The Wicker Tree

Neither remake nor sequel, Robin Hardy's companion piece to his legendary 1973 "Wicker Man" proves an altogether tamer piece of filmmaking, opting for humor rather than psychological horror.

With: Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Graham McTavish, Honeysuckle Weeks, Jacqueline Leonard, Christopher Lee.

Neither remake nor sequel, Robin Hardy’s companion piece to his legendary 1973 “Wicker Man” proves an altogether tamer piece of filmmaking, opting for humor rather than psychological horror. A couple of naive Texas born-agains figure as centerpieces this go-round, while the cult remains largely the same (minus, unfortunately, Christopher Lee). Figuring that the denouement is a foregone conclusion, Hardy offers few surprises, milking anticipation for the moment when his clueless characters finally deduce what the audience already knows. Opened Jan. 27, this rather likable journeyman pic seldom stumbles or soars, content to deliver midrange thrills and yuks.

Previously the trampy singer of “Trailer Trash Love,” Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) is now a gospel-belting missionary. She and her slow-drawling, ex-cardsharp cowboy b.f., Steve (Henry Garrett), set off to bring Jesus to the benighted pagans of Scotland, condescending smiles on their lips and purity-promising rings on their fingers.

Accepting the invitation of a rich nuclear-plant owner who compares himself to Mr. Burns of “The Simpsons” (Graham McTavish, disappointingly unthreatening despite his bald pate), the couple find themselves elected “Queen of the May” and “Laddie” by the expansive, welcoming local folk of a quaint Scottish village. This burg is eerily empty of children, a hidden legacy of unloosed nuclear energy, and only blood appeasement to the ancient goddess Sulis promises relief to the barren.

Helmer-scribe Hardy, drawing from his novel “Cowboys for Christ,” gleefully drops knowing satirical elements into the cultural confrontation. One of the pic’s most successful scenes finds the evangelicals and heathens at total if unsuspecting cross-purposes, raising their voices together in rousing choruses of “There’s Power in the Blood of the Lamb”; the hymn’s more sinister references to animal sacrifice are totally lost on Beth, who remains blissful in her assumption that she has religiously scored with the natives.

In the original “Wicker Man,” Edward Woodward’s uptight Calvinist policeman almost attained tragic status, the inherent fanaticism of his traditional religious beliefs almost equal to those of the cult followers. Any attack on the two dumb bunnies at the center of “Tree,” however, amounts to shooting born-agains in a barrel; their aggressively patronizing tolerance (“Maybe you’ve heard of Jesus Christ?”) itself reps an invitation to mayhem.

Yet Hardy does manage to create moments of near-pathos. Beth’s guilty nostalgia over her past slutty singing persona, and Steve’s light-fingered manipulation of a deck of cards to tell the story of Christ, evoke paths not taken and true hidden talents unnaturally diverted. But as the guileless Steve goes galloping across the Scottish countryside, pursued by bloodthirsty villagers, something has definitely been lost in translation.

The Wicker Tree


Production: An Anchor Bay Films release of a British Lion Film, Tressock Films production. Produced by Peter Snell, Peter Watson-Wood. Executive producer, Alastair Gourlay. Directed, written by Robin Hardy, from his book "Cowboys for Christ."

Crew: Camera (color), Jan Pester; editors, Sean Barton, Ray Lau; music, John Scott; production designer, Laurel Wear; costume designer, David Blight; sound (Dolby Digital), Chris Campion; supervising sound editor, Peter Baldock; re-recording mixer, Richard Straker; casting, Kate Plantin. Reviewed at City Cinemas Village East, New York, Jan. 27, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Graham McTavish, Honeysuckle Weeks, Jacqueline Leonard, Christopher Lee.

More Film

  • Singapore Actor Aloysius Pang Dies at

    Singapore Actor Aloysius Pang Killed on Military Service, At 28

    Singapore actor, Aloysius Pang died Wednesday of injuries sustained while on military training in New Zealand. He was 28. Pang was best known for his appearance in movies “Young & Fabulous,” and “Timeless Love.” He also had a string of credits in Singapore TV series. Pang was involved in accident last week, while repairing a [...]

  • Alibaba Expands Film Investment, Loans $100

    Alibaba Expands Film Investment Plan, Loans $100 Million to Huayi Bros.

    Alibaba Pictures Group, the film business arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has struck a strategic co-operation deal with leading film studio Huayi Brothers. The deal terms include a $103 million (RMB700 million) loan to Huayi. Alibaba Pictures said the agreement was part of its recently announced strategy to be a part of major movies [...]

  • Netflix Buys Taiwan Black Comedy 'Dear

    Netflix Buys Taiwan Black Comedy 'Dear Ex'

    Netflix has added to its roster of Mandarin-language content with the acquisition of rights to Taiwanese dark comedy “Dear Ex.” The award-winning film will play out from Feb. 1. The story involves a recently bereaved widow and a gay man fighting over a dead man’s inheritance, with the woman’s teenage son caught in the middle. [...]

  • Audrey Wells

    Film News Roundup: Audrey Wells Scholarships Launched by UCLA, China's Pearl Studio

    In today’s film news roundup, Pearl Studio and UCLA start a “Say Yes!” scholarship in memory of Audrey Well; Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale are honored; and the “General Magic” documentary gets bought. SCHOLARSHIPS UNVEILED China’s Pearl Studio has made a gift of $100,000 for endowed scholarships to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and [...]

  • Honey Boy Knock Down the House

    Sundance Hot Titles List: 13 Buzzy Films That Have Buyers Talking

    There’s a good reason that much of Hollywood braves the thin mountain air each year to make the trek to the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s not to check out the nearby ski slopes. The annual launch of the indie film gathering brings with it the possibility of discovering the next big thing in moviemaking. [...]

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    Will Oscar Nominations Give This Year's Contenders a Box Office Boost?

    With nominees like “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star Is Born,” the 2018 class of movies proved the Oscars don’t need a popular films category to recognize movies that also made bank in theaters. But now that the academy has selected this year’s crop of awards hopefuls, is there any green left to squeeze [...]

  • A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's

    Sundance: A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's Romance-Drama 'The Souvenir'

    A24 has bought the North American rights to Tilda Swinton’s romance-drama “The Souvenir – Part 2,” closing the deal on the eve of the Sundance Film Festival. “The Souvenir” is set to make its world premiere at Sundance on Jan. 27, followed by playing in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival in February. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content