Twitter Plot Summary: Robin Hardy returns to the world of the wicker men, but in a way that isn’t very interesting.
A chaste Christian couple head over to Scotland in order to spread the word of God in this spiritual sequel to The Wicker Man. This should come as no surprise as it’s adapted from director Robin Hardy’s own novel Cowboys For Christ, however despite the similar story it is worlds apart from the Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee-starring classic. Whilst this is a shame, it’s still leagues better than the Nicolas Cage remake. Small mercies.
Whilst not directly specified and the character isn’t named, an all too brief cameo from Sir Christopher Lee links events with the 1973 Wicker Man and suggests that Graham McTavish’s Sir Lachlan Morrison was inspired to action by Lord Summerisle himself. Despite being mere moments of the story that adds almost nothing to the plot Morrison and his fellow islanders’ have hatched, it still proves to be the most entertaining part of the film. This is despite the ritualistic burning of people in and around giant wicker creatures, the random nudity and scenes of a sexual nature, and the heavy dose of pagan imagery. On paper it’s something that shouldn’t fail, and yet it does. It does at least indicate that Summerisle did not meet the same fate as Sergeant Howie, so that’s something to consider.
The problem is a lack of an intriguing protagonist and antagonist. Brittania Nicol and Henry Garrett are of moderate interest as the young American couple who make the journey over the Atlantic, but Garrett is not given enough to do as Steve besides mope and jump into bed with the first stranger who shows interest in him (the intriguingly named Honeysuckle Weeks). Meanwhile Brittania’s Beth Boothby, a former teenage pop star in the same slightly dubious category as Britney Spears and Katy Perry, has a few moments to demonstrate that she is anything but a passive victim but ultimately proves to be generally annoying. Graham McTavish always provides value for money, yet he too is reduced to spouting his lines and never being given chance to shine.
Unlike The Wicker Man, this is the equivalent of a tribute act performing the old hits of the original. Some tribute acts prove to be incredibly competent, whereas others are pale imitations of the original. Such is the case with The Wicker Tree, borrowing some of the plot from The Wicker Man and introducing some new twists in a bid to keep fans of the original – and by extension audiences new to the concept – on their toes. The concern is that there is little surprising about the story, and little to suggest that it has anything new to say. The odd moment of humour, provided by Clive Russell as the kilt-wearing Beame, sit uneasily with the rest of the film and don’t work nearly as well as the frequent musical interludes that served a narrative purpose in The Wicker Man. If there had been a greater emphasis on the reasons behind the sacrifice in the modern age then perhaps The Wicker Tree would have redeemed itself. Instead, it will be compared unfavourably with Robin Hardy’s far superior 1973 film and will never truly stand as its own piece of work.