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The Wicker Man: Challenging the Audience, Transcending the Genre

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  1. Introduction
  2. The begining of the film
  3. The character of Sgt. Howie
  4. Mysterious traditions
  5. The cornerstones of The Wicker Man
  6. Its representations of Christianity and the pagan based ideology
  7. Sgt. Howie as the laughable prude
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works cited

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. [...]

[...] In The Wicker Man, the only true exists inside each audience member, for it is up to him or her to decide what, if anything, in the film is The Wicker Man is a brilliant genre picture because it is atmospheric, frightening, and in the end, quite disturbing; all attributes of any successful horror film. Its ability to pull the audience in and force them to make their own conclusions about subjects as weighty as religion, life, and death, however, makes it something much greater than a horror film. [...]

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