The Wicker Tree
Graham McTavish as Sir Lachlan Morrison
Jacqueline Leonardas as Delia Morrison
Brittania Nicol as Beth Boothby
Henry Garrett as Steve Thompson
Honeysuckle Weeks as Lolly
Clive Russell as Beame
Christopher Lee as Old Gentleman
From Director Robin Hardy comes a spiritual companion piece to his horror classic The Wicker Man. What Mr. Hardy fails to do with this film is even remotely capture the spirit of his previous classic. What we are left with is a film that comes off as a laughable variation.
The story centers on Beth, a born again Christian singer who has changed her Britney Spears ways and taken the virginal aspect to heart, and her cowboy fiancé Steve who is also a born again Christian along for the ride. In the beginning of the film Beth and Steve are given a send-off to Scotland where they will spend the next two years converting heathens who don’t believe in angels or Jesus. Once our couple arrives they are greeted with slammed doors and quick write-offs. Seemingly coming to their rescue is Sir. Lachlan Morrison who gladly invites them to the village of Tressock to preach to the people of the town. Once there, they are given a warm welcome and Beth is approached to become the queen of the May Day celebration and Steve is approached to become her laddie in the celebration. They both gladly accept, and so begins the preparations for a May Day celebration that they will soon wish that they did not attend.
The Wicker Tree falters in many facets. To begin with the casting feels wrong throughout. Graham McTavish tries his best as Sir Lachlan but misses the mark on menacing and comes off as more laughable. Legendary actor Christopher Lee was originally set to star as Sir Lachlan but an injury before filming began relegated him to a 2 minute cameo that is just sad. Brittania Nicol and Henry Garrett star as Beth and Steve respectively and both seem like they are reading off cue cards half of the time. Honeysuckle Weeks who plays Lolly, who is the seductress of the town, comes off the best of the cast but when trying to live up to a film like The Wicker Tree far more is needed from the main players.
The second issue is the script. The tone of The Wicker Tree movie is far different. A comical tone runs throughout and the jokes seem like they belong in a film from the 90’s. A Mr. Burns reference is just out of place and takes the viewer out of the mood that needs to be established. Also a running theme of nuclear power and people’s exposure to the waste is an issue that seems old and unneeded. Religious differences and discussions are aplenty but they do not have the same fire and emotion as they did in Mr. Hardy’s previous outing. There is never really a strong sense of foreboding or danger and it seems that if the characters were a bit smarter they could have easily walked away. The main thing this script lacks – is passion. There does not seem to be any urgency on any characters behalf and it all comes off as amateurish. As for horror, scares, or violence there are none, and barring a couple shots of topless women and bottomless men The Wicker Tree could have gotten a G rating.
The music is also a setback. Where Mr. Hardy excelled with creating mood and setting in The Wicker Man with the old songs and performers here the music is dull and it seems that a high school chorus could have achieved more. There is no Gently Johnny or Tinker Of Rye type quality to be found here.
One thing that Mr. Hardy did accomplish is he finding a great location. The town of Tressock is setup and shot beautifully. The old castle and town really create a place that feasibly could house the types of goings on depicted, but once again it is ruined by the inclusion of luxury cars and a power plant in the background. The open area that hosts the sacrificial wicker tree is also perfectly located but the awkward almost forced dancing of the locals takes from that as well.
In conclusion, it is severely disappointing that Mr. Hardy waited all this time to come forth with a companion piece to The Wicker Man, with this film as a result. It seems as though time has passed him by. The ideas are misplaced, actor’s miscast, and the script is outdated. If he had put forth more of an effort in these areas we might be talking about a totally different outcome. There is supposedly a third movie in the works to close out the trilogy but at this point I hope it falls through. This release does not take away from its classic predecessor, but much like the remake of The Wicker Man it only shows that recapturing the magic of the original is damn near impossible. The Wicker Tree is more like a annoying weed that will not go away.