Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Wicker Man vs. The Wicker Man - A Retrospective

I felt it was review time. As with all my previous reviews (all both of them) keep in mind I have no real review writing experience so this might not be the most professional review ever. It also might be a bit on the rambling side, like 92% of my posts end up being. I did try and avoid sounding like a random 14-year old girl written IMDB user review. Also despite the title this is pretty much mostly discussing the remake, but I do discuss the original some too.


I just took in a viewing of the Neil LaBute directed remake of The Wicker Man starring Nicolas Cage. Yeah. I watched the uncut version which is slightly more graphic than the one released in theaters. I also loses a tremendously tacky coda that was seemingly trying to setup a sequel. I hadn’t seen the Edward Woodward one in a few years so I just watched that one to refresh my memory.

I could make this very brief.

Wicker Man 1973 - Good. A classic film. Wicker Man 2006 - Uhh, not so good. I could stop there, but that would be a cheap, half-assed review. I think I’d like to use at least 2/3rds of my ass on this assignment I’ve given myself.

The Wicker Man 1973. Apart from the barely tolerable music in the original , it’s a great movie. The music does drag it down a bit for me because, frankly, it gives me a headache. I'm not talking score-wise, I mean the numerous musical numbers. The opening song feels so much like Foldgers’ “Best part of waking up….” jingle it’s not even funny. The film itself is mysterious and creepy. It’s slow moving, but in the good “suck you in” kinda way. The ending, even though I’d heard about it before seeing, was very powerful and you really felt for the character who was just trying to do a good thing. The film also had Christopher Lee and featured an odd scene of the very non-ugly Britt Eckland completely bare assed naked singing and dancing around. At one point even slapping her own ass mid-dance. It’s a tough act to follow. As I found out while watching the remake, it’s a very, very tough act to follow.

The Wicker Man 2006. I hate doing the plot description part, so I’ll be brief. Nicolas Cage is Edward Malus. Edward is an overacting sheriff who goes to a small island called Summersisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Ellen Burstyn is Sister Summersisle, who is, I don’t know, like the mayor of the island, or queen, or cult leader, who seems to have some sort of virgin girl posse with her at all times. But they’re usually like 50 feet away from her, like they have a restraining order or something. Not sure what that was all about. Anyway there’s more to the plot than that, but it’d take another paragraph to explain it all, and it just doesn’t really matter. Plus further explaining it would probably include a lot of spoilers. This new version, while it looks like they were trying, is just not suspenseful, creepy or all that interesting. In addition the film is littered with pointless flashbacks to things we already saw in the very film we are watching. I believe it was Thomas Servo who said “You know you’re in trouble when a movie starts showing you parts of itself.” I was more intrigued by the fact that Sister Summersisle shows up at the finale wearing some Braveheart make-up for no apparent reason than the rest of the plot. Would’ve like the back story on that. Maybe they could’ve replaced the 4th and 5th flashback to the opening car crash with someone explaining the William Wallace face paint.


Wicker Man 2006, like most remakes these days, is not an outright terrible film. It’s unnecessarily ridiculous at times, but it’s not awful. Okay, it’s pretty awful, but not completely unwatchable. It all just seems kind of pointless. It just moves along, it ends and you go do something else. You don’t really think about it after it’s over. It isn’t very suspenseful or anything. Kinda boring, really. You find yourself striking up full conversations at random throughout the movie and the person you’re talking to doesn’t seem to mind the interruption. And afterwards you can jump right back into the movie and not have missed anything. It really makes you question the purpose of this particular remake. People who like the original, like the original and think it‘s good the way it is. People who hate the original won’t be interested in seeing another version of it. And people who haven’t seen or heard of the original, most Americans for example, won’t even know what the hell The Wicker Man is, so it’s not like they really even get the built-in name recognition of something like, say, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Whatever happened to just blatantly ripping off a movie and calling it something different? Hell, it seems like much of the entire Italian film industry was based on this idea throughout the 70s and 80s. How many Italian Mad Max ripoffs were there?

