Tagged Religion

Nature’s Crucifixion by Capitalism in Paul Schrader’s FIRST REFORMED

FIRST REFORMED shows how religious faith is affected - and destroyed - by the modern world. It also illustrates extremism exists in every facet of life.

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The Exorcist – Season 1, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”

FOX’s The Exorcist
Season 1, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”
Directed by Michael Nankin
Written by Heather Bellson

* For a review of Chapter One: “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee” – click here
* For a review of Chapter Three: “Let ‘Em In” – click here
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Young boys in a dark room are ordered around by a nasty man with a thick Irish brogue. One of them is lead down into a darker part of the large basement, in whatever building they’re stowed away. The kid takes a Holy Bible with him into a long tunnel-like corridor. At the end is a man plagued by a demon possessing him.
Cut to Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) – that was little Marcus, back in the early days. Oh, I love the intrigue! In his own personal Bible, he annotates various sections. By the look of it he’s quite the devout man in his older age. Or is he merely a man trying to figure life out? Likely both. He’s troubled though, that’s more than evident.
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Angela Rance (Geena Davis) is having trouble, too. Her daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is speaking in an eerie voice, sitting alone in the dark. Whatever demon that’s possessed her is a pervert, as it turns out. And he warns Casey about her “lying, sneaking mother.” One of the creepiest scenes yet, if not the creepiest.
Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is talking with Bishop Egan (Brad Armacost) about whether he might be able to conduct an exorcism. Obviously that goes over like a fart in church (appropriate joke). The modern day Catholic Church clearly looks down on all that old demon and hellfire nonsense they once preached. Ah, the ever shifting plague of Catholicism.
Meanwhile, Angela’s out keeping up appearances because that’s clearly the type of family she and space case husband Henry (Alan Ruck) have together. There’s a looming visit for Pope Sebastian on the horizon. A perfect addition for any horror, particularly one involving demons. Speaking of which, Casey calls mom in a speechless panic. At home upstairs, mom finds no Casey. The family gets home and things are feeling confused. Gets worse when they uncover a sickly nest of centipedes squirming around on Casey’s sheets. The beginning signs of evil.

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Father Marcus has broken into Father Tomas’ place. A man of many talents. Love how the difference between these two men couldn’t be more vast, as is explained easily with this harmless little act of breaking-and-entering. So it seems Keane is back in the game. He lets Father Tomas in on what’s happening with the demon, or what’s soon to happen. The guy’s definitely seen his share of shit. But there’s also Tomas, his pen pal relationship (and possibly more) with a woman named Jessica; who is she? Makes Keane, and us, very curious. Turns out there was a brief relationship of sorts before he took his vows. All Father Marcus is trying to make clear is that the demon can tell everything. It will use all of it against them.
During a lacrosse game, Casey sees an old man (Robert Emmet Lunney) wave to her in the stands. On the field she has a run in with a particular player, after which she turns into… someone else. She focuses on the other player whose leg soon snaps. Spooky.
At home the family is playing Jenga and having a laugh together. Except things take a turn when Angela lets slip her ideas about what’s going on with Casey. And the demon’s ready to play.
The next day at the church, Angela pleads with Father Tomas to get things moving. He’s reluctant because of what Bishop Egan said. They want more psychiatric evidence about what could be going on with the girl. Trying to snatch up a bit of holy water the mother winds up talking to Father Marcus. He happily gives out a bit of advice on the sly. “God helps those who help themselves, right?” he quips; a Ben Franklin quote. In the food line at church, the man with the messed up scalp from last episode goes up to Casey, speaking about her being chosen and then calling out: “Let me touch you.” He also makes Father Marcus double-take back to his childhood in the dark tunnel.
Tomas goes to meet with Jessica (Mouzam Makkar). There’s obviously a deeper connection between them than a platonic relationship. Her marriage is crumbling. His faith slips a little each time they communicate. He’s tempted by her, but that goes against his vows. So much conflict inside him. Nicely juxtaposed, though. He’s questioning his faith due to this woman, as well as coming up against something that absolutely represents the fact of his faith as reality: demonic possession.
Then there’s Father Marcus. He looks for the homeless man from the church, only to find another possessed wretch claiming he’s “the one we feared until you lost that little boy.” That oh so famous line comes out, only to get the reply: “Do I look compelled, man of God?” It mocks Marcus and his faith before leaving.

