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

I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourites include Sam Mendes, Guillermo del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Edgar Wright, Taika Waititi and the Coen Brothers. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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