Tag Archive: Wicker Man


THE WICKER TREE written and directed by Robin Hardy (UK, 2011)

Brittania Nichol

Beth Boothby (Brittania Nichol)

The Wicker Man is justifiably regarded as one of the best UK films ever made and was number one in my list of of best British cult movies.

The memorable ending can’t have had many viewers wondering what happened next. The finale was certainly conclusive enough for Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) and probably the only unanswered question was whether the human sacrifice achieved the objective of reviving the harvests for the Pagan community.

Director Robin Hardy must however have felt there was some unfinished business. He wrote a novel on similar themes in 2006 called Cowboys For Christ and The Wicker Tree is the misguided movie version of this story.

It is actually billed as a ‘spiritual sequel’ and Hardy is keen for it to be regarded as a black comedy and not a horror movie. A turkey is the most accurate label I can think of.

In The Wicker Man, the fruit and vegetable crops had floundered, in The Wicker Tree the community can’t produce any children after a leak at a nuclear power station. Resolving this problem once again necessitates the corruption and culling of devout Christians.

The Wicker Tree posterThere are two doomed believers this time; a God-fearing couple from Dallas who are flown in ostensibly to spread the word of Jesus to heathen inhabitants of Tressock. Hardy regards fundamentalists from Texas as the most striking contrast to this fictional Scottish community.

The unsuspecting lambs to the slaughter have made a vow of chastity to one another. Beth Boothby (Brittania Nichol) is a singer who has turned her back on raunchy trailer trash pop in favour of gospel country music. Her naivety and virginal state make her an ideal May Queen as part of the fertility rituals – she is admired for the fact that she has “smell of the dairy. about her….. with a hint of cowshit behind the ears”.

Steve Thompson (Henry Garrett) is her dumb cowboy fiancé, whose pledge of celibacy is quickly put the test and fails at the first hurdle. He is chosen as perfect fodder for the role as the Laddie to Beth’s queen and becomes dispensable once the fruit of his loins has been squeezed.

Graham McTavish as Sir Lachian Morrison is the nearest thing to Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle. Lee himself was slated for this role until a back injury ruled him out ( a lucky escape on his part!). Lee’s prominent billing on the credits is a bit of a con as it amounts to the briefest of cameos as an “old gentleman” and mentor to Morrison.

Orlando the policeman is the nearest equivalent to Sergeant Howie but his character is so sketched in I actually missed the fact that he was an outsider sent to investigate rumours of the sun god cult. He spends most of his undercover work under the covers with Lolly (Honeysuckle Weeks), one of the island’s numerous racy females.

The Hollywood remake of The Wicker Man starring Nicolas Cage was dire but worth seeing for the many unintentionally funny scenes – The Wicker Tree is dire and best avoided.

Rather than pay homage to a movie classic, Hardy succeeds only in  pissing over its memory.

PSYCHEDELIC WAVELENGTHS

In a recent interview for The Wire magazine Trish Keenan of the enigmatic Midlands based duo Broadcast said of their 2009  album : Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age’ :  “I’d like people to enjoy the album as a Hammer horror dream collage where Broadcast play the role of the guest band at the mansion drug party by night, and a science worshipping Eloi possessed by 3/4 rhythms by day”.

I was intrigued to see how such a trippy atmosphere could be recreated live so I went along to see Trish and musical partner James Cargill in the flesh at the Rocca Brancalone as part of this year’s Ravenna Festiival, the second in a series of four individual audio-visual shows under the title ‘Musica & Visioni – Weird Tales’ (other performers being Austria’s Fennesz, Mexico’s Murcof & Italy’s own Massimo Volume) Continue reading

The weird and occasionally wonderful 1970 movie ‘Valerie & Her Week of Wonders’  is based on a 1935 novella by Czech author Vítězslav Nezval and directed by Jaromil Jireš.

It’s a movie which, alongside cult classics like ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Holy Mountain’, is held in high esteem within some quarters of  the New Folk movement. Like those movies, it centres mainly on big issues like sex, death, religion and the corruption of innocence; themes which also loom large in the contaminated folk music of the New Weird America. Continue reading

MATT VALENTINE

Matt Valentine (MV) is a maverick figure of the ‘alternative’, ‘underground’ folk scene. Through his organization of the Brattleboro festival in 2003 he is credited with inventing the term ‘Free Folk’ and, indirectly, prompted the first use of the label New Weird America to describe the loose collective he is part of.

At the last count I have about 16 of his albums mostly with his partner and soul mate Erika Elder (EE) . Two recent ones were on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label but most on limited issue vinyl or cdr so have to be grabbed fast or scored on p2p sites. Continue reading

HOLY FREAKS

holy mountain

Watching Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain in 10 minute chunks on YouTube may not be the ideal way to view this cult movie but it doesn’t feel inappropriate. After all, the movie is not much concerned to maintain a narrative flow. Only in the last half hour does it finally get around to telling something that resembles a story. This revolves around the journey to the summit of The Holy Mountain on Lotus Island where nine wise mean live. These know the secret of immortatity and the mission is not to learn from them but simply to kill them and take their place. Even then there are plenty distractions and bizarre scenes.

If you watched the movie in a random sequence I don’t think it would be any more confusing – it may even help. Continue reading

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