Ronald Hutton
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The context of The Wicker Man
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Lion Productions’ The Wicker Man can claim to be the archetypal folk horror film, with a considerable influence on the whole genre. This essay examines its inspiration, consisting of an image, a book, and a literary tradition. The image is that of the giant wickerwork figure in which ancient Roman writers accused the Druids of burning human sacrifices. This provided the main motif of the film. The book was Sir James Frazer’s Edwardian classic The Golden Bough, a massive compendium of real and alleged human belief and custom. This provided most of the folk rites in the screenplay. The literary tradition was the British one of a modern rural community secretly preserving an ancient (and usually orgiastic and malign) pagan religion. This furnished the setting for the story. This essay explains how each developed, and how the film itself both transcended and reinforced each.

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Folk horror on film

Return of the British repressed


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