Robin Hardy's1973 film The Wicker Man is, without doubt, one of the greatest horror films ever made. Most readers will probably be familiar with the film and hopefully agree. Some will have also seen the execrable US remake - if so, you have my pity.
When I discovered a few years ago that there was going to be two more films in the "Wicker Man" trilogy my interest was more than a little piqued. Filming on the second film. The Wicker Tree, was due to start in 2007 but was delayed for two years. It finally made its debut at the Fantasia Festival in Canada last year. Since then it has only received a very limited release.
Not having had the chance to see the film at the cinema I decided to purchase it as soon as it was released on DVD. My copy arrived yesterday, Shirl and I decided to get in big bags of popcorn and watch it at lunchtime.
So what of the film? It isn't a sequel as such, rather it is a companion piece (as Mr Hardy would have it). The story does not follow on from the Wicker Man. It couldn't really, given that was made nearly forty years ago. Unsurprisingly it does have similar themes:
Two deeply religious Americans come from Texas with the intention of saving ungodly Scots. After no success in a city they are invited to the village of Tressock by Sir Lachlan Morrison and his wife. Like Summer Isle and its lord in the Wicker Man, Sir Lachlan and the villagers are pagans (the choice of deity this time being Sulis).
The couple are made welcome and are chosen to be May Queen and her Laddie. There are temptations and menaces along the way - the Make evangelist is tempted by a naked Honeysuckle Weeks bathing in a river. This of course parallels the temptation of Edward Woodward by Britt Eckland in the Wicker Man.
The film proceeds to a conclusion that does not provide a happy ending.
I had no expectation that the film would reach the standards of excellence set by the Wicker Man. Sadly it came nowhere near. It wasn't a bad film as such. but somehow it could have been rather better.
The dialogue was not very good, especially that provided to the two evangelists who simply came over as stereotypical dumb American hicks.
There was nothing like the sense of menace that the The Wicker Man exuded almost from the start right up to the point where residents of Summer Isle , linked arms and sang folk songs while Edward Woodward burned to death.
The soundtrack was not of the same standard. nothing like the wonderfully over the top ribaldry of the songs in the Wicker Man
Even though you can predict that the evangelists were not going to ride off into the sunset having endured a terrible ordeal, the demise scenes were not handled very well. While I am not a gore fan I think they should have been more shocking.
That said I note that the filming of Twilight of the Gods, (the final film in the trilogy) is due to start in Shetland in the next month or so.In this it appears that the Gods are due to get their comeuppance. I will be interested to see it when it is released!