The Wicker Man

Dir: Neil LaBute
Star: Nicolas Cage, Kate Beahan, Ellen Burstyn, Diane Delano

Not quite the disaster I was expecting. Okay, it is almost entirely pointless, with the original far superior in most ways, but it does at least add some new ideas to the party. The original - and, in particular, Britt Ekland - was a formative influence on just about every young male in the British Isles, and I suspect is perhaps not as good as I remember it, but the math here is somewhat obvious:
    Kate Beahan < Britt Ekland
    Ellen Burstyn < Christopher Lee
    Nicolas Cage <<<<< Edward Woodward

That said, I didn't mind it as much as I feared, even if LaBute turns the pagan/Christianity battle into a matriarchy/patriarchy battle, with some unsubtle slaps at feminism. The cult here is a mother goddess one, in a structure similar to that of a bee-hive, with the queen (Burstyn) ruling over all on the island. As before, a policeman (Cage) heads over there to investigate a missing child, and finds all signs pointing towards her imminent human sacrifice. The hero, unlike the original, is not a virgin; indeed, turns out the missing child is his daughter, though this hardly adds anything much to the new version.

Really, I think LaBute is less to blame for the utter forgettability and superflousness of this, than the performances which, as noted above, are inferior - sometimes vastly so - to the original. Delano is the only one to have a handle on the necessary air of creepiness, as the local bartender. While the script has potential (updates were obviously necessary, due to the thirty years which have elapsed) LaBute is too much a rookie at the horror genre. He doesn't know how to work the mechanisms, so we get the "dream within a dream" trick, which last had any effect in An American Werewolf in London. Credit is due for retaining the ending, and Cage's expression on realising what's happening is at least in the same region as Woodward's. However, the script feels the need to describe it all in painful detail, as if the audience was too dumb to work out the point of that F-sized inflammable mannequin. All I took away was that I really must get round to re-watching the original some time.

December 2007

The Weaker Man
See also: [Index] [Next] [Previous] [TC Home Page]