Film Confessional #3: The Wicker Man (2006)

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I have a confession to make…I like THE WICKER MAN remake. It’s not the icon of pagan horror the original British film was, but I still found it a fairly diverting and eerie way to spend 100 minutes.

The one question you always have to ask of any horror film is of course – is it scary? No, The Wicker Man remake isn’t particularly scary, but like the original film it has a slow build-up of tension and sense of unease, in addition to some unnerving imagery. It gives you a constant feeling of dread rather than a succession of sharp shocks (though there are a couple of those). Again, like the original, the final scene is a truly horrifying spectacle, faithfully recreated, and is a great payoff to all that build-up.

The changes Neil LaBute made to the original screenplay has, admittedly made his Wicker Man more of an exploitation film. Arguably the Robin Hardy/Anthony Shaffer film exploited the stereotype of pagans and their weird little rituals to scare, but the remake goes further by turning the island community into an all-female cult of man-hating psychotics. It’s not a huge issue I had with the film, and I don’t see it as outright misogynistic (no more so than any other monstrous feminine horror) it’s just an observation.

I know Nicolas Cage is over-the-top (as always) but he does good “guy with issues”, and I like his character, and his guilt-ridden motivations make sense, even if he lacks the effortless screen presence of Edward Woodward. And I know “No! Not the bees!” is one of the worst lines of dialogue in history, but it’s so hilarious I don’t care. Ellen Burstyn makes for a strong, sinister villain too, and a worthy and different enough successor to Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle.

I’ll admit the dialogue is flat (despite often being lifted from the original film), some of the performances are a bit off to say the least, and you can see the supposed plot “twists” coming far too soon.

I love 1973 The Wicker Man, and think it deserves it’s position as a groundbreaking, hugely influential horror film. The remake is admittedly not in the same league as its predecessor, but I don’t think it lessens the impact of the original, and you can see the two films as simply a different take on the same material. There have been far worse, far more offensive horror film remakes (don’t get me started on A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) and far weaker Nicolas Cage films (GHOST RIDER). Arguably the remake’s biggest failing is that it doesn’t star the ever-reliable Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward (they sadly both passed on making cameo appearances).

I know many people’s disdain for this particular film is unlikely to change, so I’ll probably remain in the minority here, but what more can I say? In my humble opinion, The Wicker Man remake isn’t half bad. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

Writer and film fanatic fond of black comedies, sci-fi, animation and films about dysfunctional families.
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