Production Budget: $7.75 million
Gross: unknown on exact numbers but was failure in US
So Robin Hardy returns after decades to the series he created. That worked so well for other directors *cough George Lucas George Romero cough*
The Wicker Tree is a companion piece to The Wicker Man. This story is about Beth (Brittania Nicol) who was a Brittney Spears-ish pop idol who has become a born again Christian. Beth and her cowboy boyfriend Steve (Henry Garrett) go on a missionary trip to Scotland to convert some godless heathens Turns out the townspeople of Tressock have lured Beth and Steve there for a sacrifice to help with the town’s fertility problem.
Now I’ll admit right of the bat that I was not a fan of the original Wicker Man. I say that because I don’t want to give the impression I hold the original on some pedestal I also say that because while I didn’t like Wicker Man, I can tell you that Tree gets everything wrong that Man did right.
I actually have to get a nit pick out of the way before going onto the movie proper but who sends missionaries to Scotland? I live in an area where the Mormons send out plenty of people on missions and they are usually to places like South America. You know, places where the indigenous people don’t have much exposure to that sort of thing. I think people in Scotland know about Jesus. If you are just preaching to atheists there are plenty in America. Hell, Beth is from Texas she can take a short drive to Austin. I also have to wonder why this singing superstar doesn’t bring an entourage to Scotland or why her disappearance doesn’t cause a massive investigation. Natalie Halloway was a nobody that dominated the news when she disappeared imagine what would happen after Tressock tries Wicker Tree-ing Brittany Spears‘ ass.
But I digress. On reason why this horror movie fails is because there is absolutely no tension in it. In the original Wicker Man there was a mystery that our character was trying to solve. Howie was investigating the disappearance of a young girl but the larger mystery was with the town itself. It was an understatement that strange things were afoot. You had people being cryptic or hostile toward him and an odd attempt at sexual temptation. You didn’t know what was going on but a feeling of dread followed around Howie.
In Wicker Tree we are told exactly what is going on in Tressock and why the townspeople want to sacrifice Beth and Steve. Now I understand the cat is out of the bag with this movie so you can’t exactly surprise people again. So either Hardy had to put a twist on the formula or not do it to begin with. However it doesn’t help when we both know the bad guys plans within five minutes, and our protagonists are some of the most clueless people in horror movie history. Beth and Steve are completely duped by this town and not for one moment do they suspect anything wrong. Maybe that would have added some tension having them discover hinky goings on and trying to escape or fight back. But it is almost comical how absolutely gullible these people are. For example, by the end Steve finds himself in this ancient ruin surrounded by the townspeople who are completely naked and surrounding him chanting about how the blood is the key and he is standing there going “Derp, all you Scottish folk sure have weird customs!“ This week I have had the misfortune of seeing Warlock II and Wicker Tree; two films which do not know how to convey any tension. Once again we are sitting around as the movie spins its wheels until the last fifteen minutes when our gullible unlikable heroes get what we knew was coming in the first five minutes.
Tree tries to be satirical and comedic at times but also fails. Beth and Steve are badly done caricatures of born again Christians. There is satirical, and then there is a moronic broad stereotype. And this is coming from an atheist. But more to the point you have made our lead characters, the people we (as the audience) are supposed to be invested in, and you have turned them into the comic relief. Why not make the comic relief the comic relief? Instead you have us rooting for the equivalent of a Rob Schneider character or Jar Jar. You don’t exactly want those characters to live.
There is a subplot involving a sexy townsperson named Lolly (Honeysuckle Weeks) and aside from being naked A LOT I’m not sure what her role is in this movie. I don’t know if she played an integral role in the ritual and there is a plot thread that goes nowhere where she is trying to have seven orgasms in one night with an Italian police officer. But I won’t look gift nudity in the mouth. I think I understand what I just wrote and I hope you do too. Graham McTavish is our resident Christopher Lee (Lee hurt his back and couldn’t be on set) and he doesn’t hold a candle to Lee. There is some attempt at character development that he does not believe in the rituals and is only doing it to appease the masses but like everything else it is half baked and I don’t care. Christopher Lee actually does make an appearance for literally about a minute in a horrible green screen add in. Once again, it is almost comical how short and poorly handled it all is. Was this supposed to be a satire on shitty sequels to horror movies?
The biggest mystery for me is why Robin Hardy made this movie. You would think Hardy retired from filmmaking since he made one whole film in between Wicker Man in 1973 and Wicker Tree in 2010. It is not like there is some big addition to the Wicker mythology and no substantive message to add. I also don’t think Hardy was trying to remake/reboot the series as nothing is made better in this version. Even with my bar lowered way down this movie was still a let down. The characters are cartoons, the acting is ameteurish, the direction is lazy, the satire is half assed, and the writing is no-assed. The cardinal sin of this movie though is that it is not scary. Even by bad Wicker movie standards the bar was set by Neil LaBute’s Wicker Man. I do not recommend this sequel to anyone.