Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Wicker Tree

Robin Hardy's belated followup to his 1973 cult classic, The Wicker Man, isn't quite a sequel and isn't quite a remake either.  It's more a variation on a theme, using the basic framework of the earlier film to tell what starts out as a sort of fish-out-of-water comedy rather than a mystery.  It's as though he'd decided to crossbreed his original film with Local Hero, sending a pair of born-again missionaries from Texas off to convert the "heathens" of Scotland, where they end up in one of those deceptively idyllic Hammer Films-style villages where Things Are Not As They Seem (in another sly nod to its possible antecedents, Hardy plays a version of "I Know Where I'm Going", the folk song used in Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger's film of the same name -- and the gold standard for Scottish-set culture clash comedies -- over the opening and closing credits).

Exactly what the point of the whole thing is, though, beyond, perhaps, a desire on Hardy's part to recapture his now-four decades past glory, is a bit harder to say:  those familiar with the original film are unlikely to be as shocked by the ending as the film needs them to be, whilst those who aren't may very well check out long before they have the chance, due to its somewhat meandering and uneven pace, which, lacking the built-in suspense of its predecessor's police procedural format, mostly just marks time until the big finish.

Still, the picture is not without its charms:  it has an agreeably off-kilter tone, and fans of the original may have fun spotting the parallels to it.  And while it doesn't contain, say, any scenes of Nicolas Cage in a bear suit punching women in the face or the like, it's still better than Neil LaBute's godawful Wicker Man remake, so there's that ....

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