Monday, December 14, 2009

Final Girl Film Club: Welcome, fool

I recently introduced a good friend to "The Wicker Man" (1973), starring Christopher Lee (above) and the late Ed Woodward. "You'll love it," I promised. "It's creepy, it's witty, it's got a gorgeous setting, and it has songs!" Well, she hated it. "It wasn't scary," she complained, "and it was just weird."

But the "weirdness" is the point. This is like no other horror movie. Sure, the mood throughout is maybe more unsettling or peculiar than scary (I still think "creepy" applies). But even if you know the ending -- and unfortunately pretty much everyone does --the fun of this movie is in the getting there. What other movie gives you a sweet-faced matron popping a frog into her tiny daughter's mouth? ("He's got your horrid sore throat now!") Or Christopher Lee singing a bawdy duet with Sean Connery's ex-wife? Or malevolent villagers in fish masks?

The soundtrack for this movie just rocks my face off. I vigorously recommend downloading yourself a copy. "Willow's Song" (covered elsewhere as "How Do") is really quite pretty, and it's lots of fun to roll down your car windows and sing along with "The Tinker of Rye." ("For patching and plugging is his delight! His work goes forward day and night!") I'm also fond of the opening music, based on Robert Burns' "The Highland Widow's Lament." There's a very informative page about the music here.

I refused to watch this movie for many years because of the ending. It still really gets to me; when Woodward sees the "man" and screams "Oh God, oh Jesus Christ!" something way deep in my reptile brain just goes ice cold. Maybe having an evangelical-Christian background makes the idea of a martyr's death particularly chilling (much like having a Catholic background does for stuff like "The Exorcist"). There's something about Christopher Lee just standing there letting it happen, and he knows it's just for show, and Woodward knows he knows that: he's about to die in agony for no reason at all, and all the Psalms in the world can't bring him any comfort. Brr! Turning on all the lights won't help. But "Summer Is Icumen In" is a damn catchy bonfire song.

This post is for the Final Girl Film Club, where Stacie has created an excellent cartoon review of the film. Don't miss it!


CWL said...

That's a great point about the film's special resonance to viewers who grew up evangelical (or fundamentalist). The sex and "amorality" of Summerisle is essentially what my church peers perceived (and derided) in the wider world. And the persecution/martyrdom plays into that fear, for sure. Brrr, now I am upset. GREAT review!

merricat said...

I have just discovered your blog today and it is like looking in a mirror in so many ways. Horror films, carnivorous plants, MJT? Looking forward to reading it ALL.

merricat blackwood

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