Spoilers for this 41 year-old film
The Wicker Man has to be the best British horror film of all time. Most readers are aware of Christopher Lee’s prolific relationship with Hammer Films. Worried he was typecast to a fault, director Robin Hardy helped get The Wicker Man moving as a vehicle for Lee to showcase his skill. Lee as Lord Summerisle certainly had a stronger presence here than the bulk of his Hammer characters. Oh, irony, you’re never far behind, as this film seemed pay tribute to Hammer in a grandiose way.
Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) has just arrived to the isolated Summerisle island, a town that feels equal parts The Prisoner, Fantasy Island, and anything where Satan is the good guy. His need to search for a missing girl is met with indifference and a sense of community loyalty. The stalwart police sergeant is openly annoyed with the extremely liberal islanders and changes his approach to a much more aggressive angle. Beset by hedonism and sexuality, the British officer is thrown off his game.
The film holds up today as a fantastic horror film and intriguing occult-crime icon. Current horror films often times have a difficult time capturing atmosphere even with massive budgets. The Wicker Man, even with its very limited budget has captured a true sense of gloom regardless of the blue skies above Summerisle. Lee is amazing as Lord Summerisle, a man with an insidious and well-orchestrated plan. Lee considers it his best work of art to date, and he has valid reasons to love this timeless occult classic. The film is much more than a study of horror, one I would suggest to any experienced horror fan. The music, acting, set dressing, direction, and intangible tone all fell perfectly into place to set The Wicker Man above countless films in the genre.
I’ve said it before: foreigners in cahoots = terrifying as shit.