The Embers of 50 Years: The Iconic Legacy of The Wicker Man
This iconic film, dubbed “the Citizen Kane of horror films” by Cinefantastique Magazine, starred the legendary Christopher Lee in a role he referred to as his all-time favorite. Beset with production difficulties, its initial disastrous release in the UK eventually inspired an enormous cult following in the US. The Wicker Man spawned a controversial remake in 2006, a tepid sequel in 2011 (The Wicker Tree), and a final film (The Wrath of the Gods) with a Norse-mythology themed story of human sacrifice in a contemporary theme park was planned, but ceased production when director Robin Hardy died in 2016. Erotic, satirical, inventive, relentlessly weird, and truly terrifying, this genre-transcending 1973 film was eventually named one of the “Unholy Trinity” progenitors of the folk horror genre. Its legacy is still seen in contemporary films like The Village, The Ritual, Apostle, Kill List, Midsommar, and Men, and in TV series like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It also had an indelible impact upon the culture of modern pagan witchcraft. Fifty years on, The Wicker Man is still one of the best loved and most influential horror films of all time, with a fascinating and often uncanny history as mysterious as the folklore at the heart of its unforgettable story. This talk will explore the film’s ongoing influence and legacy.
Peg Aloi is a freelance film and TV critic, a former professor of media studies, and co-editor (with Hannah Sanders) of The New Generation Witches: Teenage Witchcraft in Contemporary Culture (Routledge) and Carnivale and the American Grotesque: Critical Essays on the HBO Series (Macfarland). With Hannah she also co-organized two scholarly conferences at Harvard University on paganism, witchcraft and media. Peg’s forthcoming book The Witching Hour: How Witches Enchanted the World is a cultural analysis of the witch in contemporary media. Recently Peg was featured in the documentary film The Witches of Hollywood. She is currently editing a collection of essays for The University of Liverpool Press: Women in Folk Horror: Cradles, Cauldrons, Forests and Blood. Peg was also one of the co-founders of The Witches’ Voice and wrote about film and TV for the site for over a decade, and her long-running blog “The Witching Hour” can now be found on Substack. Peg also works as a professional gardener.
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