Xmas break at a party upon which eve a bong made out of a watermelon was passed around like a surreal fruit blimp. The cult movie I then watched which, though the butt of countless jokes, for various reasons (other than intoxication) stayed with me. I mean sure the movie is funny... police dude who looks like Phil Collins' dad gets stuck on pagan island as the sacrificial lamb dupe only to be entrapped by Christopher Lee who wears a skirt... sorry KILT, I know I know I KNOW I am being culturally insensitive again. Damn, those mandatory classes didn't take.
Initially, as a youthful intoxicant, none of the film (other than the campy hilarity) really resonated with me other than I would totally sign up to live on some pagan island and dance around bonfires made out of republicans. What did resonate with me after the years broke my spirit and I had to look at most things with more analysis than before, was the mythological base upon which the film was laid. The lost child and the symbol of the rabbit, the belief in spirits and nature, the historical gore of what Romans describe the wicker man to be... it's not a surprise Christopher Lee sees this as his best film despite the same replaying clip of folk music in the background.
Ok let's face it. Foreign policy. The Brits have their shortcomings. Like cold pork pies, for example, stored for days/hours not in the fridge. I mean how unsanitary is that? And large masses caring about soccer. Lord, I hate American football, but soccer makes our farcical dementia-inducing national pastime actually interesting by comparison. And nobility. How hilarious is that sensationalized borefest descending from the folks who had the most money and land 500 years ago. At least in the states, we call a spade a spade, our nobility being... taaadaaa... the folks with the most money and land, not the Duchess of Cadburlingberrytshire. I mean at least Madonna earned her holdings and title (Queen of Pop, richest pop star), wtf did the Duke of Pisswick do other than fall out of his mum's ass? Note: British women also do not have vaginas, they have "fannys". This has been documented by scientists and pornographers.
NEVERTHELESS the Brits have one thing we poor Colonials do NOT have, and that is a
superwealth of LORE. It just so happens when you have relatively high population of the same folks in the same land for like a thousand years, you get a lot of weird myths and ghost stories because generally speaking, scary shit does down. Eventually, if the US of A doesn't get blown into space, we will be able to scare the marbles out of ourselves on film with ghosts of ancient times other than the Native Americans whose treasure trove of mythos has largely been exploited or ignored. What Brits can do is the eerie thrilling horror tragedy that connects its lineage to tragedies of yore.
*And speaking of yore, note: when I am talking about "The Wicker Man", I am of course referencing the original, not the confused remake starring Nick Cage.
Point being, what made the movie great was the basis of myth. Without that underpinning, all you have is humans doing a bunch of crazy shit to each other. Which we do all the time. A well-meaning police officer who is equally endearing as he is annoying in this tale is subjected to the will of a culture much older and darker than his Christian god, reflecting the clash of religion that came to the British isles and the subsequent wars over which god or gods to believe in. Also you have the hot chick "the landlooord's daughter" singing to the virgin policeman naked through the wall, which is both creepy and funny at the same time. Her song was creatively remixed by "The Sneaker Pimps" if you are a fan of this movie.
The terrifying commonality of old religions (which makes me sort of think it equally
cracked as the new ones) is that the ultimate sacrifice = flesh. That the gods or god may very well be the giver of life and sun and spring, but that there is a dark face of this all-knowing creator that requires of us to give that means the most to us in order to please his/her/their/its will, which for whatever reason is flesh. One may presume that the gods are definitely bar-b-cue fans. In the end, however, you have to confront the dark side of what be humans have believed for thousands of years about forces larger than ourselves. The characters of the island in "The Wicker Man", have resigned themselves and eventually embraced that darkness.
That same black starry river flows underneath "In the Dark Half", even though the stories are poles apart, there is a nocturnal similarity between the two that made me connect them. The plot revolves around this messed up adolescent girl named Marie whose homelife is in tatters and mind is full of fear. Each day she runs to a concrete building in the middle of nowhere to perform various mysterious rituals, the purpose of which we will come to know only as we begin to understand the reasons for her cracked life. She feels that tragedy befalls her primarily... because it does, like how we ask ourselves why Tom Cruise gets a private jet and the folks working to cure diseases and fight wars have to struggle. Living in a low income neighborhood of what appears to be a smallish town, with a basket case for a mother and a crush for an adult single dad nextdoor neighbor, Marie lives in the awkward bracket between childhood and teenagerdom where we don't quite know who we are or even what we feel and almost everyone around us is not what they seem.
Jessica Barden steals the show here: her character's pre-teen unpreparedness for the
sexual or substance conquests of her mates, denial/rebellion against aspects of life we come to accept but initially regard as unfair (because it is), and good heart are stunning. As bad things get worse, this girl faces what many of us avoid for life because the question is too big: is there always such a difference between intuition, and delusion? Yes, we can certainly all define the terms using a dictionary or DSMV but we have all had those moments where we (as Stephen King would put it) "shine" a tad. Moments, feelings, places, acts we cannot explain to anyone. Part of being an adolescent, or rather the part that is terrifying, is the feeling that you are going through this experience alone. While there may indeed be 1000 other kids in your high school, you experience the freshness of love, the intoxication of drugs and/ or sex, the pain of heartbreak and the first sour tastes of the catty cutthroat actual adult world all by yourself. And in those moments, it is up to you to decide what's real, and how to act.
This girl is more alone than most of us, and living in a small town it becomes natural for her to sneak away into the forest, and to manifest herself there. Part of that manifestation is the supernatural, paranormal, occult, or the age-old question: is it just insanity? Note to reader: I ask myself that question all the freakin time.
There are parallels in both of these movies and while I can't say there is a gigantic sacrificial burning man in the end of each, those parallels do speak over the glaring differences in mood and theme. For instance, both begin with the loss of a child and the question of what happened to an innocent person. Both pieces call into question why life has to be so cruel, and what if anything can we do to rectify that cruelty. Parallels of child and adult lessons, the occult, communion with nature, and sacrifice come into play as both tales unravel. In the end, that power of myth and history is there too, lurking and occasionally baring a white tooth or the glint of an eye from just beneath the surface.
Watch "The Wicker Man" first, then this modern piece. Two very different tales with roots in the same old forest.
WTF "The Wicker Man" = 26
W = 10
T = 9
F = 7
WTF "In the Dark Half" = 21
W = 8
T = 7
F = 6