WRONG TURN. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WRONG TURN. (2021) DIRECTED BY MIKE P. NELSON. WRITTEN BY ALAN B. MCELROY AND BASED ON ‘WRONG TURN’ BY ALAN B. MCELROY.
STARRING CHARLOTTE VEGA, MATTHEW MODINE AND BILL SAGE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. I love all these ‘WRONG TURN’ movies to bits. This one is what’s known as a franchise re-boot, I think, and it was hugely entertaining. I don’t think I was bored at all during the one hour and fifty minutes it was on.

It’s sort of a ‘WRONG TURN’ for the digital age, which I thought might put me off, but strangely enough it didn’t. It’s ‘MIDSOMMAR’ meets ‘THE HILLS HAVE EYES,’ combining a weird cult with the usual inbred and terrifying mountainy folk we’ve come to expect from this kind of film.

Matthew Modine plays Scott Shaw, a concerned dad trying to find his daughter Jen, who seemingly went missing recently while hiking with some college friends along the Appalachian Trail.

According to Wikipedia, this trail is a marked hiking route about 2,200 miles long which extends from Georgia to Maine in the Eastern United States, and is said to be used by about two million tourists a year. Popular trail.

The viewers quickly find out what happened to Jen and her five mates. First, they wind up in the kind of old ‘Confederate’ town in Virginia where some of the older folks still retain the mores and morals, customs and mind-sets of a much earlier time. This often means that the community is rife with racism, sexism and homophobia.

The little group of six college students rouse a lot of suspicion and contempt in the town. Jen, the lead girl and a student of the arts who is unsure of what to do with her life, is an all-American white girl who is dating Darius, a black guy.

That’s frowned upon by the townspeople, as is the gay relationship and ethnicities of Gary and Luis. Gary is an Indian chap (not a native American Indian) and Luis is of Hispanic origin.

Milla and Adam, a trainee doctor and app developer respectively, are just an ordinary white American couple. Clearly, the film-makers couldn’t think of a way to make them into some kind of a minority, lol.

Anyway, the six students head off happy as Larry on the self-guided trail, but tragedy strikes when the group take a ‘wrong turn’ in search of an old civil war fort and one of their number is horribly killed.

The remaining five students decide that they need to get back to civilisation and safety straightaway, but the unseen presence on the mountain that’s been dogging their footsteps since they arrived in town has other ideas. Nasty, painful, dangerous and horrible ideas…

I love the idea of the mountainy cult known as ‘the Foundation’ that actually pre-dates the Civil War. You’d expect them to be as racist as the townspeople, so it’s a pleasant surprise, if a tad confusing, when it turns out they’re not. They’re no saints, though, and what they have, they hold. Remember that…

They have such evil reputations for murdering and torturing outsiders that even the townspeople are scared to death of them and won’t go near their hunting grounds, which are lethally equipped with booby-traps.

The sheriff and the townsfolk prefer to act like the strange, spooky mountainy folks just don’t exist, which is why they- mostly- elect not to help Jen’s distraught dad Scott when he comes looking for his missing daughter.

I don’t mind the bear costumes, but I’m not sure why the culties have to talk in weird Scandinavian-type accents, though. I loved the cult leader, Venable, whom I nicknamed ‘Poppa Bear,’ not just because of the bear costume, but also because he’s exactly the type of burly, beardy middle-aged bloke I go for now. I would have volunteered for ‘wifey duties’ in a heartbeat, and you wouldn’t have needed to force me either, lol, but that’s just me.

The violence in the film is pretty shocking. It seems to be the fashion since ‘MIDSOMMAR,’ a sort of modern day re-imagining of THE WICKER MAN, to portray in horror movies of this nature the complete obliteration of the human head and face, and this film has that kind of thing in spades. It also has the horror movie trope of the ‘lost and found’ shed, filled with the backpacks and dead cell-phones of legions of murdered tourists.

I liked that we find out what happened to Jen in her life ‘post-Foundation,’ but I can’t help feeling that she’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the authorities after that ending. Still, that’s not our problem, I guess.

