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Film: The Wicker Man

Two films; there are tropes for both on this page. Robin Hardy's original film was made in 1973 with Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle. It's a sort of suspense/horror/folk musical. Neil La Bute remade it in 2006 with Nicolas Cage.

To sum it up it in the nicest terms possible: The original is generally considered to be an influential Cult Classic within the horror film genre, and the remake is mostly viewed as inferior, and is probably better remembered for its moments of unintentional funniness than for being scary.

In 2011 Robin Hardy released The Wicker Tree, a companion piece of sorts based on his novel 'Cowboys for Christ', with Lee appearing in a cameo (but not, as some have reported, as Lord Summerisle).


The original film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Lord Summerisle. Possibly subverted. It's never clear whether Summerisle believes the religion of his island, or is just playing along to keep his subjects in line. If the former, he may genuinely believe the sacrifice is necessary for the harvest.
    • And he tries to soothe his intended sacrifice:
    Howie: I am a Christian. And as a Christian I hope for resurrection. And even as if you kill me now, It is I who will live again, not your damned apples! [The Villagers prepare him for sacrifice] No matter what you do, you can't change the fact that I believe in Life Eternal, as promised to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. I BELIEVE IN THE LIFE ETERNAL AS PROMISED BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!
    Lord Summerisle: That is good. For believing what you do, we confer on you a rare gift these days: A martyr's death. You will not only have life eternal, but you will sit with the saints among the elect. Come, it is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Averted with Howie. It actually becomes a plot point.
  • Anti-Hero: A very interesting take on it, too.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Lord Summerisle again.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Howie can only hear Willow's song, not see her, but he's still tempted. Magic may be involved.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Though thanks to Howie's final speech, only till the apple harvest fails again. If you look at it that way, (see Taking You with Me further down) you could arguably say that Howie was the real winner.
    • It could also be argued that from Howie's perspective he won, since Christianity teaches that a principled defeat counts as a victory.
  • Batman Gambit
  • Bawdy Song: The customers at a pub engage in a lusty rendition of "The Landlord's Daughter", to the annoyance of the straightlaced protagonist and the amusement of Willow, the Really Gets Around daughter of the pub's landlord. As Christopher Lee said in the DVD Commentary, it's a good song for when you've got a pint in your hand.
    • Genius Bonus: "The Landlord's Daughter" and "Willow's Song" are both based on actual ditties - the latter a compilation of two - that are Older Than Dirt. In fact, the latter is considered one of the oldest recorded songs in the world.
    • "Gently Johnny" may just be the sweetest, gentlest, most romantic bawdy song you've ever heard.
  • Better by a Different Name: Because of Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt and Willow some like to name this "The greatest Hammer Horror that wasn't made by the Hammer Studio.
  • Book Ends: The Final Cut begins and ends with an religious cermony.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Howie doesn't believe in sex before marriage, and is therefore still a virgin in middle age. Willow does her best to seduce him and fails, though Howie is literally trembling with desire.
  • Camp Straight: The innkeeper
  • Celibate Hero
  • Creepy Child: All of them, really, but Daisy Pringle in particular.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Lord Summerisle.
    Howie: But they are... are naked!
    Summerisle: Naturally, it's far too dangerous to jump through fire with your clothes on!
  • Corrupt Hick
  • Corrupt Church: "Since it is no longer used for Christian worship, whether it is still a church is debatable."
  • Crapsaccharine World: Summerisle
  • Cult
  • Daylight Horror: Many of the events in the movie take place during the day, with the climax happening at dusk. It lets the audience admire the Scenery Porn and also makes the bizarre behavior of the townspeople even more unsettling.
  • Dark Reprise: Howie's reprise of the 23rd Psalm as counterpoint to the townsfolk's "Sumer is Icumen In" at the film's climax.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lord Summerisle quite often.
  • Death by Sex: Inverted, the pious virgin is killed, and losing his virginity just might have made him an unacceptable sacrifice.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Lion's share of the movie's creepiness comprises of this.