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At home, Angela and the family sit to eat. She apologises for being distracted lately and for lashing out emotionally in the wrong ways. She tries slipping the holy water into Casey’s drink, watching eagerly for its effects. Nothing happens while they sit around the table, which makes Angela feel at ease. But the demon rushes off quick when it can so that Casey can puke up that slimy green stuff. Plus haul a centipede out of her throat. Yikes. Possession is rough.
Later that night outside, the man from the lacrosse game tells her that a “glorious seed” is “breaching the soil.” He sits with her, Casey tells him everything. Clueless father Henry watches from the window to see nobody is actually there.
Father Tomas goes through Marcus’ things to repay the favour. When the older priest arrives, he’s a bit surprises, probably not expecting it from the younger man. Tomas is troubled, but Marcus assures: “Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” which is in part the Latin from where this episode’s title derives. Marcus reveals his father murdered his mother in front of him. He was later sold to the church for “five quid.” That’s how he ended up being 12, locked in a dark room with a demon-possessed man. But instead of feeling fear as that lonely little boy, he felt he’d discovered his purpose in life. Through this conversation Tomas and Marcus come to terms on themselves, as well as each other.
Note the amazing performance from Ben Daniels, a fabulous actor; he takes the material and lifts it off the page magically.

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In another part of the city an apartment of people are murdered. Their organs are put into containers and men take them away, joined on the street by the homeless man, and others, all carrying similar containers and loading them into a truck before heading out. “A mass homicide,” as it’s called on the news. Father Marcus listens to this and finds it suspicious, wondering if there’s more to it. The billboard advertising Pope Sebastian’s visit looms large in the street, the slogan HE IS COMING feeling prophetic in many ways.

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A fabulous follow-up to the premiere episode. Some interesting bits that I’m looking forward to watching play out over the next episodes. I like that they’re not going too hard and putting everything out there. While you can see where things are headed, there’s still a great bit of mystery involved.
Next episode is titled “Let ‘Em In” – hope they let Father Marcus loose, because you know he’s a wild one.

Preacher – Season 1, Episode 6: “Sundowner”

AMC’s Preacher
Season 1, Episode 6: “Sundowner”
Directed by Guillermo Navarro
Written by Nick Towne

* For a review of the previous episode, “South Will Rise Again” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “He Gone” – click here
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After a whopping last episode, “Sundowner” begins with Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) at the table with DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) and Fiore (Tom Brooke), as they’re explaining what’s inside of him. “Its a mistake,” says DeBlanc. Ominous. But the preacher wants more. He wants to know its origins. He starts using his powers against them: “Its called Genesis,” explains DeBlanc unwillingly. Lots of talk about heaven v. hell, an “endless war” and such. An angel and a demon conjoined. Something never meant to come into existence. The whole thing is beyond powerful. A comic, dark opener that I love. When DeBlanc and Fiore start stomping on a woman outside, Jesse rushes to her aide – only to find she’s a mad woman with superwoman strength. Fiore does the job and kills her. But damn, Jesse has gotten himself into a situation over which he holds no control. Well, at least the heavenly duo have found their phone again. Because it’s time to go: the woman regenerates and they’ve got other trouble to worry about. Seraphim are on Earth. Looks like DeBlanc and Fiore aren’t doing the greatest job, someone isn’t happy. And Jesse just keeps learning more and more about the holy world.
We discover Fiore and DeBlanc are on Earth unauthorised. Thus the reason for their predicament. When the Seraphim woman tracks them down at the Sundowner Motel, she blasts the two heaven-sent hitmen before getting into one bad ass fist fight with Custer. An amazing little sequence sees Fiore and DeBlanc regenerate, as they all try and take the woman down. They do. For the time being, at least. She regenerates and comes back for more. Poor Fiore takes the brunt of most of her assault. Problem is if they keep killing her, she keeps coming back. They’ve got to keep her down, restrain her, then deal with the aftermath somehow. I couldn’t get enough of this whole sequence. It hilarious, a bit bloody, filled with action. The first twelve minutes of this episode are a complete kick in the face, in the best possible sense. One of my favourites of the first season.
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Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) arrives, only to mess up all their hard work by killing the woman off. Although the deed gets done soon enough. After a ton of blood and mess. Now DeBlanc and Fiore need Genesis back, so they can get on with things. Jesse wants to know more, though, and wonders why it chose him, how it did. Then reveals he’s keeping it. He feels Genesis is part of his duty. “God does not want this,” DeBlanc pleads. Oh no. The hubris of Custer is becoming dangerous. I wonder how this is going to play out for him after the two heavenly beings take the next step; and what IS the next step from here?
At school, Eugene (Ian Colletti) finds DIE scrawled on his locker. All the same somebody says hello to him; his first response is to apologise. I’m hoping nothing bad happens to him. Still, I keep wondering exactly what it is he did to Tracy Loach. We’ll figure more of that out, those of us who haven’t read the comics yet. In other news, Tulip (Ruth Negga) barges into Emily’s (Lucy Griffiths) place and threatens her, ordering her to stay away from her boyfriend. You know who. Initially Emily doesn’t say much, but doesn’t hold back when bitching Tulip out. They have a strange little moment after Tulip agrees to fix what she broke in her rage.
Oh and poor Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe). He recently watched Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) gun down a bunch of people whom he hoped were to be business associates. Now there are calls coming in about the folks that never returned from their business trip. Yikes. That can’t mean anything good, and I feel bad that such a mild-mannered guy like Person is wrapped up in Odin’s (and partially Jesse’s) madness.


