The Wicker Tree

I was surprised too. It turns out that after thirty years of leaving his brilliant cult film well alone, two-time director Robin Hardy made the foolish error of trying to do the same thing again. Wikipedia, in all its great wisdom, classes this film as a spiritual sequel to Hardy’s The Wicker Man, this definition implying that it ‘features many of the same elements, themes, and styles as its source material.’ But by God, is it awful!

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The story revolves around two young, attractive, hillbilly, born-again Christians, Beth (Britannia Nicol) and Steve (Henry Garrett), who decide to take a trip across the pond to bonnie Scotland, where they can spread the good word. I can’t really understand why missionaries would need to go to Scotland, a predominantly Christian country, but OK.

Beth is supposedly a famous singer, which is understood by the numerous autographs she gives. While the couple seem very righteous at the beginning of the film, showing off their twin chastity rings, a bedroom scene where Beth stops Steve from taking things further suggests that he’s not all too happy about the chastity agreement. We suppose Beth is pure of heart too, but we are immediately privy to one of her old music videos to a song called Trailer Trash Love, which contains the lyrics (and I kid you not):

If you buy me a beer and try your luck,
Then take me for a ride in your pickup truck.
Call me cheap, call me a whore,
I may need you if you get in my door.

Far too obvious, Hardy! Perhaps the bit that made me laugh the most was the lyric that is uttered just before the TV is shut off: “I was born in a car“. Clearly the woman has skeletons in her closet, but these aren’t brought up at all later.

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After inevitably getting doors slammed in their face by just one street of Scottish people, the couple head to the countryside, where they meet Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham MacTavish), the owner of a nuclear power plant in a small town called Tressock. It is revealed that this plant has poisoned the water and made the women infertile, so the townsfolk are looking for a more ‘traditional’ way of regaining control of their uteri. Uteri? I think that’s right.

Once we’ve worked out all the parallels to The Wicker Man, the story essentially plays out in the same way, so the ending is hardly a surprise. However, the characters are entirely unbelievable, the nudity gratuitous and the dialogue laughable. I really couldn’t tell that this film was written and directed by the same man who directed the original, as it just seems far too geared towards American viewers. The Christopher Lee cameo, where he is credited as Old Gentleman, is rather tacked on and looks like a last-ditch attempted to curry favour with fans.

Also, the amount of religious piffle we have to sit through is thoroughly irksome. I still can’t tell if Hardy actually likes Christians or not, but when I hear “If you can love other folks like Jesus loves us, then there’s no other reason to love yourself, ’cause you’re so full of love you’re like some great big light!“, the urge not to snort derisively is too much to bear. If The Wicker Man and its sequel are really about the contradiction of religions, then I am thoroughly glad to be atheist. I don’t want to be on anyone’s side.

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Amazingly, this sequel makes the Nic Cage remake look good. Nothing that made the original so good can be found in this film. Shoddily acted, pitifully written and worryingly executed, this is a sequel that should never have been made. The worst part is that this is the second of a planned trilogy.

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