Director Robin Hardy
Screenplay Anthony Shaffer
Starring Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, Christopher Lee, Geraldine Cowper
Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man is one of the rare films that allows someone to feel claustrophobia right out in the open air. The story of Investigator Sergeant Neil Howie (Woodward), responding to an anonymous letter sent regarding a girl reported missing on the remote Summerisle takes place exclusively on that remote Hebridean Isle. He flies in himself, and immediately meets resistance. People are elusive in even discussing the missing Rowan Morrison (Cowper).
Howie is an unmarried devout Christian. He’s also driven to the point of frustration by the elusive townspeople. This results in severe testing of his faith, when they send the landlord’s daughter Willow (Ekland) to tempt him when he stays over at the Inn for the first night.
Woodward plays the part perfectly. His initial arrogance is turned into a driving quest to get behind what is happening. So driven is he to determine the truth that he fails to comprehend the larger picture. He speaks with the authority of the state. He’s wandered out of the state’s jurisdiction. He just doesn’t realize this.
As Lord Summerisle, Christopher Lee has never been better. His dialect and his creepy countenance is countered by the grace of someone completely at home in the hell he has created. He understands things the way his fellow islanders do and Sergeant Howie never will.
The last act of The Wicker Man is incredible. The tension rises in the pursuit, then the tone shifts in one moment to dread. It’s a dread that no amount of prayer will abate. This film will make you think twice before you go to any remote town, much less an island.
This is something that should be seen by anyone who wants to experience genuine feelings watching a film. If you don’t like horror, it would be best to avoid it. It’s not gory., It’s not a slasher film. It goes much deeper than that.
Midsomer did a good job in recreating this feeling in 2019. It relies a bit more on gore, but it’s clear the roots of the story owe a debt to The Wicker Man.
Robin Hardy created a masterpiece during a time when good horror is as hard to find as the young and vibrant Rowan Morrison. He has only 3 directing credits to his name, including this film. It is strange to consider this didn’t put him in higher demand.
(***** out of *****)