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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day 302: The Wicker Tree

The Wicker Tree
Make like a Wicker Tree and leaf

I've reviewed a lot of movies over the past year. I've watched originals, sequels, prequels, remakes, sequels to remakes, re-imaginings, and all other sorts of movies. I didn't think there was anything else left and then I saw today's movie, The Wicker Tree. Now, you may see the title and think, “Hey, that must be a sequel to The Wicker Man.” Nope. “Oh, OK. It must be a prequel.” Nu-uh. “Hmm. Remake? Re-imagining? Sequel to the prequel to the remake?” No, no, and no. The Wicker Tree is classified as “companion piece” to The Wicker Man. A companion piece, in regards to film, is a movie that is similar in nature and themes to that of a previous movie. Or if you want to put it another way, a movie that is pretty much the same as another one, just not as good.

The Wicker Tree is a 2011 horror film written and directed by Robin Hardy (The Wicker Man, The Wrath Of The Gods). The film is adapted from the Robin Hardy novel, Cowboys For Christ. The movie stars Brittania Nichol as pop country singer Beth Boothby and Henry Garret (Red Tails, Re-Kill) as her cowboy fiance, Steve Thompson. Both are evangelical Christians from Texas, wearing purity rings and belong to a group called “Cowboys For Christ”. They travel to Scotland to do missionary work, bringing Jesus to a group of people who have abandoned Christianity. They are welcomed by Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish, Colombiana, Rambo), the leader of the town, who has arranged their trip. Beth performs a concert at the local church and we later learn that at one point in her career, her songs were all about promiscuity. The people of the town are not interested with Beth and Steve's teachings, rejecting Christ in favor of the Celt goddess Sulis. We learn that a terrible ecological accident occurred in the town, seeping into the water and forcing the community to not have children. The May Day celebration is approaching and Lachlan insists on having both Beth and Steve partaking in their events. Unbeknownst to them, the town plans to sacrifice both to Sulis in order to help increase fertility and restore their population. Will Beth and Steve realize what is happening before it is too late?

Close your eyes and think of the Queen

Despite being written and directed by Robin Hardy, who directed the original The Wicker Man, The Wicker Tree lacks what made The Wicker Man so great. In The Wicker Man, a strong sense of urgency and suspense rings throughout the entire movie. There, we want Sgt. Howie to find the missing girl as all the events lead up to his fateful meeting with the wicker man. In The Wicker Tree, we already know what is going to happen since the movies are so similar in nature. This kills any possible suspense, even though there isn't much to begin with. We know that everything is leading up to the May Day event, but nothing of real consequence happens to get us excited or interested. When you don't have suspense, all you're left with is a middling and boring story. I found myself constantly checking how much time was left just so I could be finished. There's a small side story with a police officer and a local woman, but I failed to see the point. There is a little bit of action towards the end, but it doesn't have the great shock and horror as The Wicker Man's final scene.

The movie also lacks the same strong characters and performances as The Wicker Man. Both Beth and Steve are far too naive and goofy to be considered likable and therefore, the audience has no real interest in what happens to them. Apparently, this is Brittania Nicol's first full-length film and it shows. She's not horrendous and delivers her lines well enough, she just lacks the appropriate emoting needed for such a role. That's partly due to the poor dialogue and lack of character progression. There is a very, very brief scene with Christopher Lee, which caused many to believe that The Wicker Tree was in fact a sequel. In it's original form, The Wicker Tree was going to be titled Cowboys For Christ and had Sean Astin, Christopher Lee, Vanessa Redgrave, and LeAnn Rhimes in major roles. Unfortunately, the project lacked funding and was never picked up. It's a shame, because having a stronger cast would have helped the movie greatly. Also, being under a different name would have reduced expectations. When you hear the word “wicker” in a horror movie title, you have a certain frame of mind when watching and you're bound to be disappointed.

Kids, say no to drugs and companion pieces
Though not a true sequel, The Wicker Tree does have the same elements and ideas as The Wicker Man. The stories are very similar and the brief inclusion of Christopher Lee connects the movies even further. Sadly, The Wicker Tree is nowhere near the quality of The Wicker Man in almost every way. The characters are not as good and the acting is nowhere near the quality of The Wicker Man. There is some action, but nothing great. The movie actually has a lot of humor in it, though I didn't really find myself laughing. If the movie was under a different night, I might have been more forgiving, but that is not the case, and I found myself very disappointed with The Wicker Tree.


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