8 February 2011

Fin's Review: The Wicker Man

'The time has come to keep your appointment with the wicker man'.

This has to be one the scariest lines every uttered in the history of horror and comes during one of the greatest climaxes in not just horror film but all film history. Discussing The Wicker Man in 2011, it is difficult to mention anything new and indeed it is hard to remember its impact the first time you saw it. The final horrific ending is now so part of the collective consciousness that, even if you have not seen it before, it is hard to go into the film with fresh eyes. However, this climax comes at the end of an unsettling, funny, creepy and glorious film.

This film does not set out to terrify but rather builds a creeping atmosphere from the first time Edward Woodward's decent, god-fearing Seargeant Howie first arrives on Summerisle. Woodward gives a career-defining performance as the appalled but noble Howie. Christoper Lee is also on fine form as the civilised yet sinister Lord Summerisle.

With films as influential as The Wicker Man, it is sometimes hard to see what the fuss was about in the first place (think Taxi Driver). These films have been so influential it feels like you have seen it all before. The Wicker Man however still manages, despite its clear influence on modern horror films, to retain its weirdness and magic.

It has to be acknowledged that for many people The Wicker Man will not be their cup of tea (or indeed their ejacluation of serpents). Although fundamentally a horror film, it is in no way scary in the traditional sense; the only real balls-out horror is in the final climax. Some of the music and bizarre singing sections can appear dated and are very much a product of the early 70s. The fact that Britt Ekland, in fully seductive form, is dubbed has also been criticised but, although I generally hate dubbing, it actually is quite well done.

Despite these hang-ups, the film maintains your interest throughout and is wonderful at slowly building the sense of menace and weirdness. There are a number of scenes that are a tour de force in sheer creepy weirdness, my favourite being Seargent Howie's trip to the pharmacist.

If you have not seen this film, rent it this weekend - it is an absolute must see.

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