I’d love to see more films in the re-booting of this excellent franchise, although it’d be a challenge to come up with a better premise than this one. If the film-makers do run out of ideas, I for one would be happy enough to go back to basics with the cannibalistic hillbillies from the backwoods. Now there’s an idea that just never gets old.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

MIDSOMMAR. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


MIDSOMMAR. (2019) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ARI ASTER. STARRING FLORENCE PUGH AND JACK REYNOR.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

If the young American college students in this film had ever seen the 1973 mystery film, The Wicker Man, they would never have done any of the following: travelled to Sweden to stay on some kind of hippy, culty commune at the behest of one of their mates; timed the visit to coincide with a massive once-in-every-ninety-years festival to celebrate the arrival of Mid-summer; allowed themselves to be disorientated and confused as a result of drugs pressed upon them by their so-called Swedish ‘mates’; watched an horrific ceremony involving geronticide- or old people euthanasia- without a murmur of protest or so much as a what the fuck is going on here in this fucked-up fucking place???; had public sex as part of a bizarre fertility ritual and, lastly, they certainly wouldn’t have allowed themselves to become mere kindling on the eventual, terrible fire of sacrifice…

Yes, dear reader, a quick watch of The Wicker Man would have solved those little problems for them all right. The Wicker Man did it first and The Wicker Man did it better. Midsommar is still a great watch, though, if a little long at one-hundred-and-fifty minutes.

Dani is a psychology student who falls to pieces when her sister Terri commits suicide, selfishly taking their parents into the afterlife with her. Her boyfriend Christian, a cultural anthropology student, had been just about to dump Dani for her clinginess and neediness but now, after her family tragedy, he feels like he can’t do it. But their relationship is so unhealthy and Dani so emotionally needy that it would almost be a kindness to give her the push, dead family or not, and put this unhealthy relationship out of its misery.

Instead, he reluctantly invites her along on the trip to Sweden, much to the disgust of all his college mates… all except the Swedish one, who can clearly see a place for Dani in the festivities to come. Christian, Dani, Josh, Mark and Pelle, the Swedish guy, all travel from the States to the commune of the Harga in Sweden, set in splendid rural isolation amongst some of nature’s most fabulous glories.

Christian, who’s still stuck for a subject for his thesis, decides that the secluded cult of the Harga would make an ideal subject, and that’s why he doesn’t push to leave the commune when they all witness a geronticide so appalling that it genuinely would give you nightmares.

The cult leaders explain it away and tell the shocked students that it’s actually a joyous occasion for the geriatrics involved, but it doesn’t look joyous to me, or to Dani. It just looks barbaric, completely and utterly barbaric.

One gets the feeling that the American kids, plus a young couple from London, are being gaslit, in pretty much the same manner as poor old Sgt. Neil Howie in The Wicker Man, into believing that no harm can come to them in a commune where everyone wears flowing white robes and garlands of flowers and lives off the land in an atmosphere of peace and love, learning and harmony. Drugged-up, free-love-having, non-believing-in-Jesus hippies, lol.

The Harga people’s ‘Wicker Man’ is a triangle-shaped, man-made oddity that’s curiously at odds with the scenes of nature all around it. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why these post-grads have been lured from America with the promise of experiencing the fascinating indigenous rituals and ceremonies of another country’s Mid-summer festival.

But the film is still worth watching right to the end of the one-hundred-and-fifty minutes, just to see how Ari Aster, the director of Hereditary, achieves a sort of re-make of The Wicker Man, but without actually mentioning that this is what he’s doing.

It seems at times like the film is a bit crowded, a wee bit too busy, as the director tries to cram as many rituals as he can into the one festival, but how-and-ever. The violence in the film is hard to stomach. Some images are extremely disturbing, while others don’t make much sense or are confusing, misleading.

Some of the rituals, especially the ones that take place at the outside tables during meal-times, go on a bit too long and my mind started to wander for a bit. Male frontal nudity is in evidence in the film too, plus the fiery come-uppance of a cheating scumbag of a boyfriend, lol.

It’s a gorgeous film to look at, with a suitably unsettling score, but I said it earlier and I’ll say it again: The Wicker Man did it first and The Wicker Man did it better. That doesn’t mean that directors shouldn’t try to make a film about a pagan cult who worship the old gods and approve of group sex and human sacrifice. It just means that they have to try to make it a bit different to its predecessors. Does Midsommar succeed in this? I’ll be nice, and give it five out of ten.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. (1971) TIGON BRITISH FILM PRODUCTIONS. DIRECTED BY PIERS HAGGARD. WRITTEN BY PIERS HAGGARD AND ROBERT WYNNE-SIMMONS.

STARRING PATRICK WYMARK, BARRY ANDREWS, SIMON WILLIAMS, TAMARA USTINOV, LINDA HAYDEN, MICHELE DOTRICE, WENDY PADBURY, CHARLOTTE MITCHELL AND ANTHONY AINLEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW is such a dark, dark sexy film. Yes, I did mean to put in two ‘darks,’ lol, because the film really is incredibly dark. It was made by TIGON, the British film production and distribution company that brought us WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), starring horror legend Vincent Price, and THE CREEPING FLESH (1973), two of my favourite horror films from that period.

