CLASSIC horror movie The Wicker Man is getting an outside airing at Compton Verney.
The historic park at the will provide a dramatic backdrop for a screening of the 1973 cult chiller on
in Capability Brown’s avenue of Wellingtonia trees Friday May 19, from 8.30pm.
Set on a remote Scottish island lairded over by the incomparable Christopher Lee, the film strands the viewer – and young policeman Edward Woodward – among a neo-pagan community where blood sacrifice, passion and lust collide in the mist.
At the time of its release, The Wicker Man was remarkable for not following the path of British horror’s usual preoccupations.
Partly it was the spirit of the early 1970s and a hippy vibe is evident in the film, even down to the colour.
Director Robert Hardy’s film remains a unique and compelling piece of rustic horror that avoids gratuitous scares and gore, but is laden with tension and not a little eroticism.
Compton Verney’s timely screening coincides with its major summer exhibition Creating the Countryside echoes the underlying theme of the film: man struggling with the natural world, which may overwhelm and crush him.
Indeed, Woodward’s Christian police sergeant Howie meets a grisly end whilst investigating the disappearance of a young girl on the island.
Throughout the film Howie encounters kindly but eccentric villagers – led by Lee’s character, the patriarchal Lord Summerisle – who frustrate his religious convictions, and he begins to suspect that their pagan practices belie a far more sinister truth.
For years after its original release The Wicker Man was lauded as “the Citizen Kane of horror movies” – a reputation that has continued to magnify over successive decades.
In his survey of British horror cinema for the BBC, the actor and writer Mark Gatiss – a self-confessed horror geek and one of the creators and stars of the BBC’s The League of Gentlemen and Sherlock – said that The Wicker Man is responsible for creating the sub-genre of ‘folk horror’. Exemplified by films such as The Witchfinder General (1968), the genre brings to the fore the essential eeriness of the British landscape – leaving its protagonists at best alienated, at worst
vanquished by its ancient, bewitching power.
Simon Costin from the Museum of Folklore will introduce the film in Compton Verney’s Welcome Centre, prior to the screening outside.
“It’s the perfect night out for horror fans,” says Compton Verney’s Director Professor Steven Parissien. “The film will be shown from 9pm, when the moon is out and the dark night is upon us. You’ll be surrounded by the landscape, with the wind rustling through the trees and the shriek of foxes adding to the atmosphere.”
Pre-movie snacks and drinks will be available to purchase prior to the screening, but film-goers are reminded to bring their own seats and blankets to keep warm, should there be an extra chill in the night air.
Tickets, prived £16, are available by calling 01926 645 500. The Wicker Man has a 15+ rating.
Visit www.comptonverney.org.uk for further details.