Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Wicker Man. C

Stories about missing persons always make for intriguing mysteries and often offer some of the finest plot twists in the game. They're also interesting because, unlike murder mysteries, there is always room for hope, even though the general mood is one of doom and dread. Though it has been called one of the greatest of all horror movies, The Wicker Man (we're talking the 1973 version, not the 2005 Nicolas Cage monstrosity) is really just a missing person story in which a detective searches for someone who has disappeared, much like in Klute or Gone Baby Gone. The detective is a Christian who travels to a strange little island to find a missing 12 year old girl. Immediately, strange things begin to happen, as the detective wonders why people are acting like the girl doesn't even exist. Then, even stranger things begin to occur as it seems that perhaps the girl is dead, or maybe she's alive and will be offered as sacrifice during the islanders bizarre religious ceremony. The Wicker Man does contain a few surprises, though as a whole it's not particularly scary. The atmosphere is chilling not because the movie is trying to frighten us, but because the of the neopaganism that the people in the island are so adamant about. There are all sorts of layers to the cult, the worst of which is the human and animal sacrifice that supposedly bring new life to the crops. They also believe that when a human dies, they are reincarnated and become part of nature. What's interesting is that the detective is a devout Christian, so he's naturally abhorred by the rituals on the island. Yes, his job is to find the girl, but we feel he is equally concerned with the outcome of the pagan rite. The movie concludes with one of the most disturbing and haunting scenes ever committed to celluloid. The film is so famous that the "shocker" is no secret, but even a thick-skinned viewer like myself found it unsettling.

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