Wednesday, 31 August 2011



Of course there are exceptions - Psycho II is a prime example - but generally speaking making any kind of followup to a genuine copper-bottomed classic is the equivalent of directing Citizen Kane II. Not only do you have to have titanium-plated balls to even set foot on hallowed genre territory, but the bar is so high that to even attempt it is a clearly doomed enterprise. Technically, this isn't a sequel to The Wicker Man as it's set elsewhere and has no returning characters, but it has a similar subject, the same director, the same themes, a brief appearance by Sir Christopher Lee and the word Wicker in the title.

The Wicker Tree is simply not in the same league as its legendary predecessor. Again it has a naive and crucially virginal visitor invited to a Scottish community to be sacrificed to the pagan gods, but rather than Edward Woodward we here get a pair of astonishingly thick Texans:  pretty but hopelessly dim country gospel star Beth and her buff but hopelessly dim cowboy fiance Steve: engaged but wearing the silver rings of chastity. Steve drops his precious chastity very quickly (along with his underpants) on encountering Honeysuckle Weeks skinny dipping, which is understandable, while devout Christian fundamentalist Beth is all too happy to play Queen Of The May at the pagans' upcoming festival.

The differences in plot are significant: the original's Lord Summerisle believes the sacrifice will restore the community's prosperity, while this followup's Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish) openly acknowledges that it won't achieve anything. Summerisle's problems were to do with crop failures and the whims of the weather, Tressock's is due to infertility resulting from pollution from the local nuclear power station. And Edward Woodward's doomed hero was an intelligent guy while Beth and Steve are dumbo idiots.

Put simply, The Wicker Tree is a mess. Yet it's a strangely fascinating mess: more overtly and deliberately comedic than The Wicker Man (principally kilted butler/chauffeur Clive Russell) but it's never gripping or involving. Sir Christopher Lee makes a welcome but sadly very brief appearance (thankfully not another cough-and-a-spit deathbed scenes as in his last three movies Season Of The Witch, Burke And Hare and The Resident) but it's entirely unnecessary and adds nothing to the film.

As a Wicker Man film, it's nothing like it, nowhere near as interesting, exciting or scary, and completely missing the creepy madness. On its own terms, putting the glories of The Wicker Man aside, it's watchable enough, fairly amusing and well-shot and though it's ultimately an unremarkable film, it's not the disaster I was expecting and fearing. Really, though, you can't go back, and they shouldn't have tried.


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