What happens is as follows. An entire village falls victim to an outbreak of demonic possession, caused by the unearthing of a deformed skull imbued with a malign influence. In this, we observe the similarities to excellent Hammer film QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, in that everything is grand until people go digging shit up which was better left alone, if you get me.

Anyway, the malignant influence has a terrible effect on the young people of the village in particular. They’re behaving oddly, going insane for no reason, holding black masses, sprouting demonic-looking fur on parts of their bodies where certainly there was no fur before, weird stuff like that. They’re even skipping the Reverend Fallowfield’s excellent religious instruction lessons, and those used to be a huge draw for the kids before Beelzebub came to town…! Not, snigger.

It’s up to good old Patrick Wymark as the local Judge to track down the source of the evil and attempt to eradicate it. Will he be successful?Before he’s even had time to plonk his Judge wig down on his noggin, though, there will be an horrific rape in the village that would never have happened before the Devil strutted into town on his cloven hooves. Wait a minute, where’s everyone gone? Oh right. Off to You-Tube the horrific rape. Ye naughty little brats, ye…!

Michele Dotrice, who’s probably best known for portraying Frank Spencer’s long-suffering wife Betty in superb ’70s sitcom SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM, plays an unexpected blinder in this film as a young ‘un who’s been- ahem- filled with the Devil. Her lascivious expressions when she’s watching the rape would have scandalised poor Frank, who was always very modest and shy when it came to sexual matters, hee-hee. He’s ‘ad a bit o’ trouble, don’t you know…?!

‘Betty’ also does an amazing job in the scene where she’s fleeing from the savage dogs who are pursuing her, a suspected witch, through the olden days woods. The scene where she’s having ‘the devil’s skin’ excised from her leg was so real and powerful that I ended up feeling quite queasy while watching it. There’s something quite sick-making about people’s skin, teeth and nails when you see them up-close in films.

Michele Dotrice is actually a brilliant horror actress, as well as being a great comedienne too. She co-stars with Pamela Franklin in one of the best and spookiest horror movies of the period, AND SOON THE DARKNESS (1970), which you should definitely try to watch if you haven’t already seen it.

The long dark wig that Simon Williams (he played a posh toff in drama serial UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS) is wearing, as lovelorn suitor Peter Edmonton, makes him look like a pre-moustache Freddie Mercury. You know, like when he wore the white lycra suit and played the piano in the video for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY? Yeah, back then…!

His girlfriend Rosalind Barton (played by blonde beauty Tamara Ustinov) goes screamingly insane after one night spent in Peter’s aunt’s disused attic room, and is carted off to the lunatic asylum the next day sporting a hideous claw where her right hand should be.

So much for spending the rest of their lives together in married bliss. The aunt, a Mistress Banham, goes missing then, increasing local feeling that something in the village is seriously amiss.

The truly gorgeous Linda Hayden is terrific at playing sexually aware young minxes, who are well aware of the power their bodies and beauty have over mere men, who are visual creatures and easily tempted off the straight and narrow.

Her nude scene, in which she tantalises and teases the mortified Reverend Fallowfield with her delectable wares, would surely make red-blooded male viewers long for the days when women had actual pubic hair.

Seriously, do you know that there’s a whole generation of blokes growing up today who think that women naturally don’t have hair down there? Think about it. You know it’s true. Women today are shaved, waxed, tanned, toned, trimmed, straightened and sanitised almost out of existence. And who’s it all benefiting, anyway? Mainly the grooming industry, as far as I can see.

Here’s a naughty thought. Perhaps some of the Devil’s leftover furry bits from this film could be donated to the women of today who’ve all but forgotten how to grow good honest pubes? We could have a sort of charity drive or something, you know, the way people do.

As well as the horrible public rape, the film also features the attempted drowning of a witch.

‘If she swims, she’s a witch!’

‘Yeah, but if she drowns, you’ve done her murder…!’

The way the perpetrators shrug and slink away, unconcerned for the unconscious women they’ve flung into the river, is terrible to witness. I believe it was fairly typical behaviour, however, of the kind of people in those days who went round accusing innocent women of witchcraft and being a witch, just for their own amusement, or for other petty motives, like revenge or maybe coveting that person’s property, and hoping you might come in for it once the rightful owner is deceased. Awful, isn’t it?

How they ever managed to stand in a village square with their friends and neighbours and watch a human female, someone they knew, and maybe even liked or respected, hang or burn to death is beyond mine, and most peoples’, comprehension.

