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Thursday, April 12, 2012

THE WICKER TREE -- DVD review by porfle



I feel kind of backward admitting that I have yet to see either the original THE WICKER MAN from 1973 or its 2006 remake with Nicolas Cage.  Now, the first film's director, Robin Hardy, returns as both director and screenwriter of THE WICKER TREE (2010), a dull, dreary, and surprisingly dumb effort that can only make the previous films look better in comparison. 

Based on Hardy's book "Cowboys For Christ", the story concerns a couple of young Christians--Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol in an inauspicious acting debut) and her goat-ropin' hubby-to-be Steve (Henry Garrett)--traveling from Texas to Scotland in order to spread the Gospel to all the heathens that, for some unexplained reason, they believe the country to be overrun with.  Unfortunately, they wind up smack dab in the middle of the most coo-coo bunch of sun-worshippin' pagans they ever slapped eyeballs on, and the next big sacrifices to the ancient gods of whatever will be the unsuspecting Beth and Steve.

Beth is a former slutty pop diva whose biggest hit was a sex-soaked ode to trailer trash, yet we're supposed to believe that being "born again" (a term which the film seems to equate with "brain dead") has somehow regressed her into such an innocent naif that she's practically infantile.  As Steve, Henry Garrett exudes the same puppy-dog earnestness of Michael Palin's Sir Galahad in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL but without the excuse of being intentionally funny. 

Worst of all, the two are about as authentically Texan as a Nathan's hot dog, with the actors seemingly researching their roles by watching a couple of "Deputy Dawg" cartoons.  Wearing one of the dopiest cowboy hats in film history, Steve ambles around spouting lines like "You're quite the famous dude around here, sir...how comes that?" and referring to his daddy as "Pa-PA." 

I can't speak for the realism of the Scottish characters, but I'm going to assume that Robin Hardy is a bit more familiar with the denizens of that neck of the woods.  Anyway, as you might suspect, the pagans--led by Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish) and his wife Delia (Jacqueline Leonard)--are way more sophisticated and confident in their faith than the childlike Christians, easily gaining their trust and duping them into participating in their upcoming Mayday rituals. 

After a brief montage in which Beth and Steve fail at converting any "city folk"--Hardy seems to equate evangelicals with door-to-door salesmen who get easily discouraged if they don't make their daily sales quota of souls--they accept Sir Lachlan's invitation to ply their wares in his amenable little village.  Naturally, Delia delights in tripping up Beth with a few loaded questions about the Bible, smirking malevolently as the poor girl sputters in confusion, while Steve wows some entertainment-starved pub crawlers with the old "deck of cards" routine. 

Meanwhile, the McTavishes' sexually voracious horse groomer, Lolly (Honeysuckle Weeks), has zero trouble obliterating Steve's vow of pre-marital abstinence and soon has him ridin' her like a buckin' bronco.  While this throws a monkey wrench into their wedding plans, Beth and Steve agree to fulfill their obligations as May Queen and Laddie, respectively, which means that while Beth is being skinned and mounted by the McTavish family's hulking manservant, Steve is to be hunted down by the local populace and eaten alive.  With a quality brand of barbecue sauce, one would hope. 

Reportedly, Hardy prefaced a screening of THE WICKER TREE by telling the audience, "It's okay to laugh."  There is, in fact, some intentional humor, such as a guy getting a broken drinking glass shoved into his nards, a cat being accidentally poisoned, and Lolly literally screwing the town's constable to death.  But I don't think we were meant to find the rest of the film quite so laughable, particularly the scenes that are intended to terrify us.  Bad acting and embarrassingly cartoonish caricatures don't help, nor do technical standards that fall short of the usual rural dramas found on British TV.  Christopher Lee, a veteran of the first film, is brought in to validate things a bit, but his brief green-screen cameo is almost negligible. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with English 5.1 and Spanish mono sound, and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of a 15-minute "making of" featurette, some deleted scenes, and a trailer. 

Fans of the original film and/or its remake may want to check this one out just to say they did, or to satisfy their curiosity.  Some may even like it for reasons that I would no doubt find unfathomable.  For me, though, the scariest thing about THE WICKER TREE is the prospect of yet another sequel, this time involving evil wicker patio furniture. 


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1 comment:

It Came From The Man Cave said...

Do Not See the REMAKE of the wicker man go with the original!!!