The Wicker Man

2 stars


7th September 2006

Remakes are such a common occurrence these days that it's almost futile debating their existence; perhaps the wisest thing would be to accept that they're always going to be around, and figure out exactly what it is that makes a good one. Now, I've not seen the original Wicker Man but understand that it's held in the highest regard by those who have - it's forever being called the best cult film of all time. However, it's obvious that it's also dated badly and is not to everyone's tastes, so it's at least understandable that a remake sounded like a good idea on paper (particularly with new horror concepts in such short supply of late). What is certain is that they hired the wrong man for the job; with director Neil LaBute at the helm, we're left with a misogynistic thriller bereft of thrills, but with more unintentional laughs than any other movie you'll go see this year. Spoilers are obvious but inevitable.

The movie starts with an introduction to Edward Malus (Cage), an unassuming policeman who receives a letter from ex-girlfriend Willow (Beahan), claiming that her daughter Rowan has been abducted and is being kept against her will on the remote island they both live on. Upon arrival, Edward realises he's literally the top knob on the island: Summersisle is completely populated by pagan women and they don't take kindly to his presence. The female inhabitants, led by the mysterious Sister Summersisle (Burstyn), insist they have not seen young Rowan, but the deeper Malus gets, the more he's convinced foul play is afoot. Well duh. Any island full of women who list bee-keeping and laughing at strangers as hobbies are bound to be hiding a few skeletons.

Watching Edward find clues around the island is like watching someone tackling My First Mystery - clues to Rowan's whereabouts are so obvious they might as well come with a huge blinking arrow pointing at them. Examples? Amongst a collection of all of the island's children, one picture frame is broken with the photograph missing... could this be a clue? Upon investigating the local schoolhouse, Malus finds Rowan's name crossed out on the class register - but what could it mean? When checking out the local crypt (always a good place to search for missing people), our poor hero finds a red cardigan with the young girl's initials stitched into the label. Columbo wouldn't break a sweat solving this mystery; Jonathan Creek could probably crack this one in a few hours and be home in time for Neighbours. You'll sit there thinking 'It can't be this dumb, it just can't be,' but it never gets any more exciting than watching an episode of the Press Gang. Questioning the island's teacher, Malus asks of the girl's fate. "She'll burn to death," comes the response. Come again? "She burned to death," is the revised reply. You half expect Edward and Tubbs to burst out of the bushes and start performing a naked pagan ritual.

Whoever hired LaBute obviously does not know the man's work. Your Friends & Neighbours, In The Company Of Men and The Shape of Things... all LaBute films and all feature women either portrayed as cold, glacial ice-bitches or getting ripped to shreds by men, so when Neil piped up in the board meeting and suggested that he changes the inhabitants of Summersisle to women, alarm bells should have started ringing. Now we have Nicolas Cage completely at the mercy of an island of she-devils, a hero who takes great pleasure in slugging chicks in the face (it happens more than once) and quite willing to kick young girls in the chest. When the famous ending reveals itself, with Cage being led away screaming 'You bitches! You bitches!' you simply will not believe what you're seeing. Everyone, and I do mean everyone in possession of a vagina in this movie is demonised. If you don't feel at least a little bit ashamed to have an abundance of Y-chromosomes after this, then you're probably called Neil LaBute. Hey Neil. How's the wife?

The ending, then. Although it was inevitable that it wasn't changed too much (LaBute would have probably been burned alive himself had he tinkered with it), what should be a horrific finale is rendered ridiculous thanks to a dreadful voiceover (during which Edward's legs are comically broken) and some scenes which were aiming for surrealism but come out more like the League of Gentlemen - cue Cage getting chased by CGI bees, running around in a bear costume, punching women in the face and screaming "Killing me isn't going to bring your goddamned honey back!" Besides, today's audience are accustomed to seeing women having their faces blowtorched off (now that's misogyny), so having a gigantic wicker dude as your big reveal isn't quite the shock it once was - it's more a WTF LOL thing than a "Oh God! Oh Jesus Christ!" moment.

Perhaps more fitting would be to have Cage sacrificed in a huge wicker cock, which the bitches of Summersisle burn down and then start pissing on the ashes. It would be no different to what LaBute has done to the essence of the original.

More:  Horror  Thriller  Remake
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