Sunday, 20 September 2020
The Wicker Man
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 06 September 2006 21:41

In much the same way as the original 1973 film has become a cult classic, the remake of The Wicker Man seems destined to fall into a vat of forgettable garbage never to emerge again. And, indeed, Nicholas Cage may wish for that to happen sooner rather than later.

I wouldn’t exactly classify the original Wicker Man as horror, because it really defies categorization. A strange highbred of drama, eroticism, mystery, and musical; it tried to do it all. Perhaps it wasn’t wholly successful at any of these things, but it certainly was memorable. The Wicker Man also boasted a thought provoking, albeit sinister, exploration of the old pagan religions of Celtic Europe. Now take all those wonderful qualities and throw them in the trash compactor and you will end up with the new Wicker Man.

Nicholas Cage plays police officer Edward Malus who suffers from more guilt than a Catholic in a confessional. Perhaps this is how the writers pay tribute to Edward Woodward of the original whose character, Sergeant Howie, was a devout Catholic. Part of what made the concept a success. In fact all trace of religious reference has been removed from the remake. It’s as if, in an attempt not to offend anyone, they’ve eliminated the very thing that made the story relevant.

After Officer Malus pulls them over on the highway a woman and child are flattened by a transport truck in a deadly accident. Plagued with guilt he sees visions of the little girl everywhere he looks. When he receives a letter from his old girlfriend Willow that her daughter has gone missing, Malus sees it as a chance for redemption.

He travels to the isolated island of Summersisle where the people party like it’s 1884 and farm bee colonies. In fact, the women rule under the spiritual leadership of Sister Summsersisle (Ellen Burstyn), while the men are reduced to working drones. He questions all of them; Sister Rose, Sister Beech, Dr. Moss, but none of them seem to know anything about a little girl named Rowan. “Of course. Another plant name” Nicholas Cage so kindly points out for those of us who might not have noticed the obvious and unimportant fact.
I’m about to give away a spoiler in case you don’t already know what all of Cage’s traipsing around in the woods and questioning people is leading up to. In the original film a human sacrifice is required to appease the gods and ensure a good crop. If the crop failed, the livelihood of the island would be at risk. Now get this… In the remake the people farm bees and their crop is honey. As far as I’m aware bees don’t just up and quit making honey! The whole bee-farming thing is ridiculous. Especially when Nicholas Cage is heard shouting “Killing me won’t bring back your goddamned honey!” I had to stifle my laughter during the entire sacrifice scene!

Gone is the suspense, gone is the earthy sexuality of fertility rites and May Poles, and gone is the tentative exploration of religion older than Christianity. Instead we are left with a bunch of misguided feminists and a depressed cop popping painkillers. If a remake were necessary I’d have liked to see it moved back to Europe, Clive Owen cast in the lead, and as much theological poking and prodding as possible. Take a chance, raise some questions and make people think!

I give The Wicker Man 3 out of 10 stars.