The Wicker Tree
|The Wicker Tree|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robin Hardy|
|Produced by||Peter Snell
Peter Watson Wood
|Written by||Robin Hardy|
|Based on||Cowboys for Christ
by Robin Hardy
|Music by||John Scott|
|Edited by||Sean Barton
|Distributed by||British Lion Films|
The Wicker Tree is a 2011 horror film written and directed by British filmmaker Robin Hardy. The film contains many direct parallels and allusions to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, which was also directed by Hardy. The Wicker Tree is neither a sequel nor a remake, but is intended as a companion piece which explores the same themes. The film premiered at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal, Canada, July 2011 and was released on Blu-ray in the UK on 30 April 2012.
Beth Boothby (Nicol) is a successful born again evangelical pop singer from Texas. She and her fiance Steve Thompson (Garrett) both wear purity rings and belong to a group known as the "Cowboys for Christ", who travel to "heathen areas" of the world to preach Christianity. The Reverend Moriarty sends them off to travel to Glasgow, hoping to save some souls there. However, they are shocked when they receive a very negative reception, with nobody accepting their pamphlets. The duo are approached by Sir Lachlan Morrison (McTavish) and his wife Delia (Leonard), the laird of the small village of Tressock in the Scottish Lowlands. They invite Beth and Steve to come back with them to preach, but intend them for a more central part in Tressock's May Day celebration.
The villagers of Tressock have become infertile due to the construction of Sir Lachlan's nuclear power plant. While riding a horse, Steve has sex with Lolly (Weeks), a female villager, after finding her bathing naked in a spring. Steve regrets his actions and wants to return home. During a flashback Sir Lachlan remembers a mentor (Lee) from his youth. Meanwhile, a detective named Orlando is sent to Tressock, posing as the local police officer, in order to secretly investigate reports of a pagan cult. Orlando discovers that the people of the village worship the ancient Celtic goddess Sulis from Lolly after having sex with her on multiple occasions.
Beth and Steve decide to begin their preaching at Tressock's May Day celebrations. To impress the locals, they agree to become the local Queen of the May and the Laddie for the festival, not realising the consequences of their decision. Steve is chased by villagers on horseback as part of a ritual and ends up being torn apart. Back in the house of Sir Lachlan, Beame (Russell), the Morrison's butler, attempts to sedate Beth in order to prepare her for her role as the May Queen. He attempted to do so the night before, but the spiked milk killed the Morrisons' cat. Beth attacks Beame and flees, but is captured in town. After discovering Steve's death, Beth confronts Sir Lachlan at the wicker tree. She pushes Lachlan into the structure and sets it on fire, killing Lachlan in the process.
Beth tries to escape from Tressock with the help of one of the few children left in the village. She is captured and is later killed. Her body is preserved and put on display in a room with the previous May Queens. Lolly gives birth to Steve's child and brings a new generation to Tressock for the first time in years. Delia prays to the setting sun for the gods to find more men to bring to Tressock to sire more children.
- Graham McTavish as Sir Lachlan Morrison
- Jacqueline Leonard as Delia Morrison
- Brittania Nicol as Beth Boothby
- Henry Garrett as Steve Thompson
- Honeysuckle Weeks as Lolly
- Clive Russell as Beame
- Prue Clarke as Mary Miller
- Leslie Mackie as Daisy
- David Plimmer as Jack
- Keith Warwick as Donald Dee
- Christopher Lee as Old Gentleman
- Mark Williams as Paul
- Lorna Campbell as Arabella
In 2002, it was reported that Hardy was working on a film entitled The Riding of the Laddie, said to be in the same genre as The Wicker Man. Sean Astin had signed on as the male lead, with Christopher Lee, LeAnn Rimes and Vanessa Redgrave set to play major roles. Lee had passed the screenplay on to Astin while the two were working on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Ewan McGregor also read the script, and requested a cameo appearance. Of the story, Hardy stated, "It's about a certain kind of American innocence abroad featuring two young born-again Christians. They've made a pact not to have sex before marriage, and they come over here like the Mormons and preach door-to-door. It's a thriller; they get sucked into a dark world. We hope to start in September for a 2003 release." The film was to be shot on location near Glasgow and in Oklahoma.
However, Hardy was ultimately unable to secure funding, and the film was cancelled. He then adapted his screenplay into a novel, which was published as Cowboys for Christ. Hardy felt that writing the novel gave him a much clearer idea of what he wanted to do, and he eventually adapted the novel into the screenplay which was used for The Wicker Tree.
