The Wicker Man is that rarest of treats: low budget material taken seriously and given forty million dollars, A-list source material, A-list playwright and an A-list cast. I don’t know who green-lit this project but thank god they did, because it is one of the most entertaining disasters ever recorded.
Remaking The Wicker Man was risky to begin with. The 1973 classic has a devoted fan base and over the years it’s taken on a cult status that rivals the Hammer horror films. I mention Hammer because the original The Wicker Man also stars Christopher Lee, a man capable of lending a certain earnest gravitas to lurid subject matter and a great asset to have if your screenplay skirts the lines of believability. The 2006 version of The Wicker Man stars Nicolas Cage, a good actor when given material that exists in the real world, but a liability when your story takes place on a coastal bee farm run by a hostile matriarchal cult. Luckily he takes the performance so far that I sometimes wonder if he is in on the joke. Certainly the production company wasn’t. Hollywood makes some odd decisions at times, but I doubt they intentionally spend millions of dollars on jokes. Of course someone had to know that Nicolas Cage karate kicking Leelee Sobieski would be in the final cut, right? Anyone?
Neil LaBute, the director and writer of this remake, is usually fantastic. Sure he courts controversy and even got himself kicked out of the LDS church, but it isn’t often that his work can be considered poorly written. I mean, at some point he must have questioned the scene where Nicolas Cage punched a woman while wearing a bear suit right?
Now I fully expect this from Cage, who is a fine actor and star of some of the best American films ever produced, but is someone also comfortable taking, how should I put this, questionable roles; but surely Ellen Burstyn thought at some point that maybe dressing like William Wallace and ordering a hobbling at the honey festival might seem a little… bit… funny?
If it sounds like I’m complaining about the film, I’m not. In fact, if the remake of The Wicker Man had been filmed on 16mm for a fraction of the budget by an unknown director I would have likely given it a glowing review. As it stands now I still love the thing, but only because it’s one of the funniest unintentional (I think, right?) jokes to ever hit the multiplexes. It’s just a shame that it’s stained the original, since that film means a lot to its fans. I’m not part of that fan base and I don’t know specifically how they responded to this remake, but I do know how it feels to have Hollywood take a 40 million dollar shit on something you find value in and it’s frustrating. Even if it is a pretty funny shit.
Sidenote: If anyone out there is good with programming, I really want to play a videogame in which you basically control Nicolas Cage in a bear suit and punch an onslaught of Wicca bee women. You could call it Bear Punch! or something. I will be really grateful to anyone that can make this a reality. I’ve included a picture below to use as inspiration, thanks.