The Wicker Man (2006)
Mateo Keegan Burbano
4 October 2019
This is a Neil LaBute film?!?! It’s hard to believe this is the same director behind the incredible In the Company of Men (1997) and the Shape of Things (2003). Looking at LaBute’s IMDB page, and the string of turds he’s put out lately, it’s less of a surprise that he’d be the director of this unnecessary, unwanted Wicker Man remake. At least LaBute‘s involvement explains Aaron Eckhart’s cameo in the first minute of the film.
The initial setup remains largely the same as the original film. Edward Malus, a law enforcement officer, played by Nicholas Cage, is drawn into finding the missing daughter of an old ex. The search leads him to the remote, little known about, private island of Summer’s Isle. When he arrives, he’s met by a group of hostile women in Amish attire. These women give Edward about as warm a reception as everyone else he meets on the island. They make it clear he isn’t welcome in their close community. If only whoever heard the pitch for this movie had acted in the same way.
Plenty of trash has been talked about this film. For some, the remake falls into the category of being so bad that it’s entertainingly good. Anyone who has seen the amazing original The Wicker Man (1973), will know all the big twists of the remake. A change of accents and location isn’t enough to justify the film’s existence. Without any tension, the only joy the film affords is watching Cage’s awkward acting choices. His interactions with the other characters are uncomfortably weird. He bumbles and crashes about the island in a blind rage, resulting in many scenes of unintentional slapstick comedy.
The character interactions seem filmed with a goal of adding to the film’s tension and eeriness, and to explain Edward’s mounting frustration and anger. Conflict is meant to arise from simple misunderstandings and miscommunications. These techniques could work a lead actor with a more organic, minimalist style, but not with bellowing, eyes-bulging, Nic Cage in full rage meltdown. Due to Cage’s performance, Edward comes across as confused and histrionic, while the islanders seem mostly annoyed in their dealings with him. This results in the performances feeling forced and too self-aware. The characters all seem to be looking past each other as they read their next line off a cue card and wait for Cage to leave.
The film ends with the required twists, reversals, and betrayals. There’s some overworked harvesting and bee-keeping metaphors and symbols that don’t really add much to the film. There are also some weird comments about gender relations with an underdeveloped thesis about the violent cruelty of womenkind. Cage unleashes such brutal jump kicks and face punches to the island’s women that it makes Tarantino’s treatment of women in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) look chivalrous. For some reason, the version of the film I watched on HBO GO cuts the visuals of the torture scene, including the infamous bee scene, that occurs after Edward is captured by the island’s inhabitants. The titular Wicker Man makes his appearance. (SPOILERS!) The film ends with the visiting village idiot sacrificed to the bee god or whatever the fuck the islanders worship, and the cycle begins again as two of the women leave the island to recruit new sacrifices. Overall, the film is badly acted and the plot is pedestrian. I’d take a basket filled with bees over my head any day over watching this film again.
1 out of 5 Nic Cage Meme Face
The Wicker Man is available to rent, if you really hate yourself.