Open on a diner, somewhere in the California countryside. A waitress walks over to a man who has just finished his meal. He doesn’t notice her at first, so she peers down and says:
“Hey! Sorry, my mind was wandering.”
“Totally understand. If I just ate one of them (sic) burgers, I’d be in a trance too.”
And we’re off!
Yes, this is the infamous 2006 remake to the 1973 horror classic The Wicker Man, starring Nicolas Cage as Edward Malus, the California cop who investigates the disappearance of a little girl on a strange island. If the phrases ‘infamous remake’ and ‘Nicolas Cage’ don’t give you any idea of how bad this movie is, then I suggest you continue reading.
For starters, I can’t tell which is more wooden: the eponymous wicker man or Nic Cage’s acting. As in many Cage films, the man can’t always change emotional gears very quickly; in practice, he retains a dull expression most of the time, and then will suddenly get very angry out of nowhere. However, alongside his co-actresses – seriously, it’s a low bro-ho ratio – Cage would appear to be quite the thesp. Perhaps worst of all is his ex-girlfriend Willow (Kate Beahan), one of the Sisters on the island whose expression and behaviour never waver from being nervous and useless. Her acting is utterly appalling, and her lines are delivered without any conviction.
But it’s not just her. Diane Delano plays a very masculine barmaid, intentionally or not. At one point, she delivers the very same joke that Lindsay Kemp tells in the original, but her recipient simply doesn’t laugh. It’s as if it isn’t a joke at all! Hilariously, Nic Cage wanders in right after this conversation and just floors her without a word. A rather literal punchline.
That’s the thing about this movie; it’s rather unintentionally comedic. If it hadn’t been, I probably would not have chosen to watch it. Nic Cage running around a spooky island getting stung by bees and punching women whilst dressed as a bear isn’t exactly horror, but it is damn entertaining. I think the feel of the movie can be perfectly summed up in the parody trailer below.
Nevertheless, this isn’t such a useless remake. While (re)writer and director Neil LaBute has a lot to answer for, there were actually a few aspects of this movie that did genuinely impress me more than the original. While Howie was a Christian man, Malus is not, and he finds more rational reasons for disliking the island’s regime. The matriarchal society was also quite an ingenious aspect, a concept that is seen so little in cinema, let alone real life, making the island seem even weirder. Malus’s character also seemed a little more fleshed out. While it was too convenient and predictable that he was Rowan Woodward’s father – yes, the girl is named after the actor – other aspects, like his depression and violent hallucinations seemed to bring the character to life. Lastly, while the bees wound up making the film funnier than ever – “NOT THE BEES!” – I do think, if they had been used better, they could have been used to make this a scarier film than the original.
LaBute clearly had some good ideas for this remake, but things didn’t quite work out that way, rendering this film more hilarious than hallowing. The film has received a lot of bad press since it’s release, and was inevitably a box office flop. If you’re looking for some Cage-inspired unintentional humour, here’s the place to go.