The screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, inspired by David Pinner‘s 1967 novel Ritual, centres on the visit of Police Sergeant Neil Howie to the isolated island of Summerisle, in search of a missing girl Rowan, about whom he has received an anonymous letter. Howie, a devout Christian, is appalled to find that the inhabitants of the island have abandoned Christianity and now practise a form of Celtic paganism.
They copulate openly in the fields, include children as part of the May Day celebrations, teach children of the phallic association of the maypole, and place toads in their mouths to cure sore throats. The Islanders, including Rowan’s own mother, appear to be attempting to thwart his investigation by claiming that Rowan never existed.
Film magazine Cinefantastique described it as “The Citizen Kane of horror movies”, and in 2004 Total Film magazine named The Wicker Man the sixth greatest British film of all time.
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