Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Wicker Tree

Up in Flames

Rated: R  Sexuality, nudity and violence.
Release Date: January 27, 2012
Runtime: 1 hr 30 min

Director: Robin Hardy
Writers: Robin Hardy, from the novel "Cowboys for Christ"
Cast: Graham McTavish, Honeysuckle Weeks, Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Keira McMillan, Christopher Lee

SYNOPSIS: Two born again evangelical Christian missionaries travel to Tressock, Scotland to spread the word of the Lord. While there the pair accepts an invitation to participant in the village's yearly Mayfair, unaware of the dire consequences.

REVIEW: Robin Hardy, director of the 1973 original The Wicker Man, returns to direct a quasi followup to the original based on his own 2006 novel 'Cowboys for Christ'. Neither a remake of either the 1973 or the 2006 films but containing several elements from the original film he directed, The Wicker Tree is neither a sequel or a remake. 
Successful pop singer and devout evangelical Christian, Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) is the jewel of the Cowboys for Christ church in Texas. Deciding on a two year missionary trip to Scotland to spread the word of Jesus to those who have forgotten Him, she and boyfriend Steve (Henry Garrett, Red Tails) travel to Scotland under the patronage of the local church and benefactors Sir Lachlan (Graham McTavish, Colombiana) and Delia Morrison (Jacqueline Leonard, 'Holby City'). When the folks of Glasgow continue to rebuff Beth and Steve's attempts to teach them the word of Christianity, Sir Lachlan suggests that they all travel to the the Morrison's remote village of Tressock in the Scottish lowlands where they assure Beth and Steve that the local "heathens" would be much more receptive to their preachings. While the locals seem a little strange, they are happy at the new visitors and anxious to make the pair feel welcome. In exchange for listening to Beth and Steve preach the Lord's teachings, Sir Lachlan asks and succeeds in getting Beth to join their Mayfair celebration as the chosen May Queen and Steve to act as the Laddie. Little to either realize that the Mayfair, and their participation, spell certain doom for both of them.

Any fan of The Wicker Man, original or remake, will probably be interested in adding The Wicker Tree to the supposed trilogy - consisting of the 1973 original based on the uncredited David Pinner book, "Ritual", the unsuccessful Nicolas Cage 2006 remake, and now the companion piece, The Wicker Tree.
The pagans of Scotland stand in stark contrast from the Texan evangelical born again Christians, although both groups are devoted to their own practices and beliefs. As the story rolls out, Delia Morrison asks Beth about the practices of the born again Christians and how strange those beliefs struck her. Of course, the modern day practice of worshipping pagan goddesses seem utterly foreign to Beth as well. Furthermore, Beth and Steve believe the Bible, claiming that every word was inspired by God himself. The practice of sacrifice, from the son of Abraham to Jesus himself, is considered in high regard, while the continued practiced in the Scottish pagan rituals stun their Christian sensibilities. Finally, while Beth and Steve hold to a chaste relationship symbolized by matching silver purity rings as part of their purity in faith, the Scots revel in their sexuality and their bodies.

The film is a slow, plodding effort that crawls along until the third act. The acting is okay by Nicol,  Garrett, and the rest, only highlighted by the smug calm performance of Sir Lachlan's Graham McTavish. Once the film reaches the third act and the night before the Mayfair, the story actually starts taking off in the spirit of a 1970s cult slasher flick. When Beth wakes up from a poisoning, naked and ready to be prepared as the May Queen, she stumbles upon the horrors of several of the previously chosen May Queens.

Even with the flashback cameo of Christopher Lee as Sir Lachlan's father, The Wicker Tree does not stand up scrutiny, nor does it even approach the cult status of the original film. Filled with interesting anecdotes about extremist religious belief systems and a strange surreal third act most comfortable in a British Hammer film, but not much else, The Wicker Tree in its limited release may just wither and die.

WORTH: Rental (for the completists)

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