The Wicker Tree, Robin Hardy’s long awaited “sequel” to the cult film The Wicker Man, is a mildly interesting experiment, but sadly not much more. Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) and her boyfriend Steve (Henry Garrett) are a couple of Christian missionaries from the U.S. who are sent to Scotland to spread the gospel in the small, isolated village of Tressock.
If you have seen The Wicker Man, you know this can’t go well. And honestly, even if you haven’t seen the first film, you can still predict the chain of non-events that make up this film. Beth and Steve are as American as Apple Pie, and that’s part of the problem. Sure, there is the clash of religious beliefs from the Evangelical Christians butting up against the Neo Pagans in Scotland, but it’s too broadly comic and on the nose to be effective. The subtle weirdness in The Wicker Man is what made it work. You were never sure what was really going to happen.
Acting wise, this movie is all over the place. Characters are laughable in moments that are supposed to be serious and the comedy rarely works. All the village folk do what they can with a creaky script, but none of them really stand out. And then there is Christopher Lee’s distracting cameo with a green screen backdrop to contend with. Originally, he was set to play the role of Sir Lachlan Morrison, but now he’s stuck in a completely nothing role.
There are a few instances of trying to make something three dimensional out of these fundamentalist Christian dullards stuck in a strange land. In a “key” scene, young, naïve Steve gives into his baser instincts when a local woman in the village seduces him. Of course this seduction has a purpose that will be revealed later. This scene is a summation of why this film fails. It hammers home the differences between these two belief systems and repeatedly does nothing but that until the final fifteen minutes. When something actually happens it’s too little too late.
Luckily the visuals on this disc hold up well. The scope image is clean, and the dark scenes never turn to mush. The locations are beautiful and they are showcased well with the cinematography on display. The audio is clean, and dialogue is always easy to hear, but I think big sections of it have been dubbed as some of it appears and sounds off. Whichever the case, it’s a serviceable job. The bonus content is meager, consisting of a fifteen minute making of press kit-style video, a handful of deleted scenes running a little over ten minutes and a collection of trailers including one for the film.
In Hardy’s defense, it appears that he was saddled by the producers into making this a sequel to the previous film, when his intention was for it to be a black comedy based on his novel Cowboys for Christ. If you can muddle through a pretty dull hour and a half, there is a somewhat interesting final act where the “May Queen” is crowned.