At home, Cassidy and Jesse drink morning beers, stand around in their underwear while their clothes is in the wash, and catch up on what’s happening lately in their respective lives. “You look like a mens room wall,” says Custer re: Cassidy and his ink, as they each talk about tattoos. Jesse even has a tattoo for Tulip. That’ll be a wedge between them if they ever talk about Cassidy and his latest friendship with Ms. O’Hare. They get on to discussing Genesis. The vampire doesn’t think it’s a great idea to keep. Whereas Jesse thinks it’s best to keep it, keep on as he did before, and use it to make things better. Oh, so sadly misguided: “God doesnt make mistakes,” he tells Cassidy. And with that, Jesse is setting up a loud speaker outside the church. Just downright begging for trouble.
We also figure out more from Tulip – she once had a child. Once upon a time. That’s sad. Was it her and Jesse? Or someone else? Tragic, heartbreaking if it was with Jesse. For now, Tulip helps Emily out after they develop a small bond over motherhood. Fun to see these two women together, even if it’s a tenuous friendship at best. More like Tulip wants to keep her close, to make sure there’s nothing going on between her and the preacher.
Eugene finds some people willing to sit with him at lunch, as he slurps down a liquid meal. Two of the boys are slightly apprehensive, though one says he’s a good guy. Is this for real? I keep thinking something bad and terribly high-schoolish is about to go down. After school he goes with the trio of guys to a drainage tunnel where there’s supposedly something interesting. The closer Eugene gets, the more he’s apprehensive. The more it feels dark and dangerous. Then the boys light off some sparklers, as it lights up the tunnel, and Eugene revels in its beauty.


Setting up for an outside service of some sort, Jesse receives Mayor Person for a visit. He’s, of course, on edge, sweating not simply from the heat, but also the heavy guilt on his shoulders. The Green Acre Group are still calling, wondering where their people went. Miles gives a semi-confession, very vague, to the preacher, and tries to seek out “the right thing to do” without opening up too much. There’s a great parallel between their conversation, what Miles wonders about God and his own ego – telling “one from the other” – and what Jesse is feeling about Genesis. There’s just no guessing what will happen from here re: Miles and Quincannon’s mess.
We’ve also got Cassidy and Tulip being awkward – he’s finally figuring out about her and Jesse. A whole lot of messy stuff, from dead bodies to emotional baggage. Worst part is that Cassidy seems genuinely hurt, despite being a vampire; they’ve got feelings, too!
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When Jesse has his next service there are lots and lots of worshippers. All hoping to get saved. Eugene goes to see him first, saying he wants the preacher to reverse whatever he did with Mrs. Loach. “I dont want it,” says Eugene. He doesn’t feel worthy of redemption, clearly. You can already see the ungrateful side of Jesse, the hubris and the ego when confronted by Eugene saying that it’s cheating to be forgiven like he was, to have it all go away and be forgotten. There’s a dark side to Jesse waiting to burst forth onto Annville.
Then the unthinkable – as Eugene argues with the preacher, Jesse utters: “Go to hell, Eugene.” And nothing is left of the boy. He’s gone. Where? Oh, you know.
And Miles Person, the trusty Mayor of Annville, he gets rid of those pesky bodies. They’re all burned to a crisp now, and he plays the fool on the phone to Green Acre. There’s an amazing edit that cuts between Eugene disappearing and the burned bodies in the car that’s absolutely PERFECT. This show is so solid on every angle.

