Monday, 9 April 2012
Review : The Wicker Tree (2012)
Director: Robin Hardy
THE WICKER TREE is based on the novel, COWBOYS FOR CHRIST, written by Robin Hardy himself, and concerns itself with the misadventures of two born again God-bothers who hail from Dallas, and are sent on a mission to save the heathen hordes of my home land, Scotland, by traveling door-to-door spreading the word of God, (because we all know that shit works). On arriving, they find my countrymen to be giving of precisely zero fucks, (so proud). All seems lost till they are approached by some' Lord of the Manor' type who runs a secluded community, and advises that while his people may not be easily converted, they will at least keep an open mind to the teachings of Christ and his pals. Out dynamic duo then pack their bibles and head off to save some horny souls from eternal damnation, via terrible choir music and insufferable behavior. Thankfully, our Scottish Pagan buddies have other plans. Can you say, 'Kentucky Fried'?
I'm gonna try not to bash on this movie too much. I have every reason to. Its an absolute shambles of a film, but its so inept, so disjointed, so confused, that I actually managed to have a good time with it, despite it's significant aura of shite.
I assumed going in that if THE WICKER TREE was bullshit, I would be pissed off in a big way. I mean, its the spiritual predecessor of one of my favorite film's of all time; the profoundly disturbing, unique and intelligent THE WICKER MAN. In my mind, this thing had a huge shadow cast over it from inception to birth. If it pissed all over the legacy of Robin Hardy's previous masterpiece, (he wrote and directed that classic work), my hatred would be unbound, thought I.
Thing is though, the film is so utterly incompetent in almost every area, that it's impossible to take seriously as a horror film at all, never mind a continuation of the themes explored in the 70's Classic. THE WICKER TREE is a film that will be forgotten before your beers gone flat. If, (and I have to emphasis the 'if'), its remembered at all, it'll be as a cult, camp extravaganza, watched for shits and giggles by drunken artisans the world over. It's so ineffectual as a companion piece to Hardy's previous masterpiece that I'm gonna go a different route from most reviewers, and avoid comparisons to said film as much as possible. Okay? Good.
I never read the Director, Robin Hardy's novel, COWBOYS FOR CHRIST, so I can't comment on what was lost in translation, if anything, but as a cinematic work, his movie misses all its marks with such regularity that a part of me believes this whole thing was made as a joke. I have no fucking idea if this film is supposed to be taken as satire, comedy, sex-farce, horror, thriller, or a treatise on religious stupidity. In fact, its all this things at once, and would make for a sore head if the viewer allowed it; but it's too damn dumb to deserve any real thought at all. What your left with is a hilariously bad cornucopia of ridiculous sex scenes, undercooked horror elements and high-school level acting, (no offense to all the high-school Al Pacino's out there, by the way), that somehow manages to put a smile on your face even as it tramples all over your intelligence.
Its one thing to watch the dreadful remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and feel infuriated, knowing that a new generation will most likely believe that Brad Fuller's shit-party is the only one in town featuring our favorite dream demon, but THE WICKER TREE hasn't a damned chance of denting the legacy of its predecessor at all. It's best to just to think of this as the BATMAN AND ROBIN of the religious horror genre. And enjoy it as such.
As the film opens, we're introduced to out two leads, an all American, bible bashing bimbo that could use a good slap upside the head, and her walking cliche of a cowboy boyfriend. These two fuck-wits are the very definition of cliche, and would feel more at home in an episode of DR QUINN MEDICINE WOMAN, than a modern treatise on religious piousness. A part of you will want them dead from minute one, while your more good humored side will wanna spend time with them, just to mock their stupidity, (much like we all do with real-life born again Christians, as it happens). I can't rag on the actors though. It would be cruel and inaccurate to lay the blame at their doors. After all, the screenplay their saddled with is so expertly shite that they wouldn't stand a chance were they Laurence Olivier.
I was gonna gift you with some quotes that back up my belief that this may be among the most ridiculous scripts ever put to screen, but you know what, fuck it! I'm not sitting through it again. I haven't got the spiritual fortitude to survive a repeat, even if I did find myself endeared with its transcendent shiteness first time around. My good nature only stretches so far. I'll just say that you have to see and hear this film to believe it. It's like a bad pantomime performed on low-grade acid.
The horror and suspense elements are non-existent. There's no gore to speak of, besides one poorly edited kill during what passes as the films finale, and I've seen more suspense in an episode of Scooby-Doo.
The sex scenes have all the eroticism of a hallmark card, (although I can;t be sure there was ever a hallmark card on which some dude boned a pale Scottish chick while wearing a pantomime donkey head....could have happened though). The soundtrack is replete with forgettable, and laughable songs that only serve to deepen the creeping sense that this whole thing is a huge inside joke, and the religious themes, while often fun, have absolutely no heft or resonance.
And what of the much heralded Christopher Lee scene? Well, the great man shows up for all of ten seconds in a flashback, and while the man is legend, the transition from the present to flashback and back is so rib-crackingly funny you'll most likely miss his intended effect. I mean, the person having the flashback actually gazes off to the side, in the stylee of Joey from FRIENDS. I shit you not, my friends. I shit you not...
It ain't all 'so bad its good', though. Some things are actually pretty cool. The opening credits are genuinely eerie and belong in an entirely, different film, ( a real sequel to THE WICKER MAN perhaps), the 'wicker tree' itself is very well designed and in the right film, could make for an imposing image. There are some select fun lines thrown at the born-again weirdo's and their glaring lack of common sense, that will tickle the Atheist's and Agnostics out there. Pagan's ( of whom I know a few), could, in theory, find some of the actions of their cinematic counterparts a little insulting, but it's highly unlikely. As I said, no one should take this shit seriously. Just laugh along guys. It ain't insulting anybody but the pious among us. And we're all laughing at them, anyway, (when we're not weeping for the human race, that is).
Is it possible that THE WICKER TREE is one huge inside joke by the cast and crew on all of us? Yes, it could conceivably be. Its hard to comprehend this was supposed to be taken seriously.It could be we're all baring witness to Robin Hardy's deconstruction of his own masterpiece, and that the man's a fucking genius who's laughing at the worlds expense. Its more likely though, that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice, and what we have is a failed attempt to expand upon the themes of its forefather. At fucking all.
Either way, it's fucking hilarious. See it, laugh your ass off, and then hate yourself in the morning.
3.5 Pantomime Porno's out of 10