Chasing ‘The Wicker Man’: ‘Midsommar’ and Five Other 2010s Films About Secret Cults and Human Sacrifice
Posted on Monday, October 7th, 2019 by Joshua Meyer
Since 1973, various horror films have tried to replicate the shock of the prototypical human sacrifice movie, The Wicker Man (not to be confused with its gonzo 2006 remake, starring Nicolas Cage, which is perhaps best remembered for the immortal, memeified line, “Not the bees!”) Even the late Robin Hardy, director of the original Wicker Man, went back to the well in 2011 with The Wicker Tree. Most movies, including that one, have failed to recapture the terror of the iconic moment when the protagonist turned sacrificial victim burns alive, surrounded by cult members. However, the 2010s have been bookended by a number of interesting horror films, each of which has managed to reframe the Wicker Man model in different ways.
One of those films, Midsommar, hits Blu-Ray on October 8. Writer-director Ari Aster has called Midsommar “an apocalyptic break-up movie.” Speaking with Empire, he talked about how he tried to avoid The Wicker Man‘s influence, saying, “I think what [Midsommar] tries to do is point to The Wicker Man and set up expectations native to that film, then take a left-turn from there and go somewhere surprising.”
That’s a quote that could apply to other films on this list, too. Of course, this man made of wicker is not escaped easily. In some ways, he’s like the Gingerbread Man: every horror movie that deals in similar tropes seems to be chasing him. Here, we’ll chase The Wicker Man back through his own movie, then back through Midsommar and five other horror films of the 2010s. How have recent fright flicks approached the timeless subject of secret cults and human sacrifice?