|Not a clue|
|Do these people look like they have something to hide?|
That plot doesn't sound like much of a horror movie, does it? The Wicker Man is an odd hybrid of genres (suspense/thriller, musical, and horror) that sound like they shouldn't gel properly, but are surprisingly effective when combined. This won't knock Willy Wonka from the top of your "favorite musicals" list (it is on top, right?), but the folk stylings of the soundtrack provide some interesting moments that supplement the plot.
|Example: Britt Ekland beating a wall and slapping her ass in the nude to music|
The acting in The Wicker Man is pretty solid, but most of the cast is forced by the plot to remain fairly impassive. Edward Woodward was fine in the lead. It's one thing to play a cop as Sgt. Killjoy, interrupting festivities and generally trying to play the part of a disapproving father figure, but Woodward was also able to lace his performance with an increasing degree of desperation. Sometimes, it's the little additions that make all the difference. Christopher Lee plays Woodward's opposite with relish, charisma, and the male equivalent of a bouffant.
Britt Ekland stands out the most, as she is given the most screen time as Sgt. Howie's would-be seducer and has a prominent nude scene (although the full-body shots were a body double, since Ekland had recently become pregnant). Ekland is halfway decent here, but her talent still lies primarily with her body. Diane Cilento was definitely the best actress in the film as the schoolteacher. Hers is not a very large role, but she gets a little extra time as one of the characters that tries to explain the island's religion to Howie; she comes across as clever and earnest, although obviously hiding something. Horror veteran Ingrid Pitt also has a small role as a sexy librarian. She doesn't do much in her bit role, but I liked her. Maybe it was the hair.
|Pitt, about to record a message with her droid|
This was director Robin Hardy's first effort behind the camera, and it would be his only directing credit for more than fifteen years. I don't know why --- I thought he did a very good job. The version I watched was the theatrical one, which is nine minutes shorter than the difficult to find special edition, but I still enjoyed the film and his direction. The movie takes place mostly during the daytime, which is unusual for any horror or thriller movie. Something sinister is obviously going on, but it is not hiding in the shadows, but in plain sight. It was an interesting choice to include so many songs in the film, but they are handled pretty well; most of the songs provide interesting insights into the culture on the island. There are a few stinkers in the soundtrack, but it is, for the most part, likable enough. The best work Hardy does is with the pacing of the film. He builds up the tension slowly, and it only feels like a horror movie when the mystery is revealed and the ending becomes apparent. It's hard to make a good mystery and it's even more difficult to make a good horror movie --- Hardy did both at the same time, while avoiding just about every genre cliche in the book.
|The terrible truth: Lee needs more hair product|
The Wicker Man is definitely a bizarre film, though. The tone is very atypical and there are more than a few moments that lean dangerously close to camp. Luckily, the suspense is assembled effectively enough to keep most people from laughing at the more ridiculous scenes.
|Oddly not humorous, in context|
Here's the Sneaker Pimps covering the song that Britt Ekland obviously sung and definitely did not have her voice dubbed over during.