Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Wicker Man (1973)

Directed by Robin Hardy.
1973. Rated R, 88 minutes.
Edward Woodward
Diane Cilento
Britt Ekland
Anthony Shaffer
Ingrid Pitt
Lindsay Kemp
Russell Waters
Aubrey Morris
Irene Sunters
Paul Giovanni

Policeman Sgt. Neil Howie (Woodward) heads out to Summer Isle after receiving an anonymous letter notifying him that a child has gone missing. When he gets there, the locals deny they ever knew this girl existed. However, as he uncovers more and more evidence, their tunes begin to change. In addition, the lifestyle of the natives is offensive to his spirituality. Though they claim to be a devoutly religious group, promiscuity and drunkenness seem to be the two most prevalent behaviors. Often, the locals engage in one and/or the other in public. Sgt. Howie just can’t reconcile this with his own faith. He soon comes to think everyone on the island is stark, raving mad.

The sarge is right. Everyone here is completely bonkers. In fact, the entire movie is nuts. I can honestly say this is one of the most unique viewing experiences I've ever had. For starters, it stops barely shy of being a full-blown musical. Every time I turn around someone breaks into song. These numbers are either plain awful, overtly sexual or both. It doesn't help that the singing leaves a lot to be desired. Then you have to remember this is supposed to be a horror flick. I've seen horror musicals that have worked.Those either skew toward being a comedy or at least are keenly aware of how ridiculous they are and use that to their advantage. The Wicker Man seems strangely oblivious and to take itself more seriously than it should.

Despite it’s odd approach, TWM still delivers an interesting tale. The mystery of the missing girl is a winding path that concludes with a devilish twist. It’s the kind of thing many movies try but can’t get quite right. The reason it works here is two-fold. First, it never tips its hand. When you work back through the movie in your mind, there really are no clues that you missed. However, and this brings us to the second
reason,  we don’t feel cheated. In fact, it makes perfect sense given the situation and the people involved. We actually wonder why we didn't see it coming.

In the end, TWM is a goofy movie that succeeds almost in spite of itself. The silliness tests our patience. The rampant debauchery speaks to our basest needs and may either turn us on or off. Regardless, the story keeps dragging us along until we get to the “oh wow” ending.

MY SCORE: 8/10

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