A horror movie does not work unless it is frightening. A meek horror film is as ineffective as an unfunny comedy or an uninteresting drama. If a horror film succeeds at being scary, then, by definition, the filmmakers behind it have accomplished what they set out to make. The difference between a good horror movie and a great horror movie, however, is its ability to transcend the genre. Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973) is, today, universally accepted as one of the greatest genre movies of all time. It is a perfectly crafted horror film; frightening and engrossing. It is also much more than the horror movie. With its emphasis on music and songs, at times it approaches a musical. Moreover, its highly engrossing storyline and deep, well-rounded characters arguably make it a drama. However, The Wicker Man is, at heart, a horror film. Its ability to transcend the genre lies in its willingness to acknowledge itself as a horror movie, and its capacity to move far beyond such a simple categorization. An intelligent, thought-provoking work, it challenges the very ideals most audience members hold sacred. Taking on organized religion, sex, and morality, The Wicker Man deals with topics and ideas that most films are afraid to confront. Perhaps due to the fact that it was created under the simple classification of a "horror movie", it is able to explore themes that most mainstream films shy away from. The Wicker Man stands as one of the greatest horror films ever made, but it is much more. Highly influential, thoroughly controversial, and inarguably provocative, it is an intensely brave movie that has the ability to transcend almost any label that can be attached to it.
[...] Howie is locked inside of a massive wicker statue, and burned alive as a virgin sacrifice in order to appease the gods. Where, then, does this leave the audience? Throughout the majority of the film, Sgt. Howie is seen as a laughable prude; utterly dislikable in his intolerance of the Summerislanders system of beliefs. However, in the end, as he is burned alive in the wicker man, it could be argued that he was right all along. In his essay “Necromancy in the UK: Witchcraft and the Occult in British Horror”, Leon Hunt writes of what occurs on the island; is enough to convince Howie that ‘degeneracy' and ‘corruption of the young' lurk around every corner. [...]
[...] One of the cornerstones of The Wicker Man is expression of sexuality; repressed in Sgt. Howie, and embraced in the people of Summerisle. Sgt. Howie's belief in celibacy before marriage seems outdated in the film, even laughable. Conversely, the Summerislanders celebrate sexuality in a natural, somewhat enviable way. The night of Sgt. Howie's arrival on Summerisle, he is introduced to Willow (Brit Ekland); the most beautiful girl on the island. Upon meeting her in the local pub/inn, Sgt. Howie is caught in the middle of drunken rendition of Landlord's Daughter”, in which the locals seem to be mocking his repressed sexual attraction to the beautiful girl. [...]
[...] The Wicker Man is, for the most part, even-handed in its representations of Christianity and the pagan-based ideology of the Summerislanders. In his book Inside The Wicker Man, Allan Brown writes; Judeo-Christian beliefs of Howie may be staunch but that is all they are: beliefs, which are opposed by another set of beliefs. The Summerislanders may well be evil to Howie but the film takes pains to show that their system is as constructed as his (Brown 69). The Summerislanders' belief system is as constructed as Sgt. [...]
[...] As The Wicker Man progresses, however, these traditions seem less and less mysterious, and the audience begins to grow intensely interested in the belief system of the people of Summerisle. Naked young girls dance over open flames in hopes of increasing their fertility, and boys worship the a large, branchless tree which serves as one of the islands more obvious phallic symbols. In the eyes of Sgt. Howie, these are blasphemous routines; barbaric rituals which undermine the moral authority of Christianity. [...]
[...] In a genre based around escapism, The Wicker Man forces the audience to be drawn into a dangerous, beautiful world and, moreover, forces them to contemplate many of the beliefs they hold dearest. Leon Hung states that; Wicker Man—with refusal of Judaeo- Christian dualism and its ethnographic approach to magical practices—seems to mark a crisis point for the traditional supernatural film” (Hunt 96). Gone are the classic horror movie themes of “Good vs. and ushered in is a new breed of horror; a form in which the of the film may not be evil at all. [...]
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