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The Wicker Man


Year: 1973 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Robin Hardy 
Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento  
An image from The Wicker Man

Before the daylight terror of Midsommar, there was The Wicker Man - a film steeped in low-key British tradition, what’s now known as ‘folk horror’. Released in the good old days of double bills, this was released as the supporting feature with Don’t Look Now; it remains incredible how two of the most iconic and influential members of the British genre canon came out alongside each other. And they speak to similar themes too: the fear of one’s moral code being shaken and destroyed.

Edward Woodward plays Sergeant Howie, a policeman who leaves his Scottish home for a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a little girl. Upon arriving, he finds that the island has abandoned the Christian traditions he holds dear in favour of the Celtic pagan beliefs of its leader, Lord Summerisle: a grand Christopher Lee. Howie’s shock at the rituals he finds is crucial, as he must sort through his own hang-ups while finding the relevant clues for his case. But it’s all leading to the terrifying, titular encounter, which once seen - even after the remake - won’t be forgotten.


A great cult classic of British horror, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man is an unsettling and thought-provoking picture that shattered many cinematic conventions upon its 1973 release. With a paedophilic sub-plot, sinister rituals and an ending as far away from happy as you can get, the film really lives up to its occult reputation.

Our hero is Sergeant Neil Howie of the West Highland Police, a devout Christian and a virgin who is sent to investigate reports of a missing girl, Rowan Morrison, on Summerisle; a remote Scottish island famed for its unusually abundant fruit produce. He soon realises that this place harbours a dark, disturbing society which has renounced Christianity in favour of ancient pagan fertility rites. Children are taught about phallic imagery in schools, toads are used to cure whooping cough, and graveyards are deconsecrated for re-incarnation rituals. In the face of religious and moral adversity, Neil must endure the islands ill-omened customs and unearth the true nature of Rowan’s disappearance.

The true strength of The Wicker Man lies in its ominous tone, which is maintained by a solely nihilistic attitude to religion as well Christopher Lee’s potent performance as the sinister Lord Summerisle. While you may smile at the sight of early 70’s nudity there is still a genuine fear, heightened by the ever foreboding slow-burning pace of the narrative. This ultimately concludes with a resolutely downbeat but inspired final sequence that will haunt your sub-conscious for years to come.

Liam Johnston

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Screenings of this film:

2013/2014 Spring Term (digital)
2015/2016 Spring Term (digital)
2022/2023 Autumn Term (digital)