Monday, September 04, 2006
The Wicker Man: Yes, It Was Really That Bad
Caution: This will contain heavy spoilers about both the original film version of The Wicker Man and about the remake. If you haven't seen the remake, then I am doing you a favor. If you haven't seen the original, there's really no excuse for that and you should feel a deep sense of shame. You are a failure as a person. How can you look yourself in the eye? I mean, yes, you could do it by looking into a mirror, but that's not what I meant.

We saw the remake of The Wicker Man yesterday. OMG. No.

Okay, first let me say that the trailers for this film make it look really creepy and chock full of mind-bending scary imagery, as per usual for horror films these days. The trailers made it look pretty good, so M and I were keen to check it out.

Friends, the trailers mislead. DON'T BELIEVE THEIR LIES.

Before I go any further, let's just have a refresher course on what happened in the original film:

Cop goes to creepy island to investigate case of missing child. Island is home to sinister pagan cult with lots of sexual and violent undertones. Cop is devout Christian, which makes for a great contrast. Sinister pagans are secretive, appear to know a whole lot more about missing child than will admit to. Also sinister pagans are clearly preparing for something BIG, and the whole film has this atmosphere of secrecy and this energy of building up to something, and when you find out WHAT it's building up to, it's truly shocking (well, I thought it was). In the original, when you see the wicker man, you really get this sense of evil wrongness, and you don't really know what it MEANS, but you know that it's HORRIBLE. All in all, a very effective film.

In the remake, your cop is Nicolas Cage. I used to really like Mr. Cage (see also: Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, The Vampire's Kiss), but in recent years he's gotten all campy and weird (see also: Con-Air, Face/Off, marrying Lisa Marie Pressley for about five minutes). To his credit, I'll concede that he was less campy than expected here and managed to give a mostly appropriate (if wooden) performance.

At the beginning of the film, he sees a woman and little girl totally creamed by an 18-wheeler. This is possibly the most shocking and effective scene in the whole film. Naturally this screws with his head, leading to a breakdown of self-confidence and professional crisis. A lady cop comes to his house with a bunch of get-well cards.

One of the cards is from his ex-girlfriend (played by some unknown actress who looks uncannily like Fiona Apple, so much so that I half-expected to see Fiona Apple's name in the credits). Ex-Girlfriend's name is Willow. Willow is distraught because her kid has gone missing, blah blah blah, you know the score.

Nicolas Cage goes to the creepy island. Instead of a sinister pagan cult, he finds a tribe of angry feminist beekepers. YES THAT'S RIGHT. I SAID BEEKEEPERS.

Let's pause here so that you can wrap your head around the whole beekeeping thing.

Also, let's point out that since he's on Beekeeping Island, of course he turns out to be deathly allergic to bees and has to tote around one of those epi-pen kits that allergic people have. His are yellow and black and say something like EPI-BEE.

I'll sum up the important bits here: All that creepy stuff you saw in the trailer? Not here. I dunno where it came from.

So the feminist beekeepers have some kind of problem with men. All the men on Beekeeping Island are subservient and mute. M and I were convinced that the men's tongues had been cut out, and we were fully expecting to see some kind of confirmation of that, but no. You never find out WHY the men are subservient and mute. Also it's implied that the feminist beekeepers kill off a good many of their male babies. A couple of times a year, they send some young nubile beekeepers off to the mainland to slut around with boys and get knocked up, so that years later they can lure the boys to the island to look for their own "missing kid". Sinister! No, not really. It's kind of lame. But you can tell it's SUPPOSED to be sinister, which just makes it kind of sad.

Other things that happen, in no particular order: LeeLee Sobieski (yes, she still has a career!) mopes about and giggles and occasionally says "take me with you when you leave!" to Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage runs afoul of bees, attempts to use EPI-BEE unsuccessfully, is saved by Beekeeping Matriarch. The pilot of a small aircraft is killed. Also, there are a hell of a lot of sets of twins on Beekeeping Island. This is one of several things (like all the men being mute) that they make out to be Very Important but then Can't Be Bothered To Resolve Or Explain.

Finally, it's time for Nicolas Cage to go inside the Wicker Man. Since this remake didn't seem to go anywhere with the paganism plot, there's not a whole lot of plausible need for a sacrifice. The angry feminist beekeepers seem upset that last year's honey harvest was bad (an aside: is this even possible? Do you really GET bad honey harvests?). They seem to be sacrificing him mainly because they hate men.

Here's something funny. In the original, the creepy pagans say to the cop something along the lines of "you have come of your own free will at the appointed time to the appointed place" and then they burn him slowly to death along with a load of farm animals and it's really awful and scary.

In the remake, the angry feminists say "you've come of your own free will to meet your appointment with THE WICKER MAN!!" I had to bite the insides of my mouth here to keep from laughing out loud. Meet your appointment with the wicker man, like the wicker man is your barber or podiatrist or something. Good lord. At this point all the beekeepers unmask (I neglected to mention they were all wearing animal head masks, in a weak attempt to preserve the pagan essence of the original film) and among the crowd you see the woman and child that supposedly were killed by the truck, and also the lady cop from the beginning of the film. I AM SERIOUS. OMG. EVERY WOMAN HE KNOWS IS EVIL.

So they have this big shot of the wicker man, which still looks as creepy as ever, despite being stuck in a shitty film. And I guess at this point the producers realized that people might wonder why Nicolas Cage doesn't try to escape. So you have this wooden and unconvincing voice-over of him shouting MY LEGS! MY LEGS!

I shit you not. I think M and I were both biting the insides of our mouths by now.

Yeah, and then they burn him to death, with maybe two or three farm animals, but you couldn't really tell.

Pros: Actual wicker man is very impressive, scenery is lovely, and also that whole MY LEGS! MY LEGS! thing (although not a pro in the sense that the filmmakers were hoping for).

Cons: Everything else.

Result: I'd say, rent this one, and watch it in that whole MST-3K frame of mind. But for a genuine good film, stick with the original.