Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Wicker Man (1973)

Fig. 1
Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man is a surreal and unpredictable thriller, horror and musical! The ending is enough to make any member of the audience feel the energetic shudder of pure disturbance! The uncanny elements are subtle, yet enough to make the audience feel strongly about them, a nightmare portrayed in front of their eyes. The fact that the film doesn't follow the traditional format of a horror only in lightens the shock it provokes. The plot follows a police man, who is called out onto an island in Scotland to discover what happened to a girl who is claimed to be missing. It is there were he is introduced into this strange community, 'cult like' village. The narrative takes an even more uncanny turn for the worst when the people living on the island claim they know nothing of the missing girl. The plots twists and turns leave the audience shocked with the absurd behaviour, until the ultimate horror scene ends it.  

Fig. 2
Jamie Russell states, "With such a colourful production history, "The Wicker Man" was always destined for fame. Yet its cult status actually has more to do with the film's content - there's a paedophile subplot, lots of occult rituals, sexual perversion, Christopher Lee in drag, and a resolutely downbeat finale that's as far removed from a happy ending as it's possible to get. And on top of all that, it's bloody scary." (Russell 2001) Russell touches on the paedophile element the film has and also discusses the equally disturbing rituals that the community have undertaken, which has become expressed as a normality. The twist ending is one of the most disturbing portrayals of what human belief is capable of. There are several subtle hints of what the fate will be for the protagonist, yet the audience is merely disturbed and uneased at the meaning. This film takes the uncanny to the next level of eerie!

The ending in particular is one of the most frightful sights for an audience. The way the community gathers, hold hands and sing, whilst murdering and watching an innocent man burn alive. The fact that no one seems concerned or has a conscience and smiling all the time, is a truly cruel and revolting thought. Adam Smith suggests, "The Wicker Man is, more than anything else, a film about what people can do in the name of religion or, more generally, belief. Its power comes not from appeals to the supernatural but from a deep understanding of our own undeniable nature. Horror doesn't get much closer to home than that." (Smith 2007) Smith has observed the main  ideology of the film and boldly points out the key to a true horror is something that seems supposedly normal, yet we know to be wickedness. The idea of the community laughing at the person they are tricking into their own death is personified at first with the beetle in the school desk. Tied to a nail and going round in circles till it dies.

Fig. 3
The underlying  and prominent context of both religious and sexual beliefs in the community bewilders the audience. Peter Bradshaw observes, "You might smile at the early-70s nudity: unclothed maidens photographed through a softcore haze, and an extraordinary erotic dance from Britt Ekland, body-doubled for the more candid bottom-wiggling. But there is genuine fear in its nightmarish tableaux: the breast-feeding woman holding an egg in the ruined churchyard is like a detail from Hieronymus Bosch. And that final sequence, with the eponymous Wicker Man, is inspired." (Bradshaw 2008) Bradshaw states the sexual nature of the film and the openness of a nightmare nature with the use of the uncanny. Objects, actions that would be considered normal put into an inappropriate context or mixed with a juxtaposition.   

List of illustrations

Figure 1. Hardy, Robin (1973) The Wicker Man Movie Poster. At: (Accessed on:7/12/11)

Figure 2. Hardy, Robin (1973) Edward Woodward. At: (Accessed on:7/12/11)

Figure 3. Hardy, Robin (1973) Final Scene. At: (Accessed on:7/12/11)


BBC Jamie Russel (2001) The Wicker Man (1973). At: (Accessed on:7/12/11)

Empire Magazine Adam Smith (2007) Empire Essay: The Wicker Man. At: (Accessed on:7/12/11)

The Guardian Peter Bradshaw (2007) The Wicker Man. At: (Accessed on:7/12/11)

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