The ruined church and creepy woods are tremendously atmospheric, as is the weird and eerie soundtrack. The way the devil is ‘assembling’ himself piece by piece, with the help of his warped young congregation, is also quite ingenious. Donate a limb and help Satan, there’s a good fellow (or lady)…!

The film is similar to a Hammer film and yet somehow much, much darker, with a vein of genuine evil running through it. It’s as good an example of vintage British folk horror as, say, THE WICKER MAN (1973), and maybe one of the best British horror films ever made, full stop.

Au revoir, horror buddies, until we meet again.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

THE RITUAL. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

 

ritual effigy

THE RITUAL. (2017) BASED ON THE NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY ADAM NEVILL. DIRECTED BY DAVID BRUCKNER. STARRING RAFE SPALL, ARSHER ALI, ROBERT JAMES-COLLIER AND SAM TROUGHTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this one, a genuinely spooky folk horror set in rural Sweden but filmed in Romania. It’s kind of like THE BLAIR WITCH, but with adult males instead of excitable and impressionable teenagers.

The effect of this was to make the film’s concept even more scary, I thought, because when adult males are fleeing in terror from something, then you damn well better flee too, lol, ’cause it means that something bad is coming.

So, we’ve got our four lads anyway, Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch, Phil and Dom, all proper English blokes who’ve been mates since college and who still try to keep up with each other and with their heavy laddish boozing, even though they all seem to have wives and kids at home.

They’re planning a lads’ holiday when we first meet them. They’re even mentioning Ibiza as a possible destination, which is a bit ridiculous as the kids who go to Ibiza would all regard these four lads as pipe-and-slippers-category auld fellas. Go home to your cocoa, Grandad, type of thing.

In the end, the lads go to Sweden on a very out-of-character outdoorsy hiking holiday, to honour one of their original five who has died a horrible death in an off-licence hold-up.

Luke, who was involved in the same hold-up, is suffering from terrible survivors’ guilt, and he’s also guilty because his own instinct to survive saw him not coming to the aid of his chum. The remaining lads seem also to be harbouring a grudge against Luke for not saving their mate, so some of these resentments may come vomiting out of them later.

They leave a touching memorial to their fallen comrade on a rain-washed Swedish hillside, then they promptly get lost in the forest, miles from civilisation, because they think that cutting through the woods for a short-cut on the way to the lodge they’ve booked into is a good idea.

Come again? A short-cut through the deserted woods in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night, a good idea…? That’s bound to turn out well, eh, fellow horror fans…? Jesus H. Christ, lol. Are these men or weak-witted morons?

The abandoned ‘cabin in the woods’ in which they spend their first night of being lost makes the Blair Witch house look welcoming. It makes it look like your granny’s house when you went there on holiday as a kid and you knew she was baking up a storm to prepare for your arrival.

Or your own little bed after a night on the lash fuelled by cider and onion rings that’s ended in disgrace as you puke in the taxi and arrive home wasted and without your knickers. I’ve never done that myself, of course, but it just seems like the kind of awful thing that might happen to people. Other people, naturally. Not to me. Never to me. Ahem. Let’s move on…

The cabin is dark, damp, cold, gloomy, sinister, deserted, unliveable-in, and that’s just the downstairs. Upstairs is a hideous humanoid effigy with no head and antlers for hands, but which self-respecting cabin in the woods hasn’t got one of these, especially in Nordic climes? You can get them from IKEA and assemble them yourself, shure…!

The effigy has a very strange, very unsettling effect on the four lads. After a night spent in its malevolent company, they’re all having nightmares or experiencing nightmarish flashbacks to terrible events, eg, it gets into Luke’s head and so poor Luke is being constantly dragged back to that awful night in the off-licence where his mate Rob was brutally slaughtered. They need to get out of the cabin, and out of the woods which stretch for literally miles around, as soon as is humanly possible.

It’s when they’re fleeing through the woods that they discover that whatever was affecting them in the cabin is still with them. (‘Yes Bart, I never left you…!’ Hugo to Bart, THE THING AND I, THE SIMPSONS’ TREEHOUSE OF HORROR, Episode 7) Only it seems bigger, much bigger now, and it makes rustling noises in the trees (which, incidentally, are carved all over in mysterious, runic-looking symbols) as it approaches and it seems like very much a real and physical thing that the lads need to run from. Before it catches them, and kills them…

I was a tiny bit disappointed with the ending but otherwise, this is a perfectly acceptable horror film with some really spooky moments in it. The Swedish scenery and those miles and miles of isolated forestry are all staggeringly beautiful to look at, until you come to the credits and see that it says there: Filmed in Romania.

