Revered British horror director Robin Hardy returns to familiar ground with The Wicker Tree (2010), an impromptu sequel-of-sorts to his seminal 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man. Sadly, this time around Hardy can only offer up an extraordinarily trite affair that lacks the mystery and genuine horror of his original masterpiece.
The Wicker Tree sees young pop star-turned-evangelical Christian Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) and her cowboy boyfriend Steve (Henry Garrett) inexplicably leave their Texan home for the wilds of Scotland. After a brief, unsuccessful attempt at ‘evangelising’ the people of Glasgow (!?), the couple retreat to a remote village after an invitation from Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish), Lord of the Manor. Once there, Beth and Steve attempt to convert the population of the surrounding village, but failing in their attempts tragically stumble across the pagan cult of Minerva, who regularly dabble in human sacrifice.
The Wicker Tree faces numerous problems, first amongst them being the incredibly bizarre idea of two young American Christians going to Scotland to convert the local heathens. Secondly, the film tries (and fails disastrously) to update The Wicker Man story for modern audiences. The film rather awkwardly attempts to explore evangelical Christianity by citing issues such as the ‘Silver Ring Thing’ (a sign of sexual abstinence before marriage) and Biblical literalism, yet all of the aforementioned concepts are dealt with in an excruciatingly clumsy and mawkish manner.
The performances are adequate at best, but it’s hard to criticise the cast when the real problems lie with The Wicker Tree’s weak direction and dire script. Even more infuriating is the involvement of iconic Hammer star Christopher Lee, who offers up a totally plot-redundant cameo that appears to have been shot on a green screen and superimposed. Crowbarring a member of The Wicker Man’s cast into this new nightmare is perhaps the ultimate cheap tactic – a blatant marketing ploy by those involved to sell this poor offering to fans of the original film.
Watching Hardy’s abysmal The Wicker Tree is a protracted affair that lacks any genuine horror, aside from its horrific inadequacies. The host of overly surreal characters, weak story and inappropriate humour all sadly add up to a tiresome film that is best erased from the memory, or better still left unwatched.