Film review: The Wicker Man (2006), written and directed by Neil LaBute
Halloween week last year, I reviewed The Wicker Man (1973), using phrases like “I loved the folksy music”, and “it’s a good film”. If you’ve heard of the 2006 re-make you will inevitably have heard how much it sucks. Those rumours are true.
Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) is a police officer in California. He stops a car, the car is crashed into by a big lorry and the mother and daughter inside die. He has decided to take a career break when he gets a letter from his old fiancée, Willow Woodward (Kate Beahan), saying her daughter Rowan (Erika-Shaye Gair) has gone missing. Would he mind awfully coming up to Summerisle Island in Washington State and investigate?
Summerisle turns out to be an island full of a cult of weirdo women in old school clothing, engaging in fertility rites and harvest festivals and beekeeping and teaching young girls about phallic symbols. Someone even has the audacity to steal Eddie’s self-help tapes! All the while, Eddie goes around looking for Rowan, who no one has seen anywhere. Maybe she doesn’t even exist, who knows?
Also starring Ellen Burstyn as Sister Summerslsle, Frances Conroy as Dr T.H. Moss, Molly Parker as Sisters Rose and Thorn, Leelee Sobieski as Sister Honey, Diane Delano as Sister Beech, with cameos from Aaron Eckhart, James Franco and Jason Ritter.
*** SPOILERS ***
Good freaking lord where to begin? This film, which was based on the script of the 1973 version, makes no sense. At any point. Whatsoever.
You have a guy who’s allergic, and I do mean fatally so, to bees. He finds himself at the edge of a field FULL OF BEEHIVES and instead of going “oh shit, bees!” and run back the way he came, he runs THROUGH THE FIELD, like you do, and doesn’t even think to bring out his epi pen until he’s already collapsed on the ground. As opposed to, y’know, as soon as he realises there are bees around. Later, when he has recovered from the bee stings and goes to talk to chief pagan Summerisle, they’re just across a brook from the field full of beehives – and indeed there are plenty of bees in the air – but apparently that’s no longer a problem.
I’m allergic to pollen. This means I stay indoors, take my antihistamines, don’t dry my clothes by hanging them outside, and have fabric covering any open windows. Despite only getting a bad case of hayfever as a result of my allergy I still do my darnedest to limit my exposure where possible. For someone who can actually die from their allergen, you’d think they’d be less cavalier with their lives.
Then again, when the entire population seem to think it’s perfectly peachy to leave home with unattended candles still burning in their holders, you can’t expect too much.
The car at the beginning was there only to make Edward take a break so he could go to Summerisle and have hallucinations from trauma? What? Oh yeah, not to mention the car is on fire, the child is sitting by an OPEN WINDOW and he tries smashing the back window to get her out, rather than, y’know, get her out through the open window next to her.
When he “sees” Rowan, he sees her exactly as she’s dressed on the photo, despite not knowing if she dresses like that all the time or not. I mean, if you took a picture of me last Christmas and I went missing a week ago, would you really expect me to be wearing the exact same outfit? Then again, when Sister Summerisle’s ritual makeup changes from one scene to the next, again, you can’t set your hopes too high. (Check it out – it’s a lighter, sort of metallic, blue with gold around the other eye when they break the barrel, and a darker, not metallic, blue when they’re in the clearing, and the gold is a plain yellow.) Or, when you’ve just emerged from the water in one scene and in the next, you’re completely dry …
The thing about the original film is that it’s clever and has a well-constructed plot. The islanders lure the pure policeman to his death, so that he can be sacrificed and save their crops. He resists every temptation they throw at him, and he keeps himself pure of body and mind, and that’s why he makes a good sacrificial lamb, as it were. You can’t just put any old sinner on the pyre, it just won’t appease the gods. They’ve left that bit out of the re-make, which is part of why it makes no bloody sense.
They’ve lured him to the island to sacrifice him, because … uh … they just want to sacrifice someone, I guess, and he’ll do, because he has ties to someone on the island. An island that does actually have other men on it, who you’d think would do just as well and who wouldn’t leave a trail of very awkward questions when he fails to return home.
Another thing that doesn’t make sense is that Willow, we’re lead to believe, goes to California, meets Edward, gets engaged, leaves, and returns to Summerisle with an occupied uterus. Indeed, that was the entire reason for her little adventure. Years later, when the crops happen to fail, they can get Rowan’s dad to the island and sacrifice him, yay! I know you need to think about your business continuity and all, but really? Of course, the film ends with a couple of women having gone off the island and chat up some guys in a bar, so that they have a couple of spares if crops fail again some years later? MAKES PERFECT SENSE.
And now, for Nicolas Cage’s performance. If you didn’t find it hilarious and ridiculous at the same time, you weren’t paying attention. It’s so hammy and strange I want to break out the bread and cheese and make a grilled cheese sandwich.
And, last but not least, if you think this film is an accurate representation of feminism, matriarchy, and/or real-life paganism and goddess-worship, you need your head examined. Or, rather, you’re in dire need of education. In the words of Charlotte Brontë:
Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education.
There are so many things that could be said on these subjects, but I’ve gone on for long enough about a film that doesn’t deserve the time and energy it’s taken to write all this, so fuck it. Let’s just say “WOW, THIS FILM IS AMAZINGLY OFFENSIVE AND INCREDIBLY BAD ON SO MANY LEVELS” and leave it at that.
What I did like: Frances Conroy (💜) and the beautiful filming location (British Columbia), because it looked just like Sweden. Yes, that’s it. Those two things were the only redeeming features of this heap of incomprehensible garbage.
1 out of 5 bicycles.