I personally love a good cult classic and I can’t think of a better depiction of a cult movie than The Wicker Man. What exactly makes a cult movie? Well for me, I believe it is a movie that is so unique during its own time that it slips into obscurity only to be appreciated at a later date. Considering this movie tackles a unique topic and could arguably be classified as a musical, I think it is one of the more “weird” movies I have ever seen.
The film starts off when Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) travels to Summerisle off the coast of Scotland to investigate the disappearance of a little girl. Upon arriving, it is immediately noticeable that the citizens of this island are not helpful and continuously mock the sergeant about his prude and religious ways. As things become weirder and weirder, the audience is privy to witnessing a dire situation before the main character knows it. This is one of the most brilliant aspects of this film: the voyeurism that takes place between the audience and the main character.
While not completely dislikable, the sergeant is so set in his religious ways that it becomes a serious fault on an island of devote pagans. The emotional battle between giving into something you don’t believe in and upholding your own morals is discussed heavily in this film. The sergeant is sanctimonious to a serious fault, which ultimately plays into the hands of the other citizens on the island. What is ultimately scary about all of this is that there are still places on earth today that practice religions that are not common to most of the population. One day you may be part of the common people, but you are one trip away from being part of a culture where your beliefs are obsolete and useless for your survival.
The Scottish setting of this film and the bizarre practices of its inhabitants make the viewer attach to the sergeant even more, because more than likely you are just as bewildered as him. Lacking control whatsoever, you begin to tell yourself that this movie is weird and it makes you feel uncomfortable, which is yet another sign of a good cult film. The scares generated from The Wicker Man are due to this exact feeling of helplessness. You at times just don’t understand what the hell is going on, especially due to the brilliant plot development and slow buildup that the film creates. Most horror films make you jump in your seat, but not all of them make you feel so weirded out that you have trouble watching the film.
Horror island is receiving a new religion, and while we defined it as a demon, in actuality it is not demonic at all. It is simply a religion that we don’t understand and heavily combats Christianity. Who knows, if more of these pagan religions sprout up then we will begin to see their practices and temples right on the island. If you love movies that are emotionally lasting and go against the grain, then this film is made for you. The creatures won’t know what to do with these pagans, but I suggest they blend in rather than preach their own beliefs, unless they want to face off against the wicker man himself.
If you liked The Wicker Man, you might also like Santa Sangre and Psychomania.