So, is this Romanian scenery we’ve been admiring then, or is it Swedish scenery? Never having been to either country, I haven’t a clue, but it’s a gorgeous-looking film either way, and one you should check out if you get the chance. Tell ’em Loki sentcha…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE WICKER MAN… BUT NOT THE GOOD ONE! THE 2006 RE-MAKE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE WICKER MAN. (2006) BASED ON A SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY ANTHONY SHAFFER AND THE 1967 NOVEL ‘RITUAL’ BY DAVID PINNER. DIRECTED BY NEIL LABUTE.

STARRING NICOLAS CAGE, ELLEN BURSTYN, KATE BEAHAN, FRANCES CONROY, MOLLY PARKER, LEELEE SOBIESKI AND DIANE DELANO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I can tell what she sees in you. A kind of rough potential…’

‘Step away from the bike…!’

‘Not the bees…!’

Nicolas Cage on the re-make: “There is a mischievous mind at work on The Wicker Man, you know? You know what I mean? And I finally kind of said, ‘I might have known that the movie was meant to be absurd.’ But saying that now after the fact is OK, but to say it before the fact is not, because you have to let the movie have its own life.”

Christopher Lee on the re-make: “I don’t believe in remakes. You can make a follow-up to a film, but to remake a movie with such history and success just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The 1973 WICKER MAN, on which this film is based, is one of the best British horror films ever made. Starring Christopher Lee as the eccentric and charismatic Lord Summerisle and Edward Woodward as Sergeant Neil Howie, it tells the story of a prim and proper Christian copper- Howie- visiting a pagan island off the coast of Scotland to search for a missing child.

Once on the island of Summerisle, with its close-mouthed and strange inhabitants leading him a merry dance for most of the film, he discovers the real reason behind his mysterious summons to the out-of-the-way place. Therein lies the horror, the kind of real lasting horror that outlives the mere boogeyman-under-the-bed story.

Nicolas Cage’s re-make of this superb film has not only been deemed unnecessary (I mean, you don’t re-paint the Mona Lisa, do you, or get some hack to re-write Shakespeare’s plays?) but also, erm, if I may say so, diabolical. Diabolically bad, lol.

Personally, I feel rather sorry for poor Nicolas Cage as Edward Malus, as he bumbles around the female-dominated island of Summersisle in his hot heavy city suit (he’s clearly suffering from excessive heat the whole way through the film), making himself look more and more ridiculous in the eyes of the snotty, superior natives. They are really, really mean to him, the bastards. Or should I say bitches…

Edward Malus is a big, burly California cop who, one day right out of the blue, is gobsmacked to receive a letter from his ex-fiancée, Willow Woodward, who dumped him and ran off under mysterious circumstances many moons ago. She lives on Summersisle now, a privately-owned island off Puget Sound in Washington, and it is from here that her daughter Rowan has gone missing. She’s appealing to him because she trusts him and also because he’s a cop, see?

Malus can’t get himself to Summersisle fast enough, so obviously he still has feelings for the anorexically skinny Willow with the moon-face and the bee-stung lips. And they might actually be bee-stung, because the island’s main export is their honey, for which they keep, like, a million bees, to which poor Malus is unfortunately allergic and must keep a shot of adrenaline to hand, just in case.

It’s not the only thing he’s allergic to. He’s also very much allergic to the smart-ass, lying backtalk he gets from the members of the weird, isolated community that resides on the island of Summerisle. From the moment he lands, he is led on the same kind of soul-destroying wild-goose chase we remember from the 1973 original movie.

Who’s Rowan? Rowan is alive, Rowan is dead. I’ve never seen this child before in my life, but lo and behold, here’s her name in the school register. Rowan was burnt to death, Rowan is being held somewhere. Something terrible is going to happen to Rowan and, last but definitely not least, Rowan is your daughter, Edward Malus, and this stirs Edward to action like nothing else could have done.

Round and round he goes in circles, re-tracing- or trying to!- the steps taken by Edward Woodward in the original movie. The tavern is run by the sarcastic and gigantic Sister Beech, who might just possibly maim the gnome-like, poisonous little Alder McGregor for life if she were to accidentally sit on him.

The school is the province of the snooty, smirky Miss Rose, who propagates the same kind of phallocentric ‘filth’ in her class of ‘little liars’ as does Diane Cilento in the original, but this Miss Rose doesn’t run rings around the bamboozled copper with the same panache with which Diane Cilento does it. Diane Cilento was the kind of mature sexpot who would eat Edward Malus- and Nic Cage!- for breakfast, lol.

