Film Reviews

THE WICKER MAN

By • Sep 1st, 2006 •

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Warner Bros. Pictures / Alcon Entertainment and Millennium Films present a Saturn Films and Emmet/Furla Films production for Equity Pictures, Medienfonds, GmbH & Co., KG III and Nu Image Entertainment
MPAA rating PG-13 / Running time — 97 minutes

Human sacrifice and a stringent lesbian cult…what’s not to like?

Once again I will state that I do not condemn remakes of “classics.” I never saw the original 1973 THE WICKER MAN anyhow. Who did?

A Nicholas Cage film not previewed for the press? No radio-promotion-free-screenings for the great unwashed? Nevertheless, I don’t let the studios dictate to me what I can or cannot review. I can pay for a ticket.

Director-screenwriter Neil LaBute, not known for this kind of film, has updated this cult classic. And Nicolas Cage, one of the movie’s producers, must have liked the idea of being the only man in the cast who had a speaking part.

That should have tipped off his character.

Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage), a tough California motorcycle cop, gets a letter from a former fiancée, Sister Willow (Kate Beahan), asking him to help find her missing daughter. Malus is suffering from nightmares and hallucinations – due, no doubt, to his constantly swallowing some kind of prescription drug, ever since he nearly died helping a woman and her young daughter during a highway stop. They were killed suddenly when a truck slammed into them.

Willow cruelly dumped Edward, so now he goes to a remote, sealed-off-from-society island called Summersisle in the Pacific Northwest, populated by weird old women and very pregnant young girls. He wants to get some answers why Willow left him years ago. Willow doesn’t say much about this female-dominated community where everyone looks like archetypal lesbians and/or FLDS sister-wives. Willow should explain but doesn’t. Apparently, Edward and Willow had a very strange, non-verbal relationship that led to an engagement.

Edward gets rightly furious at everyone but stumbles along trying to find Ronan, Willow’s missing daughter. No one answers any questions and all the men on the island are mute and passive.

The island – which is a honey-producing farm – is run by a wacky priestess named Sister Summersisle (Ellen Burstyn) who has vestal virgins attending her. Edward flips out and starts running around the island searching for Ronan, getting himself nearly killed twice! He has no way to leave the island. He has no plan.

When I lived in Santa Fe, we would go to the yearly “Burning Man” festival. It was very illuminating. I understand how such a ceremony serves to purge and re-energize people. As the fire is lit, you can send all your misdeeds up in smoke! What’s not to like about purging all one’s sins? It’s not walking the “El Camino de Santiago,” or circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot to erase past and future lives’ karma. (If you can endure the high altitude stress, you should circle Mount Kailash on your stomach).

With elderly Sister Summersisle and Willow walking around like a used rag doll, it’s up to the audience to instill THE WICKER MAN with sexual overtones and the type of sinister horror that LaBute misses.

There is a lot wrong with THE WICKER MAN: The casting could have been better, Cage could have had hair people on set, a more psycho-sexual subtext, better occultism, and perhaps better editing of Cage’s at times silly dialogue.

I did like the premise, the supporting cast of Frances Conroy, Molly Parker, and Leelee Sobieski, as well as the surprise ending. And Cage’s character is tough and nasty as he gets more and more hysterical. There is a strangeness to the remote location that is intoxicating, and with Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score, THE WICKER MAN is enjoyable.


Victoria:

I just finished your review of “The Wicker Man” and wanted
to thank you for taking the film on its own faults/merits
rather than simply comparing it to the original. Much
appreciated and a pleasure to read.

Thanks again for your incisive thoughts–keep up the good
work.

Neil Labute


Credits:
Director-screenwriter: Neil LaBute
Producers: Nicolas Cage, Norm Golightly, Avi Lerner, Randall Emmett, John Thompson, Boaz Davidson
Executive producers: George Furla, Joanne Sellar, Trevor Short, Andreas Thiesmayer, Josef Lautenschlager, Danny Dimbort, Elisa Salinas
Director of photography: Paul Sarossy
Editor: Joel Plotch
Production designer: Phillip Barker
Costume designer: Lynette Meyer
Music: Angelo Badalamenti

Cast:
Edward Malus: Nicolas Cage
Sister Summersisle: Ellen Burstyn
Sister Willow: Kate Beahan
Dr. Moss: Frances Conroy
Sister Rose: Molly Parker
Sister Honey: Leelee Sobieski
Sister Beech: Diane Delano

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