in Shocktober

Shocktober: Day 29

The Wicker Man (2006)

Remakes, yuck! They’ve really taken over Hollywood in the past decade and from the looks of it are here to stay. But do remakes really make enough money to justify there being so many? I guess some do okay, but it’s my opinion that many underperform due to a general lack of interest. Surely they don’t make them for fans of the original films, because those are the exact people that don’t want them made. What it comes down to is a lack of imagination in the industry and good ‘ol fashioned American laziness, and this film is a shining example of both of those.

The original 1973 Wicker Man was a classic British thriller directed by Robin Hardy, written by veteran playwright/screenwriter Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, Frenzy), starring Edward Woodward as the film’s protagonist Sgt. Howie and Christopher Lee as the primary antagonist Lord Summerisle. It was a chilling film about a British policeman drawn to the island of Summerisle after receiving an anonymous letter. The case is that of a missing girl named Rowan Morrison that the people of Summerisle refuse to acknowledge. Delving deep into the mysterious Pagan rituals of the islanders, Sgt. Howie’s investigation eventually takes a very dark turn, leading to one of the most disturbing endings to a horror film I can recall. Neil Labute’s 2006 Wicker Man, is a sloppy and meaningless mess that only seems exists so that Nic Cage can get a check and pay off his tax woes.

For the most part, Labute’s Wicker Man is fairly similar to the original but with arbitrary changes. Edward Woodward starred in the original so now the the main character’s name is Edward and the missing girl’s name is Rowan Woodward. The original film was set off the coast of Scotland, but is now on an island off the coast of Washington state. This change was clearly made so that it could star an American actor. The major crop of the pagans in the original was apples, but now it’s honey because Nicolas Cage’s character is allergic to bees and the list continues. Some of the changes seem to exist merely so the film isn’t an exact copy and yet they still manage to ruin all the meaning and symbolism of the original. One scene in particular is the “bug-in-a-desk” allegory from the original. In the original, there’s a child who keeps a bug in her desk tied around a small object and no matter what the bug always moves in the same direction, further entangling itself until it can’t move. This could be seen as similar to Sgt. Howie descending further in the same direction, only further cementing his tragic fate. The remake has a scene with a bird in the desk because “We wanted to see how long it could live in there.” This doesn’t mean the same thing at all and is incredibly stupid.

Another aspect that made the original intriguing was you could almost understand where the Pagans were coming from. Both Howie a devout Christian and the Pagans were firmly following their own beliefs. The Pagans weren’t necessarily evil, but these new people just seem straight up evil and Nicolas Cage isn’t religious, so that dynamic is gone. This leads to the new ending having none of the same impact. SPOILER AHEAD (go to the next paragraph if you don’t want the original ruined) The original ended marvelously with Howie being tricked into a wild goose chase so that a Christian could be sacrificed to the wicker man. So the Pagans trap him inside the wicker man and burn him alive. The Pagans then join hands in song as Howie recites bible passages and slowly burns to death. This time it just seems like they kill the protagonist because they’re bad guys. So they drone on and on about bees and shit and Nicolas Cage just screams a lot. So it has none of the same religious impact or scare factor and then it ends with the credit “For Johnny Ramone” weird huh?

The original is a classic and one of the best thriller/mystery films of it’s time, I’d recommend it to anyone, but this? This is just a quick cash in with little to no artistic integrity. So let me send it off with this weird montage that seems like it would make more sense in context but really doesn’t.