There are good remakes (Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), there are bad remakes (Gus Van Sant’s Psycho), there are pointless remakes (again Van Sant’s Psycho) and then there is Neil Le Butte’s 2006 go at The Wicker Man.
As with most films there is probably a vague reason to remake Robin Hardy’s 1973 classic The Wicker Man. For many years, outside of cinephile and horror fanatic circles, it was seldom seen, with the studio that funded it doing their best to bury its original release and future versions suffering from cuts and re-edits galore until the more recent DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Directors Cut and the even more recent extended cut, so, in the early to mid-2000s maybe giving viewers a new way into the story seemed like a good idea.
Unfortunately whoever had that idea either totally misjudged what they wanted or just didn’t have a clue what they were dealing with.
While the original melds the best bits of Hammer with some true folk horror creepiness, along with excellent performances from leads Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward with a real sense of anarchic freedom running through it all, Le Butte’s ‘vision’ seems to miss every point entirely and descends into Nicolas Cage shouting about bees and hitting women.
While this sounds like it could be an entertaining “so bad its good” romp, from the start it is simply nonsensical, adding to the original narrative a back story that makes little to no sense it just goes down hill from there as Cage’s “California Cop” heads to Summersisle (why the extra ‘s’?) to investigate a missing girl.
As the film goes on I thought that, at some point, all the disjointed scenes might somehow coalesce into something that did make some kind of point, but sadly, this wasn’t the case so never did I side with, or feel any connection to, either protagonist or antagonist and, when the inevitable “unfortunate event” occurs, it just left me thinking, so what, that was a waste of an hour and a half (as much as I ever consider watching a movie to be a waste of time).
Throughout, the film lacks any sense of cohesive style with Nicolas Cage seemingly doing whatever he wants while being lit really badly in front of a camera that doesn’t really know what it wants to see. This is very telling because anytime these factors become noticeable it means a film can only be genuinely bad as the narrative, nor the acting, nor anything else are distracting from the mechanics.
The one thematic notion that I thought might explain all this is if the film was some kind of fever dream for Cage’s cop, unfortunately this notion was never backed up so what we have been left with is a film that seems to not have a clue what it really wants to be or say and is simply a poorly stage folk horror film. What puts it over the edge into the territory of the pointless and truly awful however, is its evocation of the original classic, as this film really has nothing to do with the original notion or spirit of The Wicker Man.