Tuesday, March 30, 2010

THE WICKER MAN (2006) - 3/5 stars

Release: 2006
Director: Neil Labute
Writer: Neil Labute, Anthony Shaffer (1973 screenplay)
Cast: Neil LaBute, Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker, Leelee Sobieski, Frances Conroy, Michael Wiseman, Diane Delano, Tania Saulnier, George Murphy, Megan McKinnon
Soundtrack: Angelo Badalamenti
Claim to fame: box office bomb turned internet cult sensation (not unlike "The Room") thanks to Nicolas Cage's inspired performance - "NOT THE BEES! NO, NOT THE BEES!"
Rating: 3/5 stars

The original 1973 "Wicker Man" is a suspenseful, dark, sometimes-musical Protestant horror film that has endured as a cult favorite for decades. It's safe to say that it's a classic.

Neil Labute's 2006 remake is...not. In fact, the only way this movie has found favor with anyone is as a "so bad it's good" stinker of epic proportions.


Sorry folks, this one shot is about as creepy and Lynchian

as "The Wicker Man" remake gets

Neil Labute is a director who's become notorious for his perceived misogynistic tendencies with movies like 1997's "In the Company of Men" and "Your Friends & Neighbors" - films about the sometimes volatile relationships and conflicts that arise between men and women.

Once a controversial bad boy of the indie scene, for the past few years Neil has arguably been slumming it in recent years with mainstream thrillers like "Lakeview Terrace."


Speaking of slumming it, here's Academy Award-winner

Ellen Burstyn frolicking like a total twit

With his "Wicker Man" remake, I get the impression that Labute thought he was actually making an artful, sophisticated thriller that explores the underlying tension between the sexes. It's not. It's a ridiculous movie that moves at an inept pace and features laughably bad performances from actors that should have known better.

If there's any underlying message to be taken away from this movie, it's something like "don't trust little girls" or "bitches are crazy," the latter of which is also at the root of many hip-hop songs - songs that will take up much less of your time than this 102 minute disaster.


The horror genre has well established that

pale, fair-haired children are not to be trusted

Fortunately, into this maelstrom of suck walks Nicolas Cage, an actor who always knows how to give an unhinged, left-of-center performance to liven up even the dullest of proceedings. One senses that Cage is in on the joke, even if Labute is not.

In a recent interview with Ain't-It-Cool-News, Nic even came out and said: "You don’t karate chop Leelee Sobieski in the throat and not know how absurd that is, but it’s just not something I would like to talk about. I would rather let them [the audience] discover it on their own..."


The thing about Nicolas Cage is that you never know if

he's gonna save your movie or tank it - God bless him

As long as you haven't spoiled the most hilarious moments of this film from watching YouTube clips, then I'd say it is worth discovering on your own. Nic really has a hell of a time in this movie: stealing bicycles at gunpoint, having nightmares-within-nightmares, knocking out women left and right, and screaming "You bitches! You bitches!" at the top of his lungs.

And that's just the beginning.


This scene is just a tease of the bee insanity to come

Not say that "The Wicker Man" is good by any stretch of the imagination, but I can watch Nicolas Cage in any kind of movie as long as it's not the sleepwalking, phoning-it-in Cage. Fortunately here we get the insane, frazzled, yelling Cage.

I mean, from the moment strolled into the movie and actually made me laugh with his delivery of the line "Let me see your license and registration," I knew I was in for a good time. If you're a fan, I imagine you'll similarly enjoy this.


What's hilarious is that in this movie the entire concept of the Wicker Man

feels like an afterthought. They should have just quit while they were ahead.

You know, with the bees.

It's safe to say that most everyone involved here is working below themselves. Even Angelo Badalamenti, one of our greatest modern film composers ("Blue Velvet," "Twin Peaks"), delivers a generic 'suspense movie score' that is missing his usual ambient dread and stirring melodies. That said, Badalamenti's music is one of the few things "The Wicker Man" has going for it.

Some of the actors (like the fellow cop that Nic talks to at the police station near the beginning) give such bizarre line readings, and are edited so strangely, that I can sometimes imagine this version of "The Wicker Man" coming from the same alternate dimension as Tommy Wiseau's "The Room."

Considering how much more Hollywood money and gloss was lavished on this thing compared to "The Room," that's quite an accomplishment on Labute's part.




  1. This sentence is amazing:
    "If there's any underlying message to be taken away from this movie, it's something like "don't trust little girls" or "bitches are crazy," the latter of which is also at the root of many hip-hop songs - songs that will take up much less of your time than this 102 minute disaster."

    Also, I THOUGHT that was Ellen Burstyn. What a terrible role for her...blah.

    Nic Cage, you squirrely bastard.