Time to start this year’s festivities with a bang and a lot of frantic screaming. Like so many other people, I had of course seen all the ludicrous clips Nic Cage from the remake of the classic Wicker Man. Repeatedly asking how something got burned like a crazy person. Snap kicking Leelee Sobieski in the face. And, my personal favorite, sucker punching a teenage girl while wearing a bear costume. On this, the 10 year anniversary of its release, I wanted to see if these scenes would at least make more sense given context. While the answer is yes, it is not by much.
The movie follows the character of Edward Malus as he fumbles around an island trying to find a missing girl and generally being as batshit crazy as possible. Edward is haunted by the deaths of two young people that may or may not have actually died in a car crash that may or may not have been staged. His ex-fiance then sends him a letter telling him that her daughter is missing and he needs to come to Summersisle. There he finds a lot of women that are doing their damnedest to make him leave even though they need him for their final fertility ritual (which, I can assure, will not bring back their goddamn honey).
The rest of the characters in this are all more caricature than fleshed out people. Willow, the ex-wife played by Kate Beahan, is honestly the only person that comes across as in any way nuanced. She seems to both believe in what the cult is doing but also be somewhat torn and this is all conveyed through her emotive responses. Which is good because if it had been through actual written dialogue it would have probably ended up with her saying “I believe in what this cult is doing but I am torn because I have feelings for you.” Most everyone else exists to get some exposition across or to be “creepy” and when I say “creepy” I mean very nearly hilarious.
Those famous clips, I mentioned before, only slightly make more sense within the context of the film and then only because the rest of the movie also takes that seemingly random yet passionately bewildering tone. Everyone is maddeningly vague and yet delivers their lines with a smirking intensity that I am certain was meant to come across as “brainwashed cult members” but ends up being closer to “obviously just fucking with you”. With just a few changes to the soundtrack and some editing, this would be a laugh riot that would stick around as a cult classic instead of being relegated to a funniest Nicolas Cage moments compilation on YouTube.
As for the plot of the movie, it is close-ish to the original movie and yet veers off wildly into its own thing. The original movie was more of that 70’s love of “Oh no, things that aren’t Christian” that you saw in Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen. It focused more on the debauchery and paganism of the island and its inhabitants. The remake does away with all that and replaces the main terrifying thing with…radical feminism? The island is entirely run by women and the men are silent, subservient, breeding stock. However, where the original played on that tension by making the main character a devout Christian, this movie just sort of puts the whole Oppressive Matriarchy thing in without any real way for Edward to interact with it.
In all, the movie was watchable if bafflingly stupid and more than a little over-the-top. I would give it a 2 out of 5 and say that if you want to watch Nicolas Cage be Nicolas Cage in a movie you haven’t seen yet, go ahead and give it a look.
Favorite part of the movie: Aside from the well-known bits, there is a part where Cage blinks his eyes and there is an audible *squish* noise and it made me crack the fuck up.
Least favorite part: The umpteenth time Edward runs into an obvious trap yelling “Rowan!” and then learning nothing.