The Wicker Man (1973), Lookback

A look back at a complex and interesting thriller from the 70's.


There is nothing better than a good holiday horror film. And since today is May Day, there is really only one obvious selection for us to review. So grab your fertility symbols, your May Queen and your bizarre animal costume because we are reviewing The Wicker Man. And no, we aren’t going to talk about the remake. Because Nicolas Cage and bees.


The Wicker Man follows the story of a celibate Christian detective investigating the disappearance of a little girl named Rowan on Summerisle. And boy do we hate this guy. Not only is he a religiously and culturally intolerant jerk but also his detective skills are worse than the Scooby Doo gang’s. Plus his name is Howie. We aren’t sure why that pisses us off but it does. Dammit.


So during his “investigation” he manages to alienate himself from the locals entirely. By, ya know, shoving them. Openly mocking them. And telling them they are liars/horrible mothers/etc. All because his little, one man expedition isn’t going so well. He is having serious difficulty even finding proof that Rowan ever existed. He knows the island is famous for its incredible produce. Which is odd seeing as they are in Scotland. Not exactly the fertility capital of the world. Howie finds that the picture from last year’s harvest is missing. He ends up finding the negative and it turns out that Rowan’s year wasn’t so good for the harvest. While most detectives would call for back up at this point, Howie decides to continue to be a jerk.


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He is clearly horrified by his surroundings. Summerisle is a more traditionally pagan society. He seems most horrified by their openness about sexuality. Why can’t they just be more oppressed assholes like he is dammit? And keep their sexy, naked bodies to themselves?! And don’t even get Howie started on their folk remedies. In the Gospel According to Howie, folk medicine is evil. In fact, EVERYTHING is evil.


So the only logical conclusion that Howie can come up with is that these nasty, nasty (and sexy) evil pagans are going to kill Rowan. Or they already have killed Rowan. And finally Howie gets enough sense to back off and get some back up. Except, as Admiral Ackbar would say, “IT’S A TRAP!” His plane has been disabled and he’s now stuck in Sommerisle for May Day.


So Howie tries to investigate, under cover. Under a bear costume’s cover in fact. And while this may not make any sense to people who haven’t seen the film, let’s just say he blends in with the crowd.


Turns out Rowan is alive and “well.” As well as a little girl tied to a post can be. Howie attempts to rescue her, but he really should have listened to Admiral Ackbar. She leads him right into a trap.


After all, he’s the one who is going to be sacrificed to the Sun God. He was the one they were going to sacrifice the entire time. After all, he’s a nasty, prude police officer. What better a sacrifice? And he played perfectly into their hands. When Howie is burned alive, we don’t feel too bad. After all, it isn’t often that we see images of witches burning Christians at the stake.


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Obviously there are a great deal of themes and messages in this film about religion. And in the end the conclusion seems to be that no organized religion is truly moral. Both the token Christian and the pagans have serious issues in this film with their internal senses of morality. Both groups’ values seem really misplaced. And they are represented by Howie and Lord Summerisle respectively. Neither character could be considered “the good guy” in this film.


There are also themes regarding the dangers of judging others. It is Howie’s initial judgments about the people of Summerisle that lead him right into a trap. He put on blinders and saw only what he wanted to see. Not only does it prove to be the undoing of the “case,” but also turns out to be a rather fatal mistake on his part.


The one thing people remember most about this film is the music. This is one of the few horror movies where people break into song. Constantly. So does that make it a musical? Maybe. Willow’s Song is probably one of the best known songs from the film and it has been covered by the trip hop band “The Sneaker Pimps.” It can also be found in other horror films as a nod to The Wicker Man.


The cast is incredible. Christopher Lee breaks out of his role as Dracula to play the charismatic Lord Summerisle. And he is amazing. He plays his character in a subtle and powerful way. Its probably one of his best horror roles (controversial statement, we know). Edward Woodward is perfect as Sergeant Howie. He’s the man we love to hate. We also have to pay respect to Britt Eckland who is a phenomenal Willow. And trust us, if you’ve seen this movie you will remember her part.
Den Of Geek Score: 5 out of 5 Stars



5 out of 5