and there is no doubt, that in some ways it can be viewed as creative horror film with a message that can be controversial, but it is just simply not for everyone.


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  1. Hi Greta,

    You have a couple of quotes here that are not referenced...towards the end, the IMBd ones.
    Also, this sentence is not quite right; the spell checker would not have picked up the errors, as the words still exist, but don't mean what you want them to :)

    ' has been fined (quite damaged) and after resorting what still could be saved...'

    should be ' has been FOUND' and 'RESTORING'.

  2. Hi Jackie, thank you, I will correct them!