Steven Sheehan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Despite never being released in its original state (the Final Cut release from last year was still missing some scenes) the potency of Robin Hardy’s classic has not affected over the forty years since its release. Back in 1973 it was paired on a double bill with Don't Look Now, which would have been enough to send even the most sane person teetering on the edge of their own reality.
Recreating the horrors of times past from within the British isles strikes an unnerving chord seen through the eyes of the stifled Edward Woodward. To think that many of these practises or ideologies were once seen as common place is what brings the surreal nature of the scenes to life so vividly.
It also serves as a microcosm about religious fanaticism both in its more obscure and popular forms. In a sense, Woodward represents the incoming Christianity that changed the belief system in this country. He walks into what he believes to be a morally corrupt system, one that his legal and religious authority cannot be undermined by. Yet as Christmas and Easter were absorbed from old traditions, he begins to sway under the heavy atmosphere brooding around him.
What Hardy manages to do is leave judgement on the islands inhabitants down to the viewer. They celebrate a way of life seemingly out of sync with the modern world. Sergeant Howie himself is a man out of his time which leaves him looking like the rigid authoritarian who has been left behind. Lord Summerisle's ambiguous approach toward the activities on the island reveal that without this way of life, his position would be tenuous. Ensuring the locals continue unchallenged is vital to ensuring the legacy of his family.
The film works just as well as a thriller as it does a horror move. There are fine details that build the layers of intrigue following Sergeant Howie in his search for the young girl Rowan Morrison. As we understand more about the island's beliefs, the more strange and surreal it becomes. The sun looks beautiful over the hills, the locals cherish their natural instincts and death lingers in the air like a plume of smoke.