“There’s power in the blood.”
Robin Hardy’s return to the world of wicker has been long anticipated by fans. It’s been a project on the burner for a long time. Such anticipation can only result in disappointment although there are still touches of that original brilliance.
Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) used to be a sleazy pop diva until she found Jesus (which she’d most likely pronounce Geeeee-sus). She’s now a Texas evangelical who has come to the wilds of Scotland to preach to the heathens there with her boyfriend Steve (Henry Garrett). They have to be in love since they’re wearing promise rings and are saving their lust for their wedding night.
The duo have been invited by Laird Lachlan (Graham McTavish) and Lady Delia (Jacqueline Leonard) Morrison to their small village and promise a warmer welcome than the two have and in the big city. They’ve even been given the two prized roles to play in the villages’ May Day celebrations. Beth will be the May Queen and Steve her “laddie” who will be chased by villagers on the Laird’s prized horse.
However, things are not as bucolic as the village appears as a nuclear power plant accident has rendered the population sterile, though not for lack of trying as Lolly (Honeysuckle Weeks) is down at the police station riding the policeman’s stick, and the Laird has some decidedly unchristian ways, taught to him by an old gentleman (Christopher Lee), in trying to restore the fertility of the village.
Robin Hardy struck horror gold in 1973 with the Wicker Man. It would feature fantastic performances from Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee and feature a shocking twist at the finale. The original would defy genre conventions and in some way be a comedy and a musical but it would take an honored place at the table of horror movies. The remake with Nicholas Cage is best avoided and is a horror in its own way.
The Wicker Tree does best the Cage version (bees!) but still doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the original. To begin with, Christopher Lee was attached to star as the sinister Laird but an injury forced him to drop out. McTavish was slated to play the evil butler role but was catapulted to the lead when Lee dropped out.
Lee does appear in a too short cameo, but that also confuses a bit as is he supposed to be an elderly Summerisle? He’s just billed as the old gentleman. I thought McTavish was good enough, no Lee, but does well. He wasn’t saddled with the sometimes painful comedy that his original role required too. The most fatal flaw in the works is that the leads do not connect as Woodward did. Nicol is pretty shrill to my ears and both she and Garrett’s Texas accents certainly made them bleed.
Beth is also painfully naïve and blinded by her want of proselytizing to see the dark events occurring around her and that her hosts really don’t think much of her. Steve at least seems a bit friendlier to the locals, especially Lolly (wink wink) but who wouldn’t, so we’re a bit more invested in him than in Beth or at least I was. There are still some interesting turns as I did like the corruption of the Christian hymn as Steve slowly realizes that the villagers are taking it a bit more serious than he imagined.
The Wicker Tree is presented in a 1080p transfer (2.35:1). Special features include the 12 minute making of, 11 minutes of deleted scenes, and the 2 minute trailer. Only the trailer is in high definition.
The Wicker Tree tries to bring up memories of the classic original, but falls short. Fans may have dreams of what might’ve been if Lee hadn’t taken a spill and had to drop out. There are a few interesting touches, certainly more than the horrid redo, but it seems like a missed opportunity and maybe a little too close plot wise to the first film.
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