The Wicker Tree (2011)

Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) is a former Shania Twain-style country artist who has been born again and now sings for Christ.  She and her fiancee Steve (Henry Garrett) leave their home in Texas to minister to the small village of Tressock, Scotland, and find themselves warmly welcomed by the locals.  Particularly, Sir Lachlan (Graham McTavish) and Lady Delia Morrison (Jacqueline Leonard), who sponsor a concert in Edinburgh to showcase Boothby's talents.

In Tressock Beth and Steve find out they have their work cut out for them.  The village largely worships the old gods and view Christianity with a lighthearted disdain.  Still, the pair try their best to fit in, agreeing to be the May Queen and the Laddie for the village's annual spring celebration.

However, things aren't as picturesque as they seem.  Lolly (Honeysuckle Weeks), who tends the horses for the Morrisons, takes a shine to Steve and quickly leads him astray.  As for Sir Lachlan, he owns the local Nuada Nuclear Power Plant, which a number of years before had an accident that has left the men of the village sterile.  And, while Steve thinks that being the Laddie is a fun horse race and Beth thinks being the May Queen means wearing a pretty dress, it is soon obvious that the villagers have darker intentions.

The Wicker Tree is indirectly a sequel to the classic British horror film The Wicker Man, also directed by Robin Hardy.  Things do get a bit confusing, especially with Christopher Lee's cameo, but it is clear that though the mythology is similar, the places are markedly different.  Still, as in the first, the local pagan community is being manipulated into violence for political purposes.

Based on Hardy's novel Cowboys for Christ, many fans of the original movie absolutely loathe this one.  I think many forget that, though The Wicker Man is a superior film both due to the caliber of actors involved and the general unsettling nature, it was barely a work of cinematic genius.  Many of the most memorable elements, like the end shot, were happy accidents.  It is a great horror film, but the memory most have of it overcomes many of its shortcomings, most of which carry on into The Wicker Tree, and the tendency to hate anything new these days just magnifies them.  For me, I found the film quite entertaining in its own way with a number of effective touches.

Still, it is interesting to see an independent director from the 1970s make a film in the modern age, and Beth and Steve come across more as naive than self-righteous.  That might be part of the problem; despite the silly way the characters are presented, they are not people you want to see suffer the same fate as Edward Woodward in the original.  Well, the fate is not the same, at least.

The Wicker Tree (2011)
Time: 96 minutes
Starring: Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Graham McTavish
Director: Robin Hardy


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