#27. The Wicker Man (1973)
Nature of Shame:
No Shame. Just a worthy revisit and a bizarro #Bond_age_ live tweet.
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
The first time I saw The Wicker Man, I was left broken, beguiled and bewildered. The second time I saw The Wicker Man, I finally saw the film for the first time. The third time, this time, I marveled at the people who dared make such a bold slice of cinema that was destined for misunderstanding.
Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives on the small Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate the report of a missing child. A conservative Christian, the policeman observes the residents’ frivolous sexual displays and strange pagan rituals, particularly the temptations of Willow (Britt Ekland), daughter of the island magistrate, Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). The more Sergeant Howie learns about the islanders’ strange practices, the closer he gets to tracking down the missing child.
I stuck to the rote, prescribed version of the narrative description so I can move on with other thoughts about The Wicker Man. I find it freeing — the not wasting energy retelling the plot in movie reviews. Conservation of brain cells. Plus, it takes less time than conjuring “cute” new ways to describe a movie you’ve likely already seen.
If you haven’t seen The Wicker man… first a word of warning. Do not strangle The Wicker Man while watching it. The Wicker Man requires patience and the ability to step back from the active experience of moviewatching. Active moviewatchers can be demanding and ill-tempered. Sometimes the most profound experiences happen when we’re allowing the movie to play out on its own terms. During my first viewing, expectation clouded the experience.
Robin Hardy’s film assaults you on an entirely different level than face-value terror. To experience The Wicker Man as an unsettling, truly frightening piece of cinema, concessions are required. One must not only accept that Sergeant Howie’s Western ideology is fallible — but also that Summerisle’s pagan beliefs are just as logical.
Doing this requires the censure of our innate skepticism toward cult teachings and pagan religion. It’s not Hardy’s film supports a world devoid of God; it creates a parallel between the blindness of Christianity and the devotion of a cult that believes ritual sacrifice will bring back a failing orange crop. It calls everything into question.
Still I wouldn’t go as far as to say that The Wicker Man supports a strict doctrine of existentialism. It calls into question the beliefs that distract us from considering truths. When the credits roll, the emptiness — if we choose to embrace it — leaves us totally and emotionally bankrupt. In part because movies generally don’t dare end on such a note and in part because what we’ve just witnessed has raised questions about the way all of us live our lives.
And that stays with you, writing beneath you skin in a way a jump scare or a fleeting moment of terror couldn’t even imagine.
Final The Wicker Man Thoughts:
Even if you don’t care for The Wicker Man upon a first viewing, let it sit, let it simmer. Come back to it with a clear mind and fresh eyes in a couple of years. And then let it wash over you without expectation, like a great jazz composition, with attention but without concern for strict narrative logic. The Wicker Man might just be one of the greatest horror films ever made — if you allow it access.
30Hz Movie Rating:
The Wicker Man is available wherever fine pagan cinema is sold.
2017 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Shame Statement
31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews.
#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935) / #10. Friday the 13th (1980) / #11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) / #12. Body Snatcher (1945) / #13. Dismembered (1962) / #14. From Hell It Came (1957) / #15. Symptoms (1974) / #16. Eating Raoul (1982) / #17. Spellcaster (1988) / #18. The Old Dark House (1932) / #19. House (1985) / #20. House II: The Second Story / #21. Christine (1983) / #22. Suspiria (1977) / #23. The Invisible Man (1933) / #24. Spider aka Zirneklis (1991) / #25. The Wife Killer (1976) / #26. Cannibal! The Musical (1993) / #27. The Wicker Man (1973) / #28. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) / #29. Night Creatures (1962) / #30. Nosferatu (1922) / #31. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare / #32. Day of the Dead (1985) / #33. Psycho II (1983) / #34. The Green Butchers (2003)