The Naff Nic Season: The Wicker Man (2006)

(112 Minutes, Rated 12A)

What can I say about 2006 version of The Wicker Man that hasn’t already been said? It’s already been mauled by critics and skewered like a shish kebab by various other articles; the general public even agree that it is an absolute stinker of a film hence its appearance at number 2 on the Naff Nic Bottom Five. I, myself, have seen this film on a couple of occasions since its release and, if my memory serves me correctly, I was a slightly inebriated in both instances. You should all thank me then that for the purposes of this challenge I have watched The Wicker Man stone cold sober. I even managed not to drink after the conclusion of the film, not just because I didn’t have any in the house, but mainly because I was concerned I would have drunken nightmares about BEES (oh god, not the bees!).

 

The basic premise of The Wicker Man is very similar to the original with a few subtle changes. While Edward Woodward’s Sgt Howie was a devoutly religious copper sent to Summerisle to investigate a missing child, Nicolas Cage’s Edward Malus is a copper on the trail of a child after his ex wife has informed him and said child turns out to be his daughter (oh I  love a shitty pointless modern twist). Now here is where I feel the remake made its first major misstep. The importance of Sgt Howie’s religious beliefs in the original Wicker Man is absolutely paramount to the horror that unfolds as we watch the residents of Summerisle challenge and strip away everything that he holds dear to him; his beliefs, his then previously unquestioned dedication to the Christian God, his life, until he is nothing but a pawn in their game of sacrifice. The remake, for some reason, completely misses the point of this and goes down some strange Salem witch shit route and Sister Summersisle (they somehow got Ellen Burstyn involved in this) spouts some spiel about their little Pagan commune being mainly female due to their own version of twisted Darwinism. It’s not frightening, nor does it really make an sense.

And we continue down this nonsensical route for the next hour and forty minutes or a bit less if you got really bored of watching this shoddy, apparent ‘horror’ film and turned the television off.

25-wicker-man

However, if we rewind a little bit, take a deep breath, and start again, watching this time through a comedic lens, we will actually find slivers of enjoyment in this massive overcooked cake of dump.

Some of the dialogue is utterly astonishing in its absurdity and I’m pretty sure some of it could be used as a backing loop in a Lemon Jelly song. We all know the howling bees line, the ‘HOW DID IT GET BURNED!’ scene has made it into countless memes and cut into various youtube videos (Nic Cage’s very own screaming goat moment), and ‘KILLING ME WON’T BRING BACK YOUR GODDAMN HONEY!’ deserves an award for its bizarreness. However, the line that got me the most was in the scene in which Malus spots two men carrying a bag dripping blood, his detective radar beeps and he floors them with his aggressive interrogation which amounts to him saying ‘What’s in the bag? A shark or something?’ The delivery is Derek Zoolander-esque, deadly serious with no hint of how ludicrous his sounds, and it makes you wonder if Nicolas Cage was off his tits when he read this script.

There is also some beautiful physical comedy on show. The scene where Cage punches a grown woman in the face while he is dressed as a bear will definitely go down in the top 5 funny things someone has done in a animal costume (Ace Ventura still takes the top spot with his emergence from a rhino anus).

My complaint about Cage’s acting in Left Behind can go out the window where The Wicker Man is concerned. A lot of the joy in watching The Wicker Man comes from watching the man himself. He spends most of the film borderline hysterical, screaming at women and bees, while he is being mugged off and undermined by the inhabitants of the island. Nuance does not exist here. This is the googly eyed realm of yelling shit lines, and I cannot deny that it is bloody entertaining to watch Cage stomp around, pointing his gun and screeching at people to get off bikes. The bee scene is particularly iconic and Cage gives it his all, probably popping some blood vessels in the process. Yes, this film is pure garbage but Cage brings the fireworks and stops this film from being truly unmemorable.

The other characters are so underdrawn that they were probably sketched out on rice paper and then threw in the bin yet somehow they got some pretty decent acting talent involved (LeeLee Sobieski, Frances Conroy, Molly Parker). But they are little more than tiny moons orbiting around planet Cage.

What galls me the most is the fact that director/screenwriter Neil LaBute can direct and write a decent black comedy. Nurse Betty was a fantastic, sharp piece of work, and Fat Pig was a biting takedown of our obsession with weight. If he had gone the same way with The Wicker Man then we could have had a half decent film on our hands but instead he went down the pure ‘horror’ route, using dull and basic ‘twists’ (the missing child being the daughter) without imbuing them with any sense of meaning as to how this affects proceedings, and hysterical set pieces which are meant to scare us but do little but make us roll our eyes or just make us laugh.

The Wicker Man is a film that should be watched drunk. It is the only way to get a vague sense of enjoyment without the fury of what could have been if someone had just been wise enough to say ‘no, wait, this is actually shit’, or ‘hey Neil, shall we just make this a comedy instead?’ Watching it sober has not improved my life in any way so i’ll be sure to have a bottle of Bailey’s nearby the next time I’m so bored that I’m tempted to watch this again for the fourth time.
IMDB rating: 3.6

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (as a horror)

My rating: ★★☆☆☆ (as a comedy)

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