Originally Hardy wrote the part of Sir Lachlan Morrison for Christopher Lee, who played Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man. While filming the newest Hammer production The Resident in New Mexico, Lee injured his back when he tripped over power cables on set. Although very disappointed, Hardy gave the role intended for Lee to Graham McTavish, the actor who had originally been cast as Beame, the Morrisons' butler. Clive Russell plays Beame instead. Lee is still in the film, making a brief cameo appearance as the unnamed "Old Gentleman" who acts as Lachlan's mentor in a flashback. Robin Hardy has stated that fans of The Wicker Man will recognise this character as Lord Summerisle, but Lee himself has contradicted this, stating that they are two unrelated characters.
Joan Collins was originally set to play Lady Delia Morrison when Lee was to play Sir Lachlan Morrison. However, when Lee injured himself and was replaced by the much younger McTavish, Collins was similarly replaced with a younger actress, Jacqueline Leonard.
Filming was due to start in September 2007, but the film was delayed for financial reasons. It was later announced the film would shoot from April 2008 in Dumfries and Galloway. A week before the shoot, Dumfries and Galloway Council announced the filming had been stopped due to financial reasons. Filming eventually started in July 2009 in Edinburgh, Haddington; Gorebridge; Midlothian; and Dallas.
The Wicker Tree went through several title changes before its release, including The Riding of the Laddie, May Day, and Cowboys for Christ. The film had its premiere at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal in July 2011. Anchor Bay handled U.S. distribution, and the film received a limited release on 27 January 2012. No wide theatrical release date has yet been announced, although it was released on Blu-ray in the UK in April 2012.
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Initial reviews from the premiere at Fantasia festival were polarised. The Fangoria review was mildly positive with misgivings: "even as a black comedy, Wicker Tree can’t match the impact of its predecessor. Still, for those fans of Wicker Man who can open their minds to viewing, as Monty Python used to put it, something completely different, the new movie can be appreciated as an entertaining variation on its themes." The Starburst magazine review was negative, remarking that "Sometimes cult films really should be left alone", and, "Prepare to have your hopes dashed however as The Wicker Tree is awful."
The film had a limited U.S. theatrical release in January 2012. In April of that year, Hardy discussed the film's mixed critical reception. "The New York Times’s reviewer said it wasn't as gritty as the original Wicker Man, but it's a thousand times better than the remake. I was quite happy with that." When asked whether he preferred The Wicker Tree to the original version of The Wicker Man, Hardy replied, "No, I really don't."
The film on Rotten Tomatoes, based on a total of 14 reviews, currently has a 29% rating, and an audience score of 10%.
Home media availability
Proposed third film
- "'Wicker Man' Companion Piece, 'The Wicker Tree', Gets an Official Website". bloody-disgusting.com.
- Sarah Dobbs, Robin Hardy interview, SciFiNow (UK), 20 April 2012. Accessed 4 December 2012
- Witzig, Jack (14 March 2002; 21 March 2002; 18 April 2002; 25 April 2002). "The Riding of the Laddie". The Cold Spot. Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2012. Check date values in:
- Applebaum, Stephen (12 April 2012). "The Director of Cult Classic The Wicker Man Returns with the Wicker Tree – Interview With Robin Hardy". Huffington Post. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
- Hardy, Robin. "RM-051.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)". Rue Morgue Radio. Archived from the original on 20 May 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
Well, it is very ambiguous. We don't really know who he is. He's an antecedent, of some kind, of Lachlan's. Lachlan remembers him, when he was a boy. There's a boy painting a bridge, and it may have been Lachlan as a young person. He's remembering this grandfather figure, or this great-grandfather figure – whatever – who the people who are fans of The Wicker Man and the wicker [inaudible], if you like, will of course immediately recognise as Summerisle. But we don't give him a name or anthing. I think in the credits he's just called the old man.
- Lee, Christopher (27 December 2011). "Christopher Lee 2011 Christmas Message Part 1". Retrieved 11 April 2012.
The first one that I can think of is The Wicker Tree, in which I make a very brief appearance. I must emphasise this is not a sequel to The Wicker Man. In no way. And I do not play an older Summerisle, or his son, or whatever.
- "UK | Scotland | South of Scotland | Cult film sequel shoot called off". news.bbc.co.uk; BBC News. 3 April 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- (2015) Filmed here - 2009 The Wicker Tree, Robin Hardy Archived 17 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Film Edinburgh, Retrieved 17 February 2015
- "Lothian sets the scene for Wicker sequel". Edinburghnews.scotsman.com; Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- "New Photos and Traier for Wicker Tree". WeGotThisCovered.com
- "Preview 2011". FantasiaFestival.com[not in citation given]
- Gingold, Michael (21 July 2011). "Wicker Tree: Fantasia film review". Fangoria.com
- "The Wicker Tree Poster is Burning, is Burning, is Burning for You". Shocktillyoudrop.com. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
- Holt, Chris (28 August 2011). "The Wicker Tree review" Starburst Magazine
- The New York Times, 27 January 2012
- Needham, Alex (1 April 2012). "Wicker Man sequel revisits original's murky territory". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "Robin Hardy dies." BBC. 2 July 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2016