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Wicker Tree, The (Blu-ray / DVD)

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The Wicker Tree on Blu-ray and DVDStarring Brittania Nicol, Henry Garrett, Graham McTavish, Honeysuckle Weeks, Christopher Lee

Directed by Robin Hardy

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment


It’s certainly nothing new to point out that the original Wicker Man is one of the greatest films in the genre we all love. With its brilliant cast, intelligent script, and unconventional musical score, The Wicker Man is the high-water mark for smart, weighty horror films. So why is it, then, that everyone who has attempted to mine its rich ideas and offbeat atmosphere has failed so miserably? First, there was the atrocious Wicker Man remake, which looked fantastic on paper (Neil LaBute! Nicolas Cage! Ellen Burstyn!). And now, we have original Wicker Man director Robin Hardy going back to his own well with The Wicker Tree, and, sadly, finding it mostly dry.

The plot of The Wicker Tree will no doubt sound familiar to fans of the original film – devout Christian, or Christians in this case, find themselves to be fish out of water in a pagan community which treats them well, introduces them to local customs (much to the guests’ discomfort), and then prepares the unwitting for ritual sacrifice. Uneasy chuckles and outright horror ensues.

Unfortunately, in place of Man’s hard-nosed, intelligent man of faith Sergeant Howie, we get dim-witted former pop star/born again Christian Beth Boothby and her just as dim, aw-shucks cowboyfriend Steve. And, in place of Christopher Lee’s iconic and charismatic Lord Summerisle, we get a pale imitation with Sir Lachlan Morrison (to be fair to actor Graham McTavish, who essays the role, I’ll point out that the part is quite underwritten). The film itself follows suit, failing to do little more than to remind us of how great the original film is.

It’s not as though they didn’t have the resources to make a great film. The movie is mostly well shot, with gorgeous locations and scenery, and the cast members all do a decent enough job. If only the script hadn’t failed them so completely. It’s unfair, I suppose, to have expected writing on par with Anthony Shaffer’s brilliant screenplay for the 1973 film. But did every character have to be reduced to shallow stereotypes? One of the many wonderful things about the original film is how murky it all is for the viewer. Our hero occasionally comes across as a bastard! Our villain is a well-spoken, charming guy! There is no such uncomfortable ambiguity with this movie. Our heroes are wide-eyed innocents, while the villains practically rub their hands while giggling maniacally when our leads aren’t looking. And for all of the conversation on the nature of religion in the original film, all we get with Tree amounts to – Christians are naïve, Pagans are evil. How depressingly simple.

Still, as this is meant to be a home video review, I’ll leave you to EvilAndy’s review of the film here for further reading.

The image on Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray and DVD is mostly solid, with the beautiful locations and scenery looking pretty fantastic. It’s only when the photography is a bit dark or murky that the picture fails, looking a bit washed-out with blacks that have little depth. This is likely due to the digital cinematography, rather than the transfer itself. The audio is perfectly solid, neither poor nor outstanding. Of course, if you have the option and see fit to own the film, you’ll likely want to choose the Blu-ray over the DVD.

Now, the special features. While the package isn’t as bereft as Anchor Bay’s release of The Divide, it’s still far from what one would expect for a film with The Wicker Tree’s history (i.e., its place in what Hardy is calling his Wicker Man trilogy, its long and bumpy journey from book to screen, etc.).

Unfortunately, all we get are a rather unspectacular making-of piece running about ten minutes long, a trailer, and a batch of poorly transferred deleted scenes with jerky video and badly synced audio. Anchor Bay, you know I love you, but what the hell?

Still, if you’re a fan of the original film, you know you’re going to want to see this. My only advice is to temper your expectations. It’s certainly not a terrible film, just an unremarkable one. In the meantime we can only hope that Hardy either regains his footing and finishes his Wicker trilogy out on a high note or decides to abandon it completely and leave well enough alone.

Special Features:

  • The Making of The Wicker Tree
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailer

    Film

    2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    2 out of 5

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    American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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    Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

    Directed by Colin Bemis


    Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

    The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

    As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

    Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

    Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

    In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

    On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

    In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

    Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

    • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
    3.5

    Summary

    Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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    Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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    We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

    In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

    Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

    If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

    The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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    Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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    Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

    Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


    Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

    17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

    What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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