Then, of course, there’s the obligatory trip across the island to meet the boss of the whole kit and kaboodle, the smilingly enigmatic Sister Summersisle whom poor Malus just can’t fathom out at all, with all her ‘Goddess of the Island’ gibberish that Malus can’t quite believe he’s hearing spouted in the twenty-first century. (She’s played by Ellen Burstyn, Regan’s mom in THE EXORCIST, by the way, so there’s no questioning her horror pedigree.)

She even takes him on the obligatory tour of the grounds on which she gives him a potted history of her ancestors and their wacko beliefs and how they came to be keeping bees on Summersisle. It doesn’t measure up to Christopher Lee’s immaculately sardonic and memorable sound-bites in the slighest: ‘A heathen, conceivably, but not, I trust, an unenlightened one…’

There’s the visit to the offices of the doctor-cum-photographer, who takes the pictures of the harvest festivals every year (I liked Frances Conroy as Dr. Moss; she was possibly my favourite character in a film in which you’re not exactly spoiled for choice), and the house-to-house search of the island that reveals nothing near as elegant as the gorgeous Ingrid Pitt, resplendently nude in her hip-bath. Nic Cage’s normally fairly wooden acting (sorry, Nic!) is ridiculously over-the-top in places, which kind of gives the film a comedic value the film-makers probably didn’t intend it to have.

There’s a bit more violence against Malus’s person in the climactic scenes than in the original, as the twisted islanders make full use of his allergy to bees, and they decide to break his legs as well into the bargain to incapacitate him (My God, weren’t the bees enough???), but the climax- the procession, the chase, the walk to the Wicker Man- lacks the fantastic atmosphere and high drama of the original film, even if it does try to replicate the ending.

But the ending of the 1973 WICKER MAN could, quite simply, never be replicated. When the burning head topples majestically while the sun sinking over the ocean is itself a huge ball of fire, and then the words British Lion come up and the credits as well, I get shivers down my spine every time that don’t stop until the screen has gone blank. That ending is legendary. You can try to emulate it, if you wish, but you’ll never repeat what cannot be repeated.

Of course, the marvellous music is also a substantial part of what makes the 1973 film what it is, and this 2006 version obviously doesn’t have that advantage. On the other hand, the 1973 film doesn’t have Nic Cage dressed as a rather shabby-looking bear, for some reason, or Nic Cage punching three women in the face and karate-kicking one of them, or Nic Cage in what I believe to be the funniest scene in the whole movie, the one where he’s pointing a gun at a schoolmarm on a bicycle and shouting in typical heavy-handed California-cop fashion: ‘Step away from the bike…!’ It also doesn’t have the Evil Twins from THE SHINING in it, horribly aged to resemble hideous old crones, lol. So there you are, it’s all swings and roundabouts with these things, isn’t it?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE WICKER MAN. (1973) BRITAIN’S BEST HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

wicker man chop

THE WICKER MAN. (1973) DISTRIBUTED BY BRITISH LION FILMS. SCREENPLAY BY ANTHONY SCHAFFER. INSPIRED BY DAVID PINNER’S 1967 NOVEL ‘RITUAL.’

PRODUCED BY PETER SNELL. DIRECTED BY ROBIN HARDY. MUSIC BY PAUL GIOVANNI. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY HARRY WAXMAN.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, BRITT EKLAND, INGRID PITT, DIANE CILENTO AND EDWARD WOODWARD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Welcome, Fool. You have come of your own free will to the appointed place. The game’s over.’

‘Oh Sergeant. You’ll just never understand the true nature of sacrifice.’

‘Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.’

‘Here comes the chopper to chop off your head…’

‘And now for our more dreadful sacrifice…’

‘We carry death out of the village!’

‘That’ll make you sleep, my pretty Sergeant.’

This is a superior cult horror film by anyone’s standards. It’s deemed by many to be the best British horror film ever made- I concur- and legendary actor Christopher Lee is said to consider his performance as Lord Summerisle in the cult movie to be his finest. I graciously concur once more.

Mark Kermode, esteemed and delicious film critic, loves this film. Ditto moi-même. If I sat here for a thousand years, I couldn’t think of anything derogatory to say about the film, so yes, my review will be nothing more than a great big love-in, lol. Read on if that’s your thing.

Flawless performances by a superior cast make for mesmerising viewing. Edward Woodward of CALLAN fame plays Sergeant Neil Howie, a straight-laced, upright Christian police officer who travels to the nearby Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a report of a missing child called Rowan Morrison from an anonymous source.

