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FrightFest 2011: The Wicker Tree reaction

Nearly 40 years on, The Wicker Man has finally branched into a franchise with sort-of sequel The Wicker Tree .

Introducing his follow-up to the 1973 classic, writer/director Robin Hardy told FrightFesters not to expect “a conventional horror film”.

Sadly, he was on the mark insofar as Tree isn’t a scary movie.

It’s closer, in fact, to the 2006 Nic Cage debacle; albeit less funny, for all its attempts to find the fun in fundamentalism.

This time out, instead of Edward Woodward’s devout copper, we have Britannia Nicol’s devout pop idol Beth, a US country warbler intent on spreading the good word among “the lost people of Scotland”.

She’s accompanied on her mission by cowboy-hatted fiancé Steve (Henry Garrett), who’s first to discover the locals’ strange sense of hospitality.

Adapting his own novel Cowboys For Christ , Hardy pitches the tone broad from the off.

Every now and then he lands a laugh – a subtitled sex scene; a pop video hinting at Beth’s less than lily-white past.

But the giggles aren’t big or frequent enough to distract from the near-absence of momentum or intrigue; where many a horror sequel ( Gremlins 2, Evil Dead 2 ) has pulled off self-parody, this one is more self-defeating.

A brief, flashback-framed cameo from Christopher Lee adds much-needed gravitas, while the climax – inevitably involving another burning effigy – finally sparks up a memorable image or two.

Alas, it’s too little, too late – unlike the original, this Wicker Tree has little chance of growing into a cult.