The surreal soundtrack to The Wicker Man was the product of studio avarice

The influence of “The Wicker Man” soundtrack on contemporary folk musicians and horror movie soundtracks cannot be overstated. Aside from the soundtrack, the film itself served as an original blueprint for the folk horror genre, spawning several locals who took inspiration from Robin Hardy’s film. Take Ari Aster’s daytime horror, “Midsommar,” for example: the film pays a direct homage to the 1973 film, and its final shot is an effective twist on the wicker-burning ritual. Other films, such as “Apostle”, mimic “The Wicker Man” tropes in an overt and brutal way. Meanwhile, the 2006 remake of the 1973 original is disastrously terrible for many reasons.

While “The Wicker Man” has become a cult classic over the years, British Lion didn’t appreciate the film’s innate value at the time. In an interview with The Guardian, music director Gary Carpenter explained how the studio rushed production and cut costs, making the process difficult for those involved in the soundtrack:

“British Lion wanted the film to be made quickly and cheaply, with students playing music to save money. But the Royal College of Music blocked this, saying it would be too disruptive and time-consuming for its students. So they looked at recent graduates instead – and that was me. I was invited to meet Paul Giovanni, who wrote the songs… I told him I could find people who knew the folk music and were cheaper than his top pick, Pentangle.

With an emphasis on using the cheapest talent with a background in folk music, Giovanni and Carpenter worked haphazardly to create a sound that matched the film’s aura. The idea was to create a “semi-mystical occult” soundscape that borrowed from Celtic and Irish folk music traditions. Amazingly, it worked.