‘Do sit down, Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent…’
To the utter indifference of the locals, I recently found myself in Creetown, a sleepy town in the Dumfries area of Scotland. A peculiar stag do led me and eight other chaps to Creetown because one of the most famous scenes of The Wicker Man was filmed there. As we stood in the beer garden of that aforementioned pub watching an actual wicker man burn to the ground, I couldn’t help but ponder some of the questionable life choices that had led me to that bizarre moment…
You may ask yourself how on earth a man who claims horror as his favourite film genre has gone through life never having seen The Wicker Man. You may also ask yourself why that same man can’t seem to shave without slicing open his face, or also why he dresses so badly. Well I am that badly-dressed, freshly-wounded, monkey-brained manchild and I will admit that I myself don’t quite understand it either.
The night before the absinthe fuelled burning of our very own wicker man, we had watched Robin Hardy’s cult classic surrounded by crisps and with the smell of airborne excreta stinging our nostrils. Nine drunk men crammed into one room isn’t the most comfortable environment. Despite the questionable conditions, I soon found myself absorbed by the dark surrealism of The Wicker Man and the unforgettable performances at the heart of it.
Edward Woodward is astoundingly convincing as the repressed police sergeant Howie and Christopher Lee is suave and utterly bonkers as his nemesis Lord Summerisle. The rest of the cast are as eccentric and eerie as the various songs that help to move the plot along.
The thing that sets The Wicker Man apart from similar fish out of water fables is the atmosphere. The sheer weight of the menace that lurks behind every corner in Summerisle is almost unbearable as the tension reaches fever pitch through the iconic and haunting ending.
The Wicker Man is a heart-stopping tour de force but it is also a celebration. A celebration of those rural towns and villages that still seem so alien and exotic to those of us that happen to be a city mouse. While their customs may seem strange and their smiles slightly sinister, I can absolutely guarantee that on a Saturday night in Creetown, sporting animals masks and dancing around a homemade wicker man, the weirdest people in the whole damn town were definitely us. And that is a sobering thought.