Robin Hardy’s 1973 masterpiece, The Wicker Man, is upon its 30-year anniversary. It is now known as a masterpiece not just of British cinema, but also of the horror genre. The film follows Sergeant Neil Howie, who visits the initially idyllic but isolated island of Summerisle in search of a missing child who the locals claim never existed. Without spoiling too much for those who haven’t seen the original, the locals are not the peaceful residents that they initially seem to be. Instead, they follow an outdated, and sacrificial, folklore to the word.
Though the film was released to mixed reception, it is now regarded as a cult classic and an inspiration to those who follow suit in British cinema. The shame, as with many classic horror films, and with the industry being less original year by year, is that it may only trigger thoughts, to the younger cinema-goers of the 2006 Nicolas Cage remake, which follows Cage’s current canon of awful films and is truly shambolic.
With brilliant performances from Edward Woodward and horror veteran Christopher Lee, The Wicker Man not only thrills because it is a fantastic horror film, but because it is a breath of fresh air in a market that is over saturated by boring slashers. Hardy’s film is tense, frightening and brings an atmosphere of horror that makes you more uncomfortable than other horror films – you’re not afraid of turning the lights on. In fact, you might want them off, because the film doesn’t make you scared of what’s in the dark, but instead of the people you see in the day.
The film is now regarded as a classic of the 1970s. It has a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is ranked in the top 500 movies by Empire magazine, and has spawned a spiritual sequel by Robin Hardy. It is possible that the original will fade into darkness. Yet there is always that hope that it will be remembered, and that thirty years on The Wicker Man is a true classic of the horror genre that we want to see burn on.