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What a great episode. One of my favourites this season, so far. I can’t wait for more with “He Gone” up next. Where’s Eugene? Will we see him actually in hell? Oh, god damn, I’m excited!

Outcast – Season 1, Episode 5: “The Road Before Us”

Cinemax’s Outcast
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Road Before Us”
Directed by Craig Zobel
Written by Robin Veith

* For a review of the previous episode, “A Wrath Unseen” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “From the Shadows It Watches” – click here
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Allison Barnes (Kate Lyn Sheil), estranged wife of Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), locks her door then starts to head for bed. She finds her daughter Amber playing, talking about drinking the “black poison.” She uses her dolls all to similar to what likely happened between her mother and father. Eerily reminiscent, for sure. Outside, Allison sees a car sitting in the darkness – inside sit Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) and Kyle. The torn up husband worries for his daughter, he worries about if whether a demon still resides in his wife. Anderson tries to talk Kyle out of anything foolish saying he can go and talk with Allison. The younger of the two worries about Mildred (Grace Zabriskie), and that Anderson can’t tell on his own anymore. They’re at odds.
So Kyle calls up his sister Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) asking her to help setup a meeting between him and Allison. Bad idea. The sisterly advice is he’ll only fuck his family up more. Megan offers to go see them herself, a good woman.
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Police Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) goes to see his buddy Fire Chief Ogden (Pete Burris) about the blaze down at the little shack. Of course he doesn’t get much. Though, without being too heavy on the puns here, a fire is lit under Ogden. He knows there’s more to Giles than just a bit of talk.
Meanwhile, Kyle and Anderson head over to see Roy Marcus (Jason Davis), who’s had an experience close to that of the Barnes family. Roy’s daughter is out on the streets now, as things have taken a turn for the worse. He’s a broken man. Not hard to see. Although Kyle is still not sure about the Reverend’s abilities after Mildred, and after their experience with Blake Morrow previously; both of which make him wonder if the demons can’t be expelled completely all the time.
At Allison’s place Megan arrives, unexpected. She tries to talk closely with her sister-in-law. She expresses her worry for Allison, for Amber, their well being. The young mother seems off, though it’s tough to tell whether that’s demons. Because it could easily be the fact she’s just under a ton of stress. There’s still love on Allison’s part for Kyle, just no trust, as Anderson pointed out earlier. She knows he’s a good father, but he also has a danger in him. Or, well, that’s the way it’s perceived. She, and Megan and many others, still don’t know the truth behind what really went on between them. For her part, Allison knows something is “blocking the truth” after discovering there are pieces of her memory missing.

 

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On the road again Anderson takes Kyle to see another soul he’s… helped. The guy is another broken down sort. His pet store is shut down. The wife left, got the house. Something is not right with him immediately – Kyle notices he strays from his handshake. So the young exorcist grabs the guy by his shoulders and things set off. The former pet store owner grabs his gun, pointing it at the duo before they take off. Smart idea. Only there’s a demon left sitting inside that man. Now they’re both incredibly worried for what the rest of the people Anderson has ‘saved’ are doing, out there, maybe still possessed. Then Megan calls Kyle, letting him know something isn’t right with his estranged wife. He wants to go see her. Uh oh.
In the meantime, Sidney (Brent Spiner) makes his way out to the Barnes residence. He  looks around, in the closet, the kitchen. Everywhere. Even straightens up a picture before laying down in Mrs. Barnes’ old bed. Over at the station, Officer Mark Holter (David Denman) brings Chief Giles some results from his work down at the burned down trailer. An ID and everything. Well, turns out they’ve got the “DNA of a missing woman” that was present at whatever happened in that creepy little camper. Giles suggests before making a big deal to do some follow-up and figure out whether the woman is actually disappeared. But Giles, he worries more, as Ogden is clearly into some troubled shit.

