Monday, December 14, 2009

The Wicker Man

It's that time of month again! Film Club at your and mine's favorite Final Girl!

Before I start this review perhaps it’s time to come clean that I consider myself to be at least a semi devout Christian. Please don’t run, I promise that I don’t try to keep Gay people from getting married. In fact my own band of liberal Catholicism has just as little in common with the constables strict fire and brimstone, as it does with Somerset’s Paganism.

I mention this because one of the easiest ways to get in my good graces is for a movie to take its theology seriously. And that, even above a nekkid Bret Ecklund, the creepy singular vibe, eerie design, killer ending and the fact that it turns into the most bizarre musical of all time, is what really makes The Wicker Man one of my favorites. Even though its ambiguous whether The Wicker Man comes down on the pro or con side of that particular argument, it is a serious consideration of the pros and cons of the Christian Doctrine versus the Pagan one.

For those three of you not familiar with the movies concept, The Wicker Man follows the late great Edward Woodward as a devoutly Christian Constable sent to investigate the disappearance of children on a remote British isle which is ruled by the flamboyant Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee who has never had quite so much fun before.

As many have noted Summerisle comes off almost as the hero in the piece. He’s likable and witty, while Woodward is such an uptight douche that even his fellow Christians and Cops think he should lighten up a bit. Lee has naked Orgies and singalongs! Woodward likes to pray and scowl! Summerisle is witty and urbane, Woodward simple minded and provincial. Its not tough to decide which you’d rather have around. Hell I’d probably end up inviting Summerisle to my Christmas Party over Woodward.

So the revisionist take on The Wicker Man is that its Summerisle whose really the hero, the free and funky Pagan giving the stodgy ole Christian his just deserts. And while I can certainly understand why you’d read it like that, I cannot agree.

Say what you will about Woodward, but he’s not a hypocrite and he’s not wrong. Say what you will about Christianity’s track record of not respecting other cultures (Hint its not a very good one), but I have to say their ruling on the whole not Burning little girls alive (You know when they weren’t the ones doing it) strikes me as the right one. The whole point of Religion is to hold yourself to some higher standard of behavior. To not just do whatever the fuck you want. Where Christianity (and all religions) go wrong is when they’re used to justify abhorrent behavior. Everytime someone blows up an abortion clinic for Jesus, or covers up some child molesting, or flies a plane into the World Trade Center or tearfully explains to Diane Sawyer that he as Governor had no idea that girl was under eighteen but he knows the lord has forgiven him; religion has gone terribly wrong. Woodward isn’t one of those people. Summerisle is.

Lest debate about the Nature of God isn’t what you come to a horror movie for, have no fear The Wicker Man remains an eerie fucking movie (One of the weirdest film phenomeon of the new century has been the rise of the counter cult for The Wicker Man remake. I was working at a video store at the time and almost broke down crying, “No you don’t understand it’s a good movie too!) but also one that leaves you something to chew on, long after the smokes extinguished and the credits roll.


MrJeffery said...

cool review. such a weird film.

AE said...

Really well put! I love how this movie plays with your sympathies. First you're thinking, "well, I wouldn't talk to that nasty old policeman either" and "why doesn't he just have a drink and dance around in the pub like everyone else?" But gradually you start to wonder if there isn't something wrong with these fun-loving pagans. By the end you're thinking they really would chop off someone's head, or sacrifice a little girl, and then when you find out what they're really up to, brr.

The Nic Cage version is a hoot and a half. I love when they break his legs offscreen while he yells "My legs!"

Bryce Wilson said...

Thanks Guys!