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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

The Wicker Man 1973 Reviewed

Featured Image For The Wicker Man 1973 Reviewed.  1973 movie poster of "The Wicker Man" featuring an ominous wicker structure with frantic people, against a sunset orange backdrop, with movie details at the bottom.
Where pagan ritual and sacrifice ignite the flames of terror in the chilling classic 'The Wicker Man'.

The sun beats down on Sergeant Neil Howie's tightly wound face. A devout Christian, he navigates the salty air of the Scottish coast and lands on the remote island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl named Rowan Morrison. The case of a missing child is the bait that lured him from the mainland, but something far more sinister lies in wait.

The Wicker Man 1973 Key Takeaways

  • The Clash of Belief Systems: The film starkly contrasts Christianity – represented by Sergeant Howie's rigid faith – with the ancient paganism practiced on Summerisle. This clash sparks questions about morality, tolerance, and the nature of true belief.

  • The Illusion of Control: Howie represents an outside authority figure, yet he finds himself powerless in the face of Summerisle's customs and rituals. This highlights the deceptive power of community and the potential for any individual to be consumed by something larger than themselves.

  • Folk Horror as Subversion: "The Wicker Man" subverts the familiar horror tropes of its time. Sunlight bathes the island, and the violence is often veiled, building a sense of dread that's psychological rather than purely visceral.

  • The Power of Manipulation: The islanders of Summerisle, led by Lord Summerisle, are masters of manipulation. They lure Howie with a false sense of security, misleading him and the audience with their smiles and open hospitality.

  • The Danger of the 'Other': The film plays on our fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar. The islanders' rituals and beliefs are presented as strange and dangerous, stoking Howie's (and potentially the viewer's) suspicion and prejudice.

  • Sacrifice as Necessity: The film's climax forces us to confront the idea that seemingly good people might commit horrifying acts if they deem them necessary for the greater good. Summerisle believes their harvests, their very survival, depends on sacrifice.

  • Ambiguity as a Lingering Terror: "The Wicker Man" doesn't offer easy answers or neat closure. The ambiguity surrounding Rowan's disappearance, the nature of the islanders' faith, and Howie's ultimate fate leaves a haunting unease that fuels discussion and speculation long after watching.

Woman sits alone in a dimly lit room, the flickering glow of the TV casting eerie shadows, her face contorted in terror.
The screams started on the screen, and then they were in her head.

As Howie steps foot on the quaint, sun-drenched isle, he is met with the unsettling blend of hospitality and hostility that characterizes Summerisle. There's a folksy charm, the kind with twee melodies and the bright colors of a May Day festival. But underneath the cheerful façade, Howie senses a pagan pulse. The islanders, led by the enigmatic Lord Summerisle (played by the legendary Christopher Lee), dance freely as their rituals honor ancient gods and ensure fertile harvests.

The devoutly Christian policeman is like a wound-up clock ticking with disapproval amongst the free-spirited islanders. He's a square peg in their round, sun-worshipping world. Conversations with the townsperson yield little – clues are dropped like breadcrumbs, but the trail winds into blind alleys and half-truths. Howie’s puritanical nature clashes with the open sexuality of the island and its inhabitants, particularly the innkeeper’s daughter, Willow (Britt Ekland). Willow, the epitome of earthy sensuality, tempts him with her song and dance, a seductive rhythm that clashes with his rigid beliefs.

With each passing day on this remote Scottish island village, Howie begins to suspect he isn't just dealing with a missing girl, but with an entire community woven into a tapestry of ritual sacrifice. The islanders' smiles gleam a bit too bright; a false sense of security hangs heavy in the air. He's an observer, out of place in this wild, pagan celebration, but he refuses to yield.

"The Wicker Man," directed by Robin Hardy, was released in 1973, becoming a cult classic film that continues to haunt its viewers long after the final flames fade. Christopher Lee considered it one of his best works, and with good reason. It's a film unlike its horror contemporaries. Sunlight glares down on scenes of dread, and the pagan folk songs are both strangely beautiful and chilling.

Man watches in horror as the islanders prepare the wicker man, his face mirrored in the flames flickering on the TV screen.
He'd felt uneasy from the start, but now he knew... they were coming for him too.

A Cult Favorite From The 1970s

The narrative's tension is masterful. While Howie stumbles through the islanders' maze of lies and rituals, there's the lingering suspicion that perhaps his faith and logic will never find the truth. The film takes a sharp turn in its final act, twisting into a stark, gut-wrenching end that stays with you long after the credits roll.

The film has stayed with audiences over the years for more than its shocking finale. It's a jarring examination of belief, a stark contrast between the rigidity of Abrahamic faiths and the cyclical, untamed energy of paganism. Howie embodies a kind of old-world morality that can't grapple with the sensuality and sacrifice deeply woven into Summerisle's ways.

Like many cult classics, there's lore tangled around the making of the film itself. There were multiple versions of the film, a director's cut, and tales of original footage buried beneath the M4. Rumors swirled that "The Wicker Man" was inspired by the 1967 novel "Ritual" by David Pinner, but screenwriter Anthony Shaffer denied the connection. This only adds to the film's mystique.