To the tune of ‘Corn Rigs’ by Paul Giovanni, Howie flies in the police seaplane over the bit of sea separating the Scottish mainland from Summerisle. (The movie was filmed in Dumfries in Scotland.) The green and rocky land looks like it hasn’t been inhabited since the time of the Druids. You immediately get the sense that something special- and dreadful- is going to happen here.

The old lads who greet Howie at the harbour are just brilliant. I wonder if they were actors or locals, some of which might well have been. ‘Have you lost your bearings, sir?’

Howie passes the photo of Rowan Morrison around amongst them and they hem-and-haw and reach into inside pockets for spectacle cases and say they’ve never seen the ‘gerril’ before in their lives, before eventually admitting that they do have a May Morrison on the island. She ‘keeps the Post Office in the High Street.’ ‘That’s not May’s daughter, though…!’

The motherly May Morrison does indeed preside over the Post Office-cum-sweet shop, whose window is filled with chocolate March hares and curious-looking cakes baked to commemorate God-knows-what kind of strange celebrations.

May is adamant that the girl in the picture is not her daughter and her ‘real’ little daughter Myrtle says that Rowan is, in fact, a hare, who ‘has a lovely time. She runs and plays in the fields all day long.’

The people of Summerisle are a mighty strange bunch in general and immediately set about leading poor old Sergeant Howie on a merry dance/wild goose chase. He is fed any number of conflicting snippets of information about Rowan Morrison, the supposedly missing child, which frustrate him no end and eventually cause him to doubt the veracity of anything he is told by these weird, insular people.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Howie is bewildered and befuddled by the apparent lack of any morals or good Christian values on the heathen island of Summerisle. Men and women engage openly in a sexual free-for-all that mortifies and horrifies the virginal Sergeant.

Men and women copulate openly on the village green at night. In the Green Man pub, where Howie is billeted for the duration of his fateful two-night stay, the regulars sing bawdy songs like ‘The Landlord’s Daughter,’ which are simply peppered with outrageous sexual innuendo.

Virginal young men are sent to the bedroom of Willow McGregor, the actual landlord’s daughter, for sexual deflowering and initiation. Gently now, Johnny! No-one, not the villagers, not even Alder McGregor, her gnome-like little father, bats an eye at such flagrantly unabashed conduct.

You see, the islanders on Summerisle worship what they call ‘the old gods,’ the gods of the sun and the gods of the sea and the goddess of the fields, and they don’t attend any kind of church services, even supposing they had any working churches in which to hold them. Their churches are in ruins and their grounds allowed to run wild. ‘Minister?’ repeats the Old Grave-digger-Gardener incredulously, before lapsing into mad fits of laughter at Howie’s ignorance.

There is a deliciously pagan feel to the film that quite simply transports the viewer back a thousand years to more primitive, godless ancient times. Young women, under the supervision of Miss Rose the school-teacher, dance naked around open fires in the hopes of being made fertile. (‘They do love their divinity lessons…’)

Schoolchildren- Miss Rose again!- are taught to ‘venerate the penis’ because that is the source of all life. Makes sense, I suppose, but do they have to rub it in like that? The islanders are encouraged to ‘appease’ their gods with sacrifices in order to ensure a plentiful harvest of apples, the main source of industry and income on Summerisle.

Howie has a big spat with Miss Rose about the way the schoolchildren are taught such things. She succeeds in completely bamboozling him with her skilful double-talk and innuendo and the clever way she has of never fully answering any of his questions. He becomes quite frustrated with her, and she’s not the only islander to so flummox him.

The people in the pub, as well as the good folks down at the school, swear they’ve never seen hide nor hair of a person called Rowan Morrison. The Old Grave-digger-Gardener says that the piece of skin hanging over one of the graves is ‘the poor wee lass’s (Rowan’s) navel-string,’ and ‘where else would it be but hung on her own little tree?’ The doctor who filled out Rowan’s death certificate says she was ‘burnt to death, like my lunch will be if I stand here talking to you.’

So, does Rowan Morrison exist or does she not? Do the villagers know her or not? Did she die or did she not? Is she buried somewhere or is she not? Howie rightly feels like he’s going insane. Everywhere he turns, he finds conflicting information. Come to that, did last year’s crops fail or did they not? And what does that have to do with the missing girl?

Christopher Lee puts on a show-stopping performance as the devastatingly handsome and aristocratic Lord Summerisle, lord of all he surveys and unquestioned leader of his people.

He is perfectly supported by three beautiful blonde females in the shape of Diane Cilento as Miss Rose, Ingrid Pitt as the Librarian and Britt Ekland as Willow McGregor. Ask Britt what she thought of the weather in Dumfries during the shooting of the film, by the way. Go on, ask her!

