“The Wicker Man” is a 2006 horror film written and directed by Neil LaBute and stars Nicolas Cage. The film is primarily a remake of the 1973 horror classic of the same name, though also takes material from the source material, a 1967 horror novel titled “Ritual.” The film was poorly received by critics and has been called ‘absurd’ by Cage and actively disassociated from by the director of the original film, though the film is still watched because of the unintentional humor in the acting and plot elements.
“The Wicker Man” opens to Policeman Edward Mallus (Cage) recalling himself stopping a car with two women and a young girl after he picks up a doll the girls had thrown out of the car. After giving the doll back, the girl throws the doll out again and, as Mallus picks the doll up for the second time, a truck comes out with no warning and smashes into the car with the two women and young girl. Mallus is knocked unconscious as he tries to rescue the girl. A fade to black later and the film returns to present time as Mallus receives a letter from his ex-fiancee that their daughter, Rowan, is missing and she wants him to come to Summerisle, a neo-pagan commune where she lives, to help find her. Without any sort of help or plan he goes to do this and is met with tremendous amounts of evasiveness from the people of the island whose local economy is dependent on honey, which has recently declined. Mallus eventually finds an unmarked grave containing only a doll that has been burned. He asks her teacher on the island how Rowen had died and the schoolhouse teacher says that she will be burned, though quickly corrects herself. On the day of the ritual, which has been mentioned periodically throughout the film, Mallus assaults the keeper of the inn he is staying at to steal her bear costume and infiltrates the ritual in the bear costume. He sees Rowan tied to a tree about to be burned and rushes towards her, punching people out as he does. and releases her. He then realizes the entire search for Rowan was an elaborate trap by the villagers and he is the intended sacrifice. They all mob around him, beat him, break his legs, and cover him in bees. He is then put inside of the eponymous wicker man and is set on fire in hopes that the sacrifice will restore the island’s honey production.
While the original 1973 film was a classic of the horror genre that has aged surprisingly well, that cannot be said of the remake. The film works far better as a comedy because of Cage’s over the top acting combined with the more nonsensical parts of the film. This is best seen in the most memorable line of the film “NO! NOT THE BEES. THE BEES ARE IN MY EYES!” a line that was not even in the theatrical release, just the uncut version. As a horror film, to say the remake falls short is an understatement. There is almost no suspense as the plot seems to just happen by random chance since it seems like the villager’s plans seem to be contingent on Mallus being in very specific places and asking specific questions and in some situations, be looking at something at specific times. There is no surprise when the islanders perform human sacrifice since the film paints them as creepily as possible from Malus’s arrival on the island where in the original they were at least somewhat affable. The remake also removes an important element; the original shows the sacrifice to fail and heavily implies the island’s leader (in the original it’s a Lord Summerisle and not Sister Summerisle) would be sacrificed next for it, where the closing of this film is just two women from the island seducing men to lure them on the island for sacrifice again. The only saving grace for this film is that Cage overreacts on what interviews would later reveal to be on purpose is incredibly entertaining. There is no other reason to watch this film than to watch Nicolas Cage run around punching people in a bear costume and be attacked by bees.