Sometimes, a film is just better than it has any right to be.
Through some unknowable alchemy, a story, a director, a cast and a set of circumstances occasionally combine to create something special, against all odds. The Wicker Man’s production was laboured, and its distribution even more so: over the past 40 years the film has been cut and recut, lost, found, and lost again. It spawned both a terrible remake and a terrible sequel.
After all that, it shouldn’t still be brilliant. But it is, and this new release might be the best version of it, too.
Shorter than the Director’s Cut and longer than the Theatrical Cut, the so-called Final Cut retains all of the film’s glorious weirdness while restoring its perverse logic.
If you’ve never seen it before, it might be a bit of a culture-shock. It’s an all-singing, all-shagging mishmash of horror and comedy wrapped around a simple mystery narrative: a child has been reported missing on the remote island of Summerisle, and dour policeman Howie (Edward Woodward) is the only one capable of finding out what happened.
Ultimately it’s a horror film, but there’s very little violence, no jump scares, and most of the action takes place during the day. It’s playful and sometimes even joyous, but it has an unsettling atmosphere that builds and builds to an iconic (and horrifying) climax.
Though the re-mastering is mostly decent, it has unfortunately highlighted a couple of the film’s flaws. The Scottish brogue dubbed over Britt Ekland’s Swedish accent is off-putting even before Ingrid Pitt opens her mouth, and in HD it’s hard not to notice a couple of continuity errors. But who cares? It’s such an audaciously strange film that we should just be glad it exists at all.
Film historians will argue forever over which version of the film is the definitive one, and fans will always hold out hope that one day, those lost reels containing the fabled original cut will resurface. For now, though, this is the best you’re going to get.