Nearly 50 years on, "The Wicker Man", with its mesmerizing mix of twee sunlight and shadows, its chilling soundtrack, and unforgettable twist, deserves the re-release and attention it's garnered. It's a film that crawls under your skin and makes you question your own certainties. That's the mark of a true horror, the kind that lingers in your memory long after the final scene. Even with its hippy-dippy aesthetic and slightly off-center charm, "The Wicker Man" casts a long, lingering shadow that’s hard to forget.

And that is The Wicker Man 1973 Reviewed. Another amazing cult classic horror movie

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If You Liked The Wicker Man 1973 You Might Also Like These Films

  • Midsommar (2019): Directed by Ari Aster, this modern folk horror masterpiece follows a group of friends who visit a remote Swedish commune during their midsummer festival. As with "The Wicker Man," ancient rituals and sun-drenched beauty mask something far more sinister.

  • Kill List (2011): A British psychological horror from director Ben Wheatley. Two hitmen take a job that leads them down a rabbit hole of conspiracy, secret societies, and disturbing rituals, drawing parallels to the unsettling feeling that something is deeply wrong beneath the surface, as found in "The Wicker Man".

  • The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971): Another British folk horror gem set in a 17th-century village where strange occurrences and a growing cult lead to fear and violence. Similar to "The Wicker Man", it explores the clash between traditional beliefs and a creeping, insidious evil.

  • Witchfinder General (1968): This historical horror film stars Vincent Price as a ruthless witch hunter in England during a time of superstition and paranoia. Like "The Wicker Man," it highlights the dangers of religious zealotry and the human capacity for cruelty under the guise of righteousness.

  • Apostle (2018): A Netflix original period horror film directed by Gareth Evans. A man journeys to a remote island to infiltrate a religious cult in an attempt to rescue his sister. The film shares the themes of isolated communities, disturbing rituals, and a protagonist whose beliefs are tested to the limit, reminiscent of "The Wicker Man."

The Wicker Man 1973 Reviewed FAQs

Q: What is "The Wicker Man" about? 

A: "The Wicker Man" is a 1973 British folk horror film directed by Robin Hardy. It follows Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward), a devoutly Christian policeman investigating the disappearance of a young girl named Rowan Morrison on the remote Scottish island of Summerisle. As he delves deeper into the island's secretive community, he uncovers their deeply rooted pagan practices, ultimately discovering a sinister truth that puts his faith and his life at risk.

Q: Who is Sergeant Howie in "The Wicker Man"? 

A: Sergeant Howie, also known as Sgt. Neil Howie, is the protagonist of the film, portrayed by actor Edward Woodward. He's a devout Christian and a dedicated police officer, sent to Summerisle after receiving an anonymous letter about a missing girl. Howie's staunch faith and unwavering sense of morality clash with the islanders' pagan beliefs and practices, making him an outsider and ultimately leading to his tragic fate.

Q: What are some key elements in "The Wicker Man"? 

A: Here's a breakdown of key elements with some added details:

  • Human Sacrifice: Central to the film's plot is the pagan belief in human sacrifice to appease their gods and ensure a bountiful harvest. This theme is veiled for much of the film, building suspense until the shocking climax.

  • Pagan Rituals: Summerisle's inhabitants engage in various pagan rituals, including May Day celebrations with a maypole dance, fertility rites, and the symbolic representation of the "Green Man" (a figure in Celtic mythology).

  • Music: The film's soundtrack features original folk songs written by Paul Giovanni, adding a haunting and strangely beautiful dimension to the atmosphere.

  • The Wicker Man: The titular structure is a giant, human-shaped effigy made of wicker. It serves as the shocking climax to the film, revealing the islanders' chilling method of sacrifice.

Q: Who is the director of "The Wicker Man"? 

A: "The Wicker Man" was directed by Robin Hardy, a British filmmaker known for his unique vision of horror and suspense. Hardy's direction, combined with Anthony Shaffer's screenplay, brought the unsettling and thought-provoking story to life.

Q: Why is "The Wicker Man" considered a cult classic? 

A: "The Wicker Man" gained cult classic status for several reasons:

  • Unconventional Narrative: Its departure from predictable horror tropes, focusing on psychological tension and ambiguity rather than gore and jump scares.

  • Folk Horror Elements: The film is one of the pioneering examples of the "folk horror" subgenre, exploring themes of ancient traditions, rural isolation, and the clash between modern values and archaic beliefs.

  • Iconic Imagery: The film's visuals, particularly the maypole dance and the burning Wicker Man, are seared into the minds of viewers.

  • Shocking Twist: The film's climactic ending and its implications for Sergeant Howie have become a subject of endless analysis and debate.

Q: What is the significance of the Wicker Man in the film? 

A: The Wicker Man embodies the ultimate expression of the islanders' pagan beliefs. Here's why it's significant:

  • Symbol of Sacrifice It represents the community's willingness to sacrifice human life for what they believe to be the greater good of the harvest.

  • Ancient Ritual: The Wicker Man draws inspiration from historical accounts by Julius Caesar, which mention similar wicker structures potentially used by Celtic druids for sacrificial rituals.

  • Horrifying Culmination: The film's climax, featuring the Wicker Man in all its fiery glory, is a powerful and unforgettable horror image.


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