 


Kyle foolishly goes to see Allison. He wants to talk and does his best to make her feel comfortable, going so far as to take steps away from her off the porch. When Amber shows up things are brutally awkward. She calls her mother a bitch and says she wants to go with her father. In the midst of it all Allison accuses him of trying to turn their daughter against her. Not the case at all. However, we see a moment when Kyle ends up touching her, just for a second, and she flinches. The flinch of an abused woman? Or of a woman possessed by a demon?
Flash back to Allison waking up, beaten, bruised in a women’s shelter. She can’t remember anything from the trauma. Kyle admitted to beating her, though nobody knows the truth, and it all upsets Allison.
In the present, Giles goes to see his old buddy Ogden; gun ready to draw and everything. He talks about their friendship: “I might go so far as to say best friends, maybe,” says Giles. He’s clearly been hurt by the lack of trust between them. Yet Holter calls with news about the missing woman: she isn’t missing. Hmm. The plot thickens, so literally. There’s still something going on with Ogden, obviously. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly what.
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The devious Sidney goes to see Mildred. Right away, she understands who he is, no introduction necessary. That’s creepy. They have their chat about physical possessions, how they keep busy as human lifeforms, so on. Sidney wants to know about Kyle Barnes, planning on taking care of him and the Reverend Anderson. Moments later Mildred tries to suck the life out of Sidney, just as the demons often do to Kyle. Does this mean he and Sidney are similar, or one in the same? Very intriguing, brief moment. Mildred mentions something about “the merge” which almost seems like an event the demons wait to see.
On the streets, Kyle and Anderson are out looking for the missing, possibly possessed daughter of Roy Marcus. They find her and she leads them down into the subway tunnels. And she is most certainly still afflicted with a demonic influence. She rambles some madness at Kyle before attacking him, trying to suck that black force out of his body. A battle begins that soon sees Kyle being wrapped up in the black, fog-like, oozing substance from within the possessed girl. Just like his mother, she’s left catatonic.

 


Sidney: “Humans are so desperate to express their individuality, to separate themselves from each other. Seems so short sighted.”
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Allison discovers a trail of blood in her house. Or she thinks so, until discovering it’s red paint Amber tracked in from the garage to throw around the walls. This prompts the little girl to hide in a closet, so painfully similar to the way her father once hid from his own mother. We can see the direct parallel. At the very same time, Kyle is tearing himself up over the Marcus girl, now lying in a hospital bed; again, exactly like his own mother. So many things are directly paralleling his own existence and his life that it’s like a weight bearing down on his chest. Reverend Anderson believes those souls are “in Gods hands now” while Kyle isn’t happy with any of it. None of it is holy or redemptive to him. No miracles. “Cause no ones fuckinlistening. If your God is out there, hes laughinat you,” Kyle berates Anderson.
Back home, Allison is waiting for Kyle. He can’t explain exactly what it is compelling him to protect her. She also wonders why he hasn’t apologised for what happened, seeing as how he’s a chronic apologist, even for the smallest things. This makes her curious and begs the question: did he really do it? Then she goes in to kiss him. She touches him. Nothing bad happens. They embrace. “Youre safe,” he tells her quietly. Allison doesn’t understand, but can’t remember on her own. She begs to know the truth. But he can’t. The truth is too unbelievable, no matter how true. A rift still exists between them and unless Allison witnesses a possession, or experiences it again herself, there’s no telling if it will ever close.
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An amazing episode. The best so far, in my opinion. What a great chapter to this first season. Can’t wait for “From the Shadows It Watches” next!

Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man: Fever Dream Memories of Christianity and Paganism

The Wicker Man. 1973. Directed by Robin Hardy. Screenplay by Anthony Shaffer; based on the novel Ritual by David Pinner.
Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp, Russell Water, Aubrey Morris, Irene Sunters, Walter Carr, Ian Campbell, & Roy Boyd. British Lion Film Corporation.
Rated R. 94 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★1/2
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DISCLAIMER: as of this writing it’s been 43 years since the release of this classic, so if you haven’t see it I really don’t even need to tell you about any possible SPOILERS! Yet I do so anyway. This review is going to talk about the ending later. If you head on through expect for that to get talked of openly. This is your final warning.