  • Doing It for the Art: Christopher Lee states that he did not earn any money for the project and just did it out of love.
  • Doomed Moral Victor
  • Double Entendre: The song Willow sings to seduce Howie is almost nothing but these.
    ''How a maid can milk a bull!.... And every stroke a bucket full."note 
    • Likewise "The Landlord's Daughter" song.
    And, when her name is mentioned...The parts of every gentleman...Do stand up at attention
  • Downer Ending
  • The Dragon: Oak
  • Dressing as the Enemy Gets him killed.
  • Dying Curse
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: The movie has Howie die with dignity. The novelization by the director and writer of the original film actually has him die being a Badass: actually freeing a flock of birds from the Wicker Man's arm as it's burning, because he feels that, as long as he saves some sort of life, his police mission will have not been completely in vain.
  • Enfant Terrible: Rowan
  • Enthralling Siren: A case of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane when Willow dances naked in the room next to Howie's, slapping the wall between them and singing to him. The staunchly Christian Howie is literally trembling with desire, but doesn't succumb.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Christopher Lee is in this movie.
  • Executive Meddling: Yes. British Lion execs stated it was the worst film they'd ever seen, edited the film and released it with no advertising. Fortunately, Roger Corman saved an unedited copy.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Rather hammily averted at first by Howie ("OH MY GOOOOOD!") but once the fire is actually lit, played straight, as Howie accepts his death and prays for his soul to go to Heaven.
  • Faceless Goons: "Take those masks off!"
  • Fake Nationality: None of the four leads are Scottish.
  • Fanservice: Would you like to watch Britt Ekland dance naked?
    • Don't get too excited, since the butt shots are a body double. (To Ekland's disgust, people are forever asking her to autograph stills of that one particular scene. She has to patiently explain to them that it isn't actually her.)
  • A Fête Worse than Death
  • Filk Song: Bruce Dickinson's "Wicker Man" (the one he co-wrote after rejoining Iron Maiden - quoted in the caption above - less so)
  • Foregone Conclusion: It's right there in the title.
  • For the Evulz: The only possible explanation for Daisy's beetle-abuse.
    • That, or it's a symbol of Howie's fate: the closer he gets to the answer of where Rowan is (i.e. the more he goes around the nail), the more entangled he is and the more difficult it is for him to escape
  • Gambit Roulette: Summerisle's plan to trick Sgt. Howie into coming to the island of his own free will and stay until May Day so they can sacrifice him. There's a lot of chance in this plan and a lot can go wrong.
  • Genre-Busting: Is it a crime movie? A horror movie? A mystery? A fantasy movie? You can even argue that it's a Musical, if you're so inclined... or an excuse (albeit a good one) for Fanservice.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Howie, whatever you think of his blustery self-righteousness, is genuinely trying to be a good police officer and save a child's life. The villagers with the possible exception of Lord Summerisle, however creeped out you may be by their practices, genuinely believe that they are saving their harvest.
  • Hand Of Glory
  • The Hero Dies: Howie himself at the end.
  • Holier Than Thou / Real Men Love Jesus: Sgt. Howie's behaviour is, depending on interpretation, either that of a sanctimonious prude, that of a deeply honourable and upright officer motivated by his faith or both.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: May Day
    • Although, according to the calendar in the chemist's, it is a Tuesday.
      • Just not a simple Tuesday.
  • Hot Librarian: Played by Hammer Horror regular Ingrid Pitt.
  • Human Sacrifice: The islanders sincerely believe that Howie's death will revitalise their crops.
  • Intercourse with You: Heyyy, hoooo, who is there?...
  • "I Want" Song: Most of the songs, except the hero's song, which is the 23rd Psalm, starting "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
  • Jerkass: Lord Summerisle, the island inhabitants, and some of Howie's co-workers from the original version's beginning. Despite his affability, Lord Summerisle probably reigns supreme in this category; as the co-workers are minor, the inhabitants genuinely devout, and Howie at least genuinely wants to do the right thing. Summerisle has no real excuse.
  • Large Ham: Christopher Lee.
  • Looping Lines: There's a persistent myth that Britt Ekland was dubbed over because she couldn't do a Scots accent. It is, however, true that someone else did her singing for her.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted (in the original, but not the remake), using the audiences' expectations against them.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane
  • My Hydroplane Hates Me
  • The Name Sake: The titular effigy doesn't show up until the very end.
  • No, Except Yes: "Now you can wrap it up any way you like, but you are about to commit murder."
  • Nothing Is Scarier: There are no real "scares" to speak of, no monsters...the town and its inhabitants are just really, really creepy.
  • Nude Nature Dance: Towards the middle, Howie sees a group of young pregnant women dancing around a fire, nude. See Comically Missing the Point for the reaction.
  • Oh Crap: This is one of the few films where the main character can shout "Oh Jesus Christ!" and have it come across as a true, in-character Oh Crap moment.
    • Christopher Lee has a nicely subtle one when Howie points out that if his own death doesn't help the next harvest, the villagers will likely conclude that only Summerisle himself will be a large enough sacrifice to satisfy their gods.
  • Path of Inspiration: Lampshaded. Lord Summerisle openly admits that his ancestor was a "Victorian freethinker" and propagated Celtic paganism among the villagers only to ensure social stability. It is strongly implied he also sees the local religion as a tool of control.
  • Peek-A-Boo Corpse: But it's in a coffin.
    • Subverted in a prank a girl plays on Howie while he searches for Rowan.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "THEY. WILL. NOT. FAIL."
  • The Radio Dies First
  • Religious Horror
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why was Willow trying to seduce Howie? As a Secret Test of Character to prove he was a perfect sacrifice? If Howie caved, it would ruin the sacrifice, so was she warning him? Was she genuinely attracted to him despite being the village bicycle? None of these questions are answered.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Scotland
  • The Scream: "NO! For the love of God, THINK WHAT YOU'RE DOING!"
  • Sex Is Evil: Well, on Summerisle it is.
  • Shown Their Work
  • Smug Snake: MacGregor the innkeeper. What a loathsome creature he is.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance
  • Spiritual Successor: The Wicker Tree
  • Stout Strength: Oak. Howie may look more fit, but he doesn't have a chance. The rest of the crowd can just stand around and watch. Hinted at early on in the inn, when we see Oak carrying a grown man around on his shoulders for fun.
  • Taking You with Me: Howie points out that if his sacrifice doesn't bring back the crops, only Lord Summerisle will be a suitable sacrifice next year. Summerisle's reaction shows that it briefly hits home before he declares that the crops won't fail; even if he doesn't believe in the island's gods, the rest of the island certainly does!
  • Tap on the Head: When Howie knocks out MacGregor to steal his Punch costume.
  • Town with a Dark Secret
  • Theme Naming: All the townsfolk are named for trees or plants. May Morrison, gets a doubly symbolic name, with May not only being a plant (another name for hawthorn), but also a month of fertility. And when an islander dies, they plant the tree the deceased was named after on the grave, to symbolize that death is part of the cycle of life.
  • Values Dissonance: In-universe, with Howie being baffled or horrified at the islanders' pagan beliefs and the islanders being equally baffled by his Christian morality.
  • The Vamp: Willow
  • Viewers Are Of At Least Average Intelligence: Argued by Christopher Lee in the DVD Commentary, very shortly before the remake was announced.
    Christopher Lee: This attitude that "people wouldn't understand" is far too prevalent in cinema today. People should be able to use what's left of their minds when they watch something.
  • Villainous Crossdresser: Lord Summerisle dresses as a woman for the May Day parade.
  • Virgin Sacrifice
  • What Does She See in Him?: Howie's fellow police officers wonder this about his fiance.
  • Wicked Cultured: Exemplified by Lord Summerisle; suave, eloquent and The Chessmaster behind luring an innocent policeman to his death.
  • Wrong Insult Offence:
    Sgt. Howie: It means that you, sir, are a pagan!
    Lord Summerisle: A heathen, conceivably, but not - I hope - an unenlightened one.
  • X Meets Y: The White People meets The Lottery
  • You're Insane / Only Sane Man: "You're all raving mad!"

The remake provides examples of:


The Sentinel 100 Scariest Movie Moments:the game:
Watership DownBritish FilmsThe Woman in Black
Total Recall (1990)Film Brain List    
Who Can Kill a Child?Horror FilmsWild Beasts
White HeatDanny Peary Cult Movies ListWilly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
WestworldFilms of the 1970sAuntie Mame
When a Stranger CallsFilms of 2005 - 2009 The Wild

alternative title(s): The Wicker Man
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