Welcome to the second edition of The Eggducator – a new retrospective column where I look at bad movies and see whether they’re so bad, they’re good. Or maybe they’re so bad, they’re just really bad. I will look at the positives and negatives of these commercially or critically maligned films, and judge whether they deserve to be thrown in the incinerator or hatched to be enjoyed by everyone.
Hmmm… it looks like the cinematic goose has laid another egg. Let’s see what it is:
2006’s The Wicker Man celebrates its tenth anniversary this week, whether the masses care to celebrate that fact or not. This remake of the 1973 Robin Hardy cult horror classic is a film that has both its supporters and its detractors. I remember when the remake was announced. At the time, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the 1973 original due to how slow it was, and how it was more based on mystery and story rather than actual scares. It also dealt with touchy subjects such as religion, and individualism in terms of beliefs and societal cues. The remake intended to take the narrative in a more straightforward and accessible direction, adding Nicolas Cage (Face/Off, Con Air, Leaving Las Vegas) and Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, Alice Don’t Live Here Anymore, Requiem for a Dream) to the cast, and focusing on this idea of feminism rather than religion.
Since then, I have come to really appreciate the original Wicker Man. The film’s take on religion is interesting. The direction is inspired. And the acting, especially by the late and great Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward, is fantastic. It snuck up on me as one of my favorite horror films of the 1970’s.
But what about the 2006 remake? Are the critics right that 2006’s The Wicker Man is a terrible movie? Or should it be appreciated as a misunderstood masterpiece? Only the Eggducator knows…
Officer Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) receive an odd letter that concerns the disappearance of a little girl named Rowan (Erola Shaye Gair). All hints of Rowan’s location seem to be on a privately owned island called Summerisle.
When Edward get to Summerisle, the shady locals deny knowing who Rowan is. But as Edward investigates, he starts to realize that the locals may be hiding something. He slowly learns that the community is into pagan rituals of some sort, using sacrifices in order to please the Sun and Fertility Gods to raise crops and raise the percentage of having children. Edward realizes that Rowan is the perfect sacrifice, since the sacrifice must be virginal, using her to appease the gods for last year’s failure.
WHY THE WICKER MAN (2006) IS WORTH HATCHING
2006’s The Wicker Man does what all remakes should do – take what was already done in the original film, and transform it into something different to justify its existence for a modern generation. I appreciated the change where it concerns Summerisle. Instead of going the Pagan route, the remake focuses more on the Battle of the Sexes. Women are in power, while men are just there to be slaves and help populate the community. While the script could have done more with the concept, at least it tries to differentiate itself from the original in a more relevant way. It’s just too bad the females in Summerisle are presented as stupid and weak during the final act, when Edward is punching and superkicking them across the screen. But at least it’s something.
Speaking of Edward punching and kicking women, the entire final act is just pure hilarity. An hour before this, The Wicker Man just drags and almost puts you to sleep. But once Edward starts stealing bicycles, punching women, kicking them into walls, yelling about his legs being broken, and just going off on people in such an over-the-top manner, you can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous the climax and conclusion of the film are. It’s as if both the director and screenwriter just said “f*** it” and just go screwball towards the film’s end. It’s just too bad they didn’t do this for the first hour of the film, Then the film’s reputation would have been more positive due to unintentional comedy. I mean seriously – Edward beating up women in silly ways, a ton of overacting, and Edward running around in a bear suit? How can you NOT laugh at this?
And I gotta say – Nicolas Cage may not be my favorite actor in the world, but he definitely is the highlight of this remake. I’m not really sure what happened with the guy. One year he wins a Best Actor Academy Award, and then he suddenly becomes the patron saint of “so bad, they’re good” films. Cage does his best to be such a massive ham onscreen to make us want to watch. The strange facial expressions, the screaming of dialogue for no reason, and just the sheer melodrama that felt like Cage had his drink spiked or something – you can’t take your eyes off of this guy. And it wasn’t as if his acting was terrible before the switch, as he underplayed the thing pretty darn well against a script that should have been much better than it was. But the final act is just a bizarre performance from him, which doesn’t surprise me why The Wicker Man is one of his more memorable films for all the wrong reasons.
As for that “bees” scene, it amazes me that a deleted scene would be the most popular clip from this remake. That’s right – the bee scene is not even in the actual movie! And I don’t even think it’s all that great of a moment, nor is it special. But it captured the imagination of so many people, creating memes and homages inspired by this bee scene. If Nicolas Cage isn’t many money out of this internet sensation, he should be.
WHY THE WICKER MAN (2006) IS WORTH INCINERATING
The script is just sooo bad. While I love the feminism pitch that replaced the religion themes of the original [just because the remake tried to be its own thing in that aspect], the screenplay does nothing with it really. Why were the women of Summerisle doing this to men? Why couldn’t the men speak? Why are there more girls than boys on the island? And if you’re going to sacrifice anyone for some God, why is it being done in a wicker man instead of a wicker woman? Doesn’t that contradict the whole deal? It just didn’t make sense, since the script doesn’t allow anything to develop.
It also doesn’t help that none of the characters have any depth. Edward is really the only one because he has motivation, as he’s searching for Rowan on the island. But the women are as deep as a puddle. I could tell you their names, but I couldn’t tell you what their purpose were. Some of these women seem important, but they don’t have enough of a presence to really matter in the bigger picture. Maybe Willow, who is Rowan’s mother and Edward’s former lover, is the only one. And she just comes across as vapid and annoying, although I guess it makes sense when it comes to the film’s climax. But other than that, you wouldn’t really care about anyone in this remake.
Neil LaBute’s direction doesn’t help much either. Unlike what Hardy did in the original, LaBute doesn’t think about giving the film any sort of tension or suspense. It just felt like scenes were falling into scenes, rather than the scenes building up to the next. It didn’t help that the editing was a bit odd. And the use of the film’s score was a bit much at times, which took away from what the scene was building to. The jump scares were pretty weak too, I gotta say. I did think the cinematography was nice, but everything else didn’t click. LaBute has directed some good films, like Nurse Betty and In the Company of Men. But The Wicker Man is not the man’s finest moment.
Besides Nicolas Cage, there’s no one else really worth talking about in this remake. Ellen Burstyn is totally wasted as Sister Summerisle. The woman is a talented actress, but the script just makes her look like a fool. Kate Beahan is kind of hot as Willow, but her character was ultra annoying. Leelee Sobieski needs a new agent, as she does nothing of note here at all besides getting superkicked by Cage. Molly Parker plays two roles, although I don’t know why. I will say her scene at the school was pretty decent. Diane Delano was picked to play the typical “lesbian stereotype”, which is a shame since she’s a better actress than that. I felt sorry for this cast.
GOOD EGG OR BAD EGG?
2006’s The Wicker Man is not a good movie at all, not understanding why the original worked so well. Sure, it has unintentional comedy that will entertain you during the last half hour. But the script is terrible, the direction is blah, and the acting is just poor. Let Nicolas Cage and that final 30 minutes go free, but sacrifice the rest of the 2006 remake inside of a giant wicker man. It may not make your crops grow, but it sure will help you save money on therapy sessions. BAD EGG.