Sometimes cult films really should be left alone. Nobody remembers the sequels to Blue Brothers, The Exorcist or Repo Man do they? No. The original Wicker Man is quite the effective little piece of cinema. It has a sense of creeping dread in the daylight and has a darker than black ending. It’s been hugely influential on many young filmmakers and remains a great piece of horror. It was with some hope however that I approached the semi-sequel The Wicker Tree as it is directed by Robin Hardy, the 82 year old director of the original. Prepare to have your hopes dashed however as The Wicker Tree is awful.
The film is based on the sequel novel Cowboys for Christ, written by Hardy himself and follows two monsters of Christian rock, Steve (Henry Garrett) and Beth Boothby (Britannia Nicol) who decide to leave their flock in middle America to preach the word of god to the heathens in Scotland, which makes no sense. Beth has attained a measure of celebrity amongst Christians so her arrival is greeted by some fans that she holds a concert for. Steve is a somewhat dim cowboy who is having problems abstaining from physical acts of love with his fiancée Beth. Once in Scotland they find doors slammed in their faces as they go door to door preaching the word of god to the residents. A Nuclear power tycoon, Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish) invites the twosome to his remote Scottish village where he feels that the residents will be more susceptible to the word. Once there Steve and Beth meet some of the strange residents and are made to feel extremely welcome. Steve’s eyes start to wander over to local trollop Lolly (Honeysuckle Weeks) and Beth starts to feel that something sinister is going on. Surprise surprise, there is something weird going on. Sir Lachlan has invited the two of them to his village to be sacrifices to some pagan god.
Nothing about this film works. The plot is a straight up remake of the first film, just with a different setting and a different cast but with a confused tone, veering between straight horror, carry on style comedy and camp. The acting is terrible; Britannia Nicol is so shallow and wooden that it just comes across like a parody of a Miley Cyrus type when she is supposed to be deep. There are hints that the character has a pop slut Britney Spears like past which is never expanded on. Henry Garrett is equally bad as the dim cowboy, reading his lines as if on cue cards with a far away look in his eyes that you would expect from an actor on Hollyoaks. These characters are written so badly that they are mere ciphers to propel the plot. The supporting cast fare little better, all of them are playing pretty much your standard pier end panto villains with eeevil lines and innuendo laden speech, and it shows.
Within twenty minutes of this film I tuned out. You can take nothing seriously here, not the performances, the plot or the horror. If the intention was pure farcical comedy then why include such a potentially horrifying cannibal scene come the climax? And why include a wicker type structure at all? Just so it can be burnt in the climax and tick off the box, that’s why. In horror I suspect that you are supposed to at least care about one of the characters. It’s impossible to care about Steve and Beth as they are both just such cardboard cut outs. Graham McTavish is actually a solid actor and gives the best performance here but that’s not saying much. It’s almost like he is in a different film entirely, something that is infinitely more interesting. One that involves poison from his nuclear plant flowing down the river to the village making the inhabitants infertile. This is mentioned pointlessly in a few scenes to never be mentioned again until the final scene where we are supposed to go ‘oh yeah, I get it’. Trouble is, everything up until that point has been so bad that it’s hard to give a toss. To add insult to injury, Christopher Lee pops up in a badly conceived and poorly acted flashback scene to add a tenuous link to the original film. Please don’t let this be Christopher Lee’s last acting role.
Some will have you believe that this was supposed to be a comedy, I’m not buying it. The film is so bad that it seems like a Wicker Man remake directed by the team behind Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie. This is one cult film that should have been left alone, even the 2006 Nicolas Cage remake of the first film is better than this. Avoid at all costs.
Expected rating: 7 out of 10
The Wicker Tree is currently awaiting a release date