Thursday, March 5, 2015

'The Wicker Tree' (movie review)

'The Wicker Tree' is a sequel to 'The Wicker Man', as well as part two in The Wicker Man film series from the UK. This 2011 film was written and directed by Robin Hardy, who directed the original classic in 1973.

This movie followed the same basic plot as the original---as well as the 2006 remake---with people being carefully set up and lured to a location, all having something to do with modern "paganism." This was a great idea for a film, but not a very good film.

This film, set in lower Scotland, lacked any alluring elements. The locations, the scenes, the characters, or even the pagans themselves... all lacked any mystery to them. The wonderful coastal Isle of Man location of the original had all of those aspects and more. The music, although promoted as a big part of this production, lacked the mysterious pagan spirit of the original; and even the sexual expressions, although overt, were bland and pointless.

I'm not just trashing a sequel for not living up to the original, as I did like the 2006 remake just on its own merit. In the original, there was at least a certain "pagan charm" and purpose to everything. Although hiding a dark side, the pagans did have a culture and values. In 'The Wicker Tree', they were portrayed as sex nuts.. without values, without morals, without any charm, without even good symbolism. I read something, which may or may not be true, that suggested that Robin Hardy wasn't amused that some pagans today and since the original... actually see that movie as like "a cult following." Perhaps this movie was his way of "making it right with God" in a Christian sense?

Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish), who headed the pagan village, was portrayed as what was apparently something of a corporate "eco-terrorist." Although I ignored any concept of "pagan defamation" from the get-go, I think I can say with certainly that no true pagan would be an environmental abuser. I thought that was a little much.

The protagonists were Christian "redeemers" from Texas, there to convert the "heathens" of as least this little corner of Scotland. Therefore, the film certainly had a powerful plot in which to play out the "Christian vs. Heathen" theme. However, missing was the intrigue and terror in even "the setting up" process! There was nothing interesting or different about the folks in this village outside of being "rural" and a bit aloof.

Just for the record, the film described this fictional pagan tradition as "the old religion of the Celts," and the the ceremony as "the Queen of the May." The original 'The Wicker Man' was reviewed on this blog here.


Equinox (1970)

While on the subject of movies, yesterday I saw a movie that I hadn't seen since I was very young called 'Equinox'. I saw it on the old "Creature Features" in the Bay Area. When I happened to see it in the listing on Turner Classic Movies, I expected it to be in black and white, as I saw it on a black and white tv in the late 70s. For a movie which was produced for only $6,000, I thought it turned out well. It was produced by some college students, and filmed over a three year period, and eventually picked up by Janus Films. It was a B-horror movie, but a very special B-horror movie. It was bold without overdoing it, and the special effects weren't bad at all. While watching it, I thought that this must have influenced the "Evil Dead" movies.. and apparently it did.

Equinox (also known as The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural, and released on home video as The Beast) is a 1970 American independent horror film directed by Dennis Muren and Jack Woods, and starring Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner, and award-winning science fiction/horror writer Fritz Leiber. The plot focuses on four teenagers having a picnic in the canyons of California who stumble upon an ancient book containing secrets of a strange world that exists alongside humans, and consequently unleash a plethora of evil creatures and monsters.

Some interesting hard-to-find information on any film can be found on the movie reviews on the Internet Movie Database. One reviewer from Finland apparently had the same experience as I did.

If you saw this film when you were in your teens then you are in luck, for you will think it was a wonderful curiosity. For so many years, the film stayed inside my head and I wondered what ever became of it. Finally, it was on cable one night and I managed to see it all over again. Of course, being older, one is more likely to dismiss it as 'amateurish' but it really is a special kind of film. The premise deals with a lost book of the dead called the "Necrominicon" and how it suddenly effects a group of students out for a picnic in a backwoods forest. They encounter an eerie park ranger who wants the book back for his own sinister ends. Also included are plenty of monsters that are really quite good for the time and the budget involved. Take a look at the flying demon, even though you can see the wires on the wings, he's still pretty evil looking. This isn't really 'bad' at all and doesn't deserve to be on any banal shows that exploit that realm. It is a great little horror film done with patience and wit.
--Bartok Kinski, IMDb reviewer, Finland 


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