Age has not been kind to The Wicker Man. What may have been disturbing, shocking and creepy back in the seventies just seems to be strange today. It is difficult to get behind a movie where “the outsider” is just met with strange people, weird goings-on and scenes which seem painfully slow.
I have commented on how horror movies lose their impact as time has gone on before but The Wicker Man strikes me as a movie that was never really scary, just slightly shocking. Back in the seventies, seeing Britt Eckland gyrating around naked or having school children learn about fertility from a very frank Diane Cilento may have been quite bold back then but now is just pedestrian.
The problem is that the Pagan rituals and the bizarre behaviour of those in the town doesn’t seem to go far enough. If there had been some sort of ritualistic behaviour or more done with some of the spells and charms that we get a glimpse of, The Wicker Man may have held slightly more interest. Unfortunately, what we get more of is twisted conversations and endless searching.
In fact, what does seem to come across successfully is the shocking narrow-mindedness of the hero, played by Edward Woodward. He is played as a staunch Christian man and subsequently judges the islanders at every turn. A very frank conversation he has with the lead “villain” played by horror legend Christopher Lee, boils down to Woodward telling the man that his Pagan religion is ridiculous and his Christian one is better. Whether it was supposed to be the case or not, as a comment on social acceptance and bigotry, The Wicker Man does a very good job.
This is as far as the praise goes though. As well as age having dampened the impact of The Wicker Man’s “horror,” time has also spoiled the ending too. Nothing will be spoiled here but the ending was probably quite shocking if you can go into it with little or no prior knowledge. It does still have some impact today and the idea of The Wicker Man’s finale and the situation is a shocking one regardless of the decade but when you know it is coming, you do find yourself slowly waiting for the finale to happen rather than anticipating it anxiously.
Overall, The Wicker Man is a movie that has slowly lost it’s impact over time. The idea behind the movie is strange and quite horrific in places but not as effective as you’d hope for. There is potential but it never fully realises it and time has even spoiled the ending, with most people knowing what to expect before they start the film rolling, much to the film’s detriment.
Rating – 2
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