The Wicker Man is often called one of the best horror movies of all time, but I felt this cinema classic played out more like a dark comedy. I was hooting with laughter for a lot of it.
Edward Woodward (brilliant name, by the way) plays Sergeant Howie, a copper who comes to the Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate the case of a missing girl. Shortly after he arrives, we are privy to some of the more bizarre actions of the island folk, including singing, dancing, using umbilical cords as grave decorations etc. Howie meets with Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), who explains how the island came to have these strange traditions, but is still not convinced that this is a completely orthodox island.
What I found so funny about the film was Howie’s constant state of bewilderment and incredulity. When the barfolk sing about the landlord’s daughter, he is utterly unimpressed. It’s brilliant. Also, the use of folk music throughout the film is quite ingenious, and has never sounded creepier.
Perhaps the weirdest aspect of the movie is Howie’s Christianity, an aspect of his personality that grows alarmingly as the film progresses. While he is the character that we sympathise with – boy, do we need one in this film – his arguments against Paganism aren’t along the lines of ‘it’s weird and creepy’, but more like ‘God. Jesus. No fire gods. Paganism is wrong. Christianity is right.’ To have one religious bloke telling another religious bloke what is and isn’t right seems slightly out of order. I almost sympathise with Summerisle here.
At any rate, it was an entertaining film, although I didn’t feel so strong on the horror front. So it can be a little creepy at some points, but nothing extraordinarily scary. The acting, the characters and the dark humour made up for this though, and at 84 minutes, this definitely wasn’t a waste of time. Now, about that remake…