The Wicker Tree (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Wicker Tree (2012)

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Robin Hardy's original The Wicker Man remains one of my cinematic blind-spots.  It's been praised up and down as one of the cult classics of horror and received a Nicholas Cage do-over which is either the funniest film of the last decade or one of the worst re-imaginings in film history.  Based on the obvious twists on display in The Wicker Tree, I'll take the crazed man in a bear suit drop kicking cultists please.

The Wicker Tree panders to a certain kind of atheistically inclined cineaste who likes being in on some kind of inside joke and mocking others for never being able to catch up.  The truth is The Wicker Tree telegraphs all of its religion mocking intentions with a couple of doe eyed Texan singers just looking to spread the word.

I am completely fed up with films that portray Christians as simplistically and idiotically as this one does.  It has very little to do with my religious background and mostly consist of my distaste of filmmakers using the motif as shorthand for creating stupid characters in otherwise avoidable situations.  Instead, Hardy's film is content at sitting back and repeated rolling eyes at the two would-be shepherds and failing to engage in their world at even the most superficial level.

My experience with The Wicker Tree started with annoyance and continued on until the credits rolled.  We meet the Country Gospel singer Beth (Brittania Nicol) and her fiancee Steve (Henry Garrett) as they wax idealistically about their chosen mission to save the pagans of Scotland by introducing them to the word of Christ.  There's no attempt to make them anything beyond their ability to produce bad songs in the most stereotypically backwoods was possible and knowledge of Scotland where heroes like "...Rob Roy, Braveheart, and Mr. Bell, who invented the telephone" come from.

So there's little to no hope of our two main characters saying or doing anything of substance throughout the film, but horror movies can occasionally be saved by their villains.  The dialogue does perk up a bit at the introduction of Sir Lachlan and Delia Morrison (Graham McTavish and Jacqueline Leonardas).  Delia gets an especially biting description of Beth by speculating "I bet she smells of the dairy, dainty bush, milky tits and just a hint of bullshit."  Unsparing and worth a chuckle, but indicative of the dismissive feel of the film toward Christianity in the specifics and religion in general.

What hope there might be a biting tongue or some kind of sustained wit is culled away quickly.  Instead, Delia is content to plaster a dubious smile on her face and wonder mockingly if all children go to Hell if they don't hear the word of God while Sir Lachlan makes broad proclamations about religion and fights the urge to rub his goatee menacingly.  None of the supporting cast fares better, either playing their characters in a milieu of ominous slapstick and repetitious humor.

Acting and character construction aside, there is nothing in The Wicker Tree which suggests a mind capable of producing a film as revered as The Wicker Man.  Even if you know nothing about either the original or the remake, Hardy puts enough clues in plain sight to quickly deduce something bad is being planned for the innocent twosome.  The overabundance of trees as symbols of rebirth in the foreground, background, and dialogue is enough to inspire a particularly dangerous drinking game.  I also lost count of the number of times someone menacingly smiled through "Becoming part of us", right up until the ending which samples the superior film, and novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer gleefully.

All of this is not in service of anything I haven't seen before.  At least with Nazi's at the Center of the Earth, the material was chopped together so quickly and lustily it gave the impression of feeling new (I don't know of too many other Cyber-Hitler films, so please feel free to point me in the direction of more).  Somehow, despite the lack of much raw talent, it managed to say something about the world we live in now.

The message here?  Christians are dumb, pagans may be as misguided, and all religion is stupid.  That's no original message, and could have been delivered is less cloying packaging to tone down the rampant arrogance.

I promise I'll watch The Wicker Man someday, but life will have to hold other surprises until then.

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The Wicker Tree (2012)

Screenplay written and directed by Robin Hardy.
Starring Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Jacqueling Leonardas and Graham McTavish.

Posted by Andrew

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