Robin Hardy returns to the silver screen with neither a remake nor a sequel to his 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man. Intended as a companion piece, The Wicker Tree explores the same themes, but with far less intrigue, shock, horror, or reason.
The film opens in Texas where born-again country pop star Beth Boothby and her fiancé Steve say goodbye to friends and family at their church. They’re off to spread the Good Word in Glasgow, Scotland.
In Scotland, Beth’s concert at the local church appears to be a success. The media covers it with a damaging report of her pre-evangelical past marked by lacy tops and hits like “Trailer Trash Love”. When she and Steve go door-to-door preaching, they are met with rejection.
Wealthy landowner Sir Lachland Morrison and his wife Delia suggest the couple try their luck in their small village of Tressock. Nestled in the Scottish lowlands, Tressock’s residents believe in the Celtic goddess Sulis. It isn’t long before Beth and Steve succumb to the town’s eccentric charms and they are honoured to accept central roles as May Queen and her Laddie in the May Day celebrations.
If you’re familiar with The Wicker Man, you can guess how The Wicker Tree ends. Like Lord Summerisle seeking to ensure the fertility of his land in The Wicker Man, Sir Lachland seeks to restore the fertility of his villagers. There hasn’t been a healthy child born in Tressock since an accident at the local nuclear power plant ten years ago.
The film has a few minor surprises, but it is weighed down by poor acting, unnecessary characters and plot elements, and idiotic central characters. Beth and Steve can’t hold a candle to Lee’s Lord Summerisle and Edward Woodward’s Sergeant Howie.
Most disappointing is the overall downplay of local pagan beliefs. The Wicker Tree has no explanations about May Day, no children dancing around maypoles, no women worshipping at standing stones, no lovers in the fields. Like its predecessor, The Wicker Tree is a musical, but the music, much like the film itself, is neither inspired nor memorable. This is better than the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, but not by much.
The Wicker Tree is rated R and contains sexual scenes and nudity.