Lord Summerisle, tall and wild-haired and obviously sexually charismatic, condones all the naked dancing-over-fires and sexual permissiveness on the island. ‘Have these children never heard of Jesus?’ a horrified Howie demands of him.

Howie is quite simply flabbergasted by all the ‘fake biology’ and ‘fake religion’ and the bizarre Celtic paganism he observes going on around him. He won’t get any joy from Lord Summerisle. Jesus? ‘Himself the son of a virgin, impregnated, I believe, by a ghost.’ The strait-laced Howie nearly explodes with anger.

You’ll find out exactly what Lord Summerisle thinks of Howie’s devotion to the Christian religion in his monologue- ‘I think I could turn and live with animals’- outside Willow’s bedroom window while the snails are copulating.

This scene was butchered for the original theatrical release and Christopher Lee was rightly angry about this because the lazy, languorous, almost sensuous movement of the snails on the stalks exactly mirrors those of Willow and Ash Buchanan and is a metaphor for their off-camera coupling, which we hear but don’t see.

Lord Summerisle’s grandfather was the man who, in Victorian times, first grew the famous Summerisle apples on the island, availing himself of the handy soil conditions and the warm Gulf Stream to do so.

He was also the man who brought back ‘the old gods’ to the people, the gods of nature, and now Lord Summerisle carries on the tradition with all the gusto of his male ancestor. Nature is acting up, is she, getting all pissy? Chuck her a sacrifice. A chicken, a keg of ale, a human being, depending on the severity of the crisis.

Are you beginning to see where this is going? The horror mounts as the all-important Mayday celebrations approach and, by the time Sergeant Howie finally discovers exactly why he’s been summoned to Summerisle, the viewer is staring wide-eyed at the screen, appalled both at the poor man’s fate and at the knowledge that he’s not the first to which such things have happened and he may not even be the last.

The lead actors and actresses are wonderful, but the villagers are all so memorable too. The mighty Oak, who thrusts and dry-humps behind the petite blonde Willow during the pub rendition of ‘The Landlord’s Daughter.’

The harbour-master who from the outset proclaims himself as completely untrustworthy. The gentle, mild-mannered little Apothecary, who can’t remember if the ‘gerril’ in last year’s harvest festival was Rowan or not.

The hairdresser, whose blank but smug stare at Howie during his house-to-house search proclaims that she knows way more about Rowan Morrison than she’s letting on. Broome, the laird’s smirking manservant. The schoolteacher, who sings lewd songs about procreation to his pupils.

And, of course, we have the head-wrecking May Morrison herself, who might or might not be party to the terrible fate in store for her daughter, Rowan. If she’s even May’s daughter, that is. Howie still doesn’t know.

I can’t finish without mentioning Willow’s Dance, the one that’s designed to seduce the sexually uptight Howie, who’s still a virgin, if you please, despite the fact that he’s engaged to a nice wee girl from his church called Mary. ‘She’ll spend more time on her knees in church than on her back in bed…!’ That’s only the postman’s opinion, of course, lol. You don’t want to listen to him.

Howie is sorely tempted by Willow’s wild naked dancing. ‘How a maid can milk a bull, and every stroke a bucketful…’ He suffers agonies of temptation, in fact. Britt Ekland, whose Scandinavian accent was dubbed in the film, apparently only agreed to being topless in this iconic dance scene, but a body double was used for the lower body without her knowledge. To this day, she won’t sign photos of that other woman’s ‘big fat ass…!’

My favourite scenes? Howie in the deserted and decaying churchyard, fashioning a rough cross out of two sticks, watched by a breastfeeding young mother. Christopher Lee expertly playing a few bars of piano music while Miss Rose’s girls jump naked over the fire.

Howie doing his house-to-house search and ‘accidentally’ coming upon the truly beautiful Ingrid Pitt in her bath. Lord Summerisle prancing and cavorting down the road in his Cher wig and Laird-issue sneakers as if he were born to do it.

The swordsmen cavorting in the final, dreadful procession. Britt and Ingrid ‘anointing’ a shell-shocked Howie with their long hair. The first terrible sighting of You-Know-Who. The singing and swaying at the end. The huge structure collapsing into the sea while the blazing red sun goes down.

A word about the fabulous, fabulous music. Performed by the specially-formed folk-rock group Magnet, it’s seriously sexy and complements the action beautifully. I’m being totally serious when I say that I can never hear the opening strains of ‘Gently, Johnny’ without wanting to rip all my own clothes off and engage in the wildest, hottest, most primeval sexual activity imaginable with Christopher Lee. Ahem. Just watch the film. You’ll see what I mean…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor