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Just saw a screening of this spiritual successor to The Wicker Man at the London FrightFest. Director Robin Hardy's film (based on his own book 'Cowboys for Christ') shares many similarities with the cult British horror classic that he found success with in the 1970's, but The Wicker Tree is different enough to stand-out on it's own and not be classified as more of the same, even if the basic plot-lines are almost identical. This time around it's about a born again duo of evangelical country & western singers who have come to Scotland as 'redeemers' to convert an isolated pagan village to the path of Christ. However, where The Wicker Man was at turns as equally dark as it was intriguing, The Wicker Tree is a far more satirical affair, with jibes aimed at the genre and the background and beliefs of the protagonists.
Christopher Lee makes a brief appearance as an old man in a flash back, who may or may not be intended as an elderly Lord Summerisle, but while his ill-health prevented him from taking on the role of the main villain his shoes are well filled by Graham McTavish, who provides some much needed fire and brimstone in contrast to the rather stilted performances from the two lead characters, although there were some good performances from the supporting cast, most notably Clive Russel as the butler Beame and Honeysuckle Weeks as the promiscuous pagan Lolly.
I found the setting and direction to be excellent and again Hardy has created an intriguing pagan culture that I would loved to have seen more focus upon, but while we all know what the outcome of the story is going to be at the outset of the film it often seems to concern itself more with poking fun than with captivating and intriguing, or even scaring the audience. It got a good share of laughs throughout and even a round of applause at one point, and I enjoyed it in that respects, but as a horror film, as a film doomed to stand in the shadow of The Wicker Man, I found it to be lacking.
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