While Wicker Man 2006 lacks in suspense or quality it more than makes up for it with several scenes of accidental gut-busting hilarity. Towards the end of the movie it seemingly turns into to one of those Lifetime Original battered women films. Edward just starts beating the hell out of all the women on the island, and screaming “Bitches!” repeatedly at them. Now, I don’t condone violence, especially against women, so that is not what I find hilarious. It’s just so bizarrely handled, the way it all goes down is very funny. After a little disagreement with the Kathy Bates-esque Sister Beech he draws back and punches her in the face. Afterwards Leelee Sobieski’s Sister Honey character ambushes Edward and jumps on his back. He judo chops her, then karate kicks her in the face, sending her flying into a wall like he’s goddamn Chuck Norris fighting off a gang of evil hooligans. What the hell? After my friend and I wiped the tears of laughter from our eyes we went back on the DVD, just to make sure we weren’t hallucinating. Then we went back 2 or 3 more times because it kept getting funnier every time we saw it. One of the most random things I’ve ever seen in my life. Who kicks a non-ninja girl in the face? I’m amazed he didn’t let out a hearty “Hi-ya!” mid-kick. Poor Leelee. First, her parents name her Leelee, then she has to act along side Chris Klein, now Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew kicks her in the freakin’ head.

Now on to Nick. The movie suffers from one of Nick’s “off” performances. Nicolas Cage, I think, is great in his more offbeat roles. For example, H.I. McDunnough in Raising Arizona, Charlie and Donald Kaufman in Adaptation, stuff like that, he’s great. But I find when he does the standard Action or dramatic roles he can be very off at times. There’s an awful scene in this movie where he loses it while holding a burnt doll, and he starts screaming “How Did It Burn! How Did It Burn?” My friend and I were literally on the ground, in a hysterical fit of laughter for several minutes. Not just regular laughter either, this was like power laughter. You know, when you laugh so hard it actually hurts? Where your stomach starts to feel sore from the amount of laughter you’re experiencing and you start to have trouble breathing? We laughed until we choked. It was that funny. It was just such a poor line delivery. There are probably countless outtakes of the actress he’s screaming at struggling not to break into a fit of laughter, similar to what I went through. He seems to really have trouble acting in the presence of a child’s toy. Just look at the whole “bun-ney!!” fiasco in Con-Air. I don’t even want to get started on his performance in Con-Air.

Anyway, back to the Wicker Man. The ending, while not as powerful as in the original, isn’t too poorly handled. It’s appropriately downbeat, although it’s hard to feel for a guy who just got all pissy and beat the hell out of like 6 or 7 different women. My friend who had never seen the original didn’t seem to see it coming so I guess they didn‘t totally botch that part. But still, the bad outweighs the good here. I would suggest those of you who can find humor in bad filmmaking decisions at least blow a free rental coupon on it because there are some genuinely funny scenes to behold if you’re willing to wade through a whole bunch of shit to find them. I’m directing that statement mostly to the MST3K fans who visit the site, because everyone who watches that show will eventually end up poorly riffing what they watch themselves and this is a great one to do so with. I'm not funny at all, but even I had some good zingers. But if you’ve seen neither version, just go out and check out the 1973 version. Or just go outside and do something else. I hear hiking is fun.

I give Neil LaBute's Wicker Man a 5.7 out of 10. The real Wicker Man I would say 8.4 out of 10.

7 comments:

nealsnow said...

I'm sorry you didn't like the musical numbers of the original. I thought it gave the film more of a demented feel. After all, these were perfectly normal people who did some oddball things. The soundtrack mirrored that nicely, IMO. But hey, I can't expect everyone to agree with me. I like the odd and downright crappy, so I have no space to judge.

phelpster said...

Yeah, I think I'm kinda alone on that. Most reviews I've seen either have positive things to say about the music or they just don't mention it. I've been referred to as a "noise Nazi" by friends on several occassions, due to me being bothered by noises or songs that nobody else seems to notice, so I think it's just me. I also cannot stand to watch musicals, even if I want to, something about musical numbers drives me nuts, so that's another part of it.

I agree it did make the people seem offbeat and odd, so I don't know if I even would wish they would've dropped that aspect, I just get a headache from the sound of it.

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Anonymous said...

Chuckle, thanks for the remake review - not seen it, and can't be bothered to cross any road to do so cos it sounds like such a lame thing (just like 95% of Hollywood).

I quite like the original. Always found the fact that it was almost a musical very...odd. It's not like it's meant to be ironic like 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' or something, and having semi-stagey musical numbers in a strange suspenseful film makes it that much odder.

Anonymous said...

Does the DVD include that horrible final scene in the bar where the two Summersisle girls are picking up a new guy to torment? That was really the final insult as far as I was concerned.

phelpster said...

Yeah, it's a flipper disc with the theatrical cut on one side and the unrated version on the other. We watched the unrated version , but I did flip it over to check out the theatrical afterwards. Yeah, that was just awful, little endings like that don't ever really come off well. That last little part really reminded me of Urban Legend or one of those movies.

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