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The Wicker Man

December 2, 2015

The Wicker Man (1973)
Director: Robin Hardy
Actors: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland

wicker man art.nar.jpg (299×168)

Synopsis: Police Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) ventures to remote Hebridean island, Summerisle, to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. While there, he encounters instransigence from the locals and picks up some seriously sinister undertones from the pagan activities they engage in…

Review: This masterful horror movie is right up there with Don’t Look Now (incidentally, both made in the same year) as one of the best British additions to the genre, and that’s due in no small part to its genius conflation of the on-screen pagan versus Christian – and provincial versus federal – dichotomies into an equally combustible cinematographic battle of the sensibilities.

There’s a lovely, pictoral irony in the opening wide-lens tracking shot that sees Sergeant Howie’s sea-plane fly over the seemingly beautiful climes of the Hebridean islands (an inspiration for Kubrick’s magical opening ‘bird’s eye’ shot of Jack driving to the Overlook Hotel in The Shining?) As conventional readers of photography (like Howie himself) we’d view the vista beneath as edenic, when in reality, we’ll soon find out just how forboding the culture of that landscape actually is…

The clash between Howie as the patrician policeman (though slightly exaggerated in that he’s never out of his uniform and he acts in such an unsubtle and doctrinaire way) is jarring against the genial-bordering-on-weird vibe of the Summerisle locals. Even in the closing scene, as (slight spoiler alert) the locals’ act on Howie seems to be complete, the serene, communal weirdness of their behaviour versus Howie’s demented, biblical rantings offers another way that the filmmakers have blurred what would normally be crystal-clear divides between good and evil in most other horror scenarios.

Yes, the film has marginally dated in some of its cinematographic lensing and the twee nature of its libertarian depiction of Summerisle, but in a way, it’s strangely in keeping with the sense that the island is a place that time forgot, and where the strange proclivities of its naturist, pagan-worshipping locals could actually just happen… (December 2015)

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