Review: The Wicker Tree (2012)


Cast: Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Graham McTavish
Director: Robin Hardy
Country: UK
Genre: Drama | Horror | Mystery | Thriller
Official Trailer: Here

This film carries with it a secret pressure that cannot be ignored; a kind of exciting anticipation that only a sequel to a classic film can muster. Much like George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears, or Wes Craven’s Scream 4, Robin Hardy has returned with The Wicker Tree, a sequel to his 70s cult classic The Wicker Man.

…the wicker is not as ferociously flammable as it once was, but there’s still some spark left in this tale of religious madness…

The original has been around for close to forty years, which is more than enough time for it to have cultivated a healthy crop of devoted followers. So how does the new film compare? Can the fire still burn as brightly this many years later? Perhaps the wicker is not as ferociously flammable as it once was, but there’s still some spark left in this tale of religious madness and sometimes one spark is all it takes for the bonfire to begin.

The story focuses on two Christian followers who are determined to shed the light of Christ upon a small pagan village in Scotland.  Obviously, the Christian couple arrive in Scotland, convince the people of the village that Jesus rocks and they all sing a happy hymn together… Or so the story’s supposed to go. Everyone does sing, but lingering behind the cheerful melodies of the local festive songs is an eerie, allusive threat. As the couple gets pulled deeper and deeper into the May Day celebrations, their faith is tested, as well as their vow of chastity and their ability to withstand hot flames.

Much like the original, this film explores the idea of the madness of one religion colliding with the madness of another and the inevitable destruction that follows. Each religion is cemented in tradition, engrained into their followers by way of routine, ritual and song.  In this story, Christianity is seen as the repressor, conforming its followers into a lifetime of fighting their natural urges, specifically their sexuality.  The opposing religion celebrates human nature, embracing every physically and emotionally indulgent act it can. It’s sexually liberating and free of that pesky, often hindering attribute known as modesty.

…the film shows that in order for one religion to survive, it must devour the other…

At first glance, the later religion seems like the place to be. The problem comes with the reveal that this way of living is only permitted under the blessing from gods who are gluttons for sacrifice. To live so freely comes at a price, and that price is pure, one hundred percent, Christian flesh. In plain speaking, the film shows that in order for one religion to survive, it must devour the other. There’s no coexisting, simply the act of allowing the option of other religions is enough to prove your uncertainty toward your own. When religion is something that gives a person reason for being, that kind of shameful admittance cannot be endured. This is what leads us to fire up the old torches, sing the old songs and gather all the wicker we can find.

Despite their thematic similarities, the two Wicker films have majorly contrasting styles. The first film, although containing a surreal quality, is closely linked to reality. It even starts off with a caption, much like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which suggests the realism on which the film is based.  The Wicker Tree feels more like a fairytale with images of gallant knights and lost princesses.  It has a more whimsical atmosphere in general, losing some of the oppressive dread the original film utilized so well.

If nothing else, the film is a fascinating exploration into religious fanaticism. There are some interesting songs, great ghastly moments and a cameo by Christopher Lee. Do these elements make The Wicker Tree a classic like it’s predecessor? Perhaps not, but I’d take this over that silly Nicholas Cage remake any day.

60/100 - The Wicker Tree is a fascinating exploration into religious fanaticism.

Craig Stewart

Horror Film Critic. Am I obsessed? Maybe. I prefer the term “passionate”; it has a less creepy stalker kind of vibe. Not that I have anything against creepy stalkers being that my genre of choice is and forever will be the depraved, demented and deranged dwelling of horror. If you're looking for films that don’t sugarcoat things, that reveal people at their ugliest, that aren’t afraid to spill a little blood and have fun doing it, then look no further!