The final country for Around the World in 31 Days of Horror is the United Kingdom. I think that I’ve done the United States a lot so it gets a pass this year. The British film industry started with the birth of movies and the horror genre appeared early on in several short silent films like the 1897 British remake of Georges Méliès’ The Haunted Castle. It had a huge resurgence in the 1950’s and ’60s when Hammer Studios started producing their own versions of the classic movie monsters.
Throughout the years there have been many classic horror movies made in the U.K. that I’ve featured on previous 31 Days of Horror. Awesome films like The Ghoul, Hellraiser, The Gorgon, Don’t Look Now, Night of the Demon, Peeping Tom, Frenzy, Paranoiac, The Descent, X The Unknown, Twins of Evil, The Devil Rides Out, Dead of Night, Fiend Without a Face, The Innocents. 28 Days Later, Vampire Circus, The Abominable Snowman, The Quatermass Xperiment, Dog Soldiers and The Haunting.
To celebrate a pagan holiday today’s film is the brilliant cult pagan classic The Wicker Man (1973). It’s directed by Robin Hardy who didn’t direct much after making this film, although he did recently make a sequel / remake called The Wicker Tree. It wasn’t nearly as good as the original but it was still a thousand times better than the really crappy American remake starring Nicolas Cage.
Edward Woodward is cop who is summoned to the small island of Summerisle to investigate a missing persons case. A young girl has been missing for months but the local residents seem not to really notice or care when Woodward starts investigating. The islanders all worship pagan deities much to the chagrin of devout Christian Woodward. The island leader Lord Summerisle aka Christopher Lee is proud of the island’s ability to grow fruit that his grandfather created and who also converted the island to paganism. Woodward starts to believe that the missing girl was murdered in a pagan ritual and tries to get to the bottom of the mystery. If you know nothing about the film, there’s a few twists and awesome ending. Unfortunately the ending always seems to get spoiled in trailers and advertising.
The movie was severely cut before it was released and Hardy’s original cut seems to be lost forever. There have been several attempts to locate the complete version but after 40 years, it seems to be a lost cause. An older cut was found in the U.S. recently containing a 92 minute version that was released in 1979. This version has been restored and it was re-released in England in September. If you haven’t seen the film before it hasn’t looked better except for when it was first released.