Upon hearing Robin Hardy passed today, I was torn up. Honestly there’s nothing else he’s done that I’ve particularly been interested in. It’s the influence of his mysterious folk horror The Wicker Man that endeared me to him permanently. When I was young I remember catching this movie on some channel, whether it was Show Case here in Canada I can’t be sure; likely, but not positive. I remember how strange and dreamy the whole thing was, and the way in which its songs mixed into the creepy story to make something altogether different from anything else I’d ever seen at the time. So as an early teen Hardy influenced me greatly with a single hour and a half of film.
There are a few reasons for Hardy’s influential touch. First, it wasn’t until about age thirteen that I finally shed the influence of my Roman Catholic upbringing, after my parents were smart enough to give me a choice – church or not. I saw this movie around age eleven, maybe twelve at most. It was before that choice of mine to stop going to church and taking communion, all that. The religious elements at play in this film were incredibly interesting to me. Second off all, Hardy’s finale is one of the single most horrific sequences of all time. To me it is the epitome of folk horror, including the gradual build up to those moments. This is a successful horror movie that does not rely on an entirely physical element to make things scary. Rather, The Wicker Man pries up your skin and slithers beneath it, both disturbing you and even making you smile (or laugh) from time to time.
One thing’s for sure: imitators be damned, there is NOTHING like this one.
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Shaffer has done some good work other than this film, mainly FrenzySleuthMurder on the Orient Express come to mind. This is his crowning achievement. There’s of course the inclusion of David Pinner’s novel Ritual, but his work together with Hardy made for some terribly interesting story and characters. Forget the simple fact all that folk music thrown in is so unique and fun, Shaffer makes this paganism-styled religion out on the fictional Scottish island Summerisle partly unnerving and also an equal part intriguing. You want to know more, and as Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) discovers more then you sort of want to know less – in the best, mystery-horror hybrid kind of way. I love that there’s a great deal of attention paid to the Celtic traditions, paganism, as well as drops of history here and there. Shaffer uses all kinds of things, such as the Middle English folk tune “Sumer Is Icumen In” (you can find a proper copy of this in A Middle English Anthology edited by Ann S. Haskell) that you’ll find comes at a crucial moment. The song is a terrifying sound to hear when it’s sung. It is also very poignant for that scene, too. If you know a book called The Golden Bough by James Frazer then you can see how much Shaffer drew from when writing this script. What I love is that he creates a purely organic way for us to discover this Summerisle religion alongside Howie. Instead of feeling like a terrible load of exposition, while still being completely expository, the journey on which Howie goes to figure out what’s happening allows us to sift through the pagan island religion with interest. Other screenplays might make that feel boring. Shaffer manages to keep the pacing steady. Then you can also count the interesting musical pieces as a way to make everything feel compelling. Between the unique atmosphere, the songs and the dancing and the pagan-like rituals we witness, all the odd visuals (those first animal masks are horrifying), there’s enough to make this more than weird for weird’s sake.
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Some of the more enjoyable aspects stem from the theme of religion v. paganism, the centrepiece of the screenplay. Howie is a direct parallel to Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), whose hippy-like vision of religion appals the lawman, a staunch Christian. There are some genuine looks of horror courtesy of Woodward’s talented acting which really make you see how devastating the idea of pagan worship is to the straight laced, God fearing Christian worshipper. The awful irony is that Woodward’s Christianity leads him into curiousness and duty that is his downfall. That apprehension and judgement becomes a gateway into paranoia. In the end, this Christian paranoia re: heathenism alongside Howie’s dutiful police sensibilities combine in a lethal cocktail of curiosity. Something that’s worth noting is that on his way toward the finale, and his doom, Howie momentarily loses himself in the heathen pagan traditions: whilst wearing the disguise to follow Summerisle and his people, Howie sheds his Christian repression and slaps a few women on the ass gleefully. If only for a second he forgot his devout Christianity and let loose with the heathens. Probably all for the best, as the poor Scottish policeman isn’t long for this world, anyway.
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As I’ve mentioned, The Wicker Man is successfully filled with horror not because of any blood or gore, nor any jump scares. It isn’t due to anything typical. All the fun elements like the songs eventually transform into something treacherous and evil. By the final scene, singing is nothing but a vortex into madness. The masks and the pagan symbols are appealing early on, like the marks of island/small town charm. Later, as Howie discovers himself the ultimate fool – perfectly dressed just like Punch, eternal fool himself – those animal masks and all the nature imagery, it’s positively chilling. Christopher Lee gives a charismatic performance that set him so far apart from the typical Hammer Horror roles it’s amazing, and his determined attitude as Lord Summerisle is nothing if not psychopathic. Likewise, Woodward plays Howie perfectly, and for all his foolishness you truly pity him, especially once he sees the eponymous structure from which the film takes its name. Robin Hardy will always be remembered, fondly, for his weird and wild The Wicker Man. It is not merely a load of hype. It is a fantastic piece of folk horror and an unforgettably unique moment in cinematic history. Relish that. I do, every so often, and as damned often as I can.
We’ll miss you, Mr. Hardy. Thank you for your strange vision; it is forever a fever dream in my memory.