When I show The Wicker Man (1973) to a friend who may be interested in such a famous film, their response is usually mixed. I can’t get make much of defense, because the common complaints are pretty accurate. This is a very strange film, not like the strangeness of Blue Velvet or The Cell, but with a particular weirdness that puts it non-sequiturin a sub-genre by itself. Calling it dated is fair, but that’s more a result of the techniques used which were in a fashion at the time. Edits which are more psychedelic than cinematic, non sequitur intrusions of musical elements, and a treatment of sexuality which is erotic as much as it is repellent are all present. One part art film, one part exploitation, and one part infinite loop, The Wicker Man is an enigma. This is made even more perplexing because Robin Hardy clearly knows what he is doing as a filmmaker.
Hardy has made a follow-up to that cult classic though, and the more I read about The Wicker Tree, the more intrigued I became. At first blush I thought it was a cheap straight-to-video job trying to capitalize on The Wicker Man (2006) re-make. Then I discovered it was actually written and directed by Robin Hardy, so I almost watched it then, but something about the box art and lack of credible blurbs made me dismiss it again. Finally, I saw a decent trailer on the front of The Aggression Scale, read a good review of the cinematography, and decided I could do worse things with the 12-2am time slot of my life. You know, besides sleep.
The Wicker Tree is an adaptation of the Hardy novel Cowboys for Christ, which is in turn an adaptation of his earlier try at an unrealized sequel to The Wicker Man titled The Riding of the Laddie. As the book title suggests, the story begins with the doings of a strange cult; the cult being a group of born-again Christians who adopt cowboy imagery to promote their mission.
The bright and virginal star of this group is trashy pop-singer turned country gospel artist Beth Boothby (Britannai Nicol), who is engaged to the slightly dimmer and less committed Steve Thomson (Henry Garret). As it happens, this duo has been chosen by CfC to bring their gospel to exotic and godless Scotland.