#J-172 The Wicker Man
(2006, Neil LaBute)
“How’d it get burned? HOW’D IT GET BURNED?!”
Sometime in the 70s, some guy in Britain made some movie called The Wicker Man. It was alright, nothing special. It had Saruman as the bad guy and it was all about pagans. But loads of people in it had Scottish accents, and nobody’s got time for that nonsense. So, it got remade in 2006, shifted to America and now features Nicolas Cage in the lead role. And let me tell you, it’s a true masterpiece of cinema.
Nic Cage is a cop suffered PTSD after witnessing a car accident where the car blew up in his face (happens all the time). Then he gets a letter from a woman he used to date telling him to come to an island called Summersisle, which is home to a farming commune consisting of nothing but women. Her daughter has gone missing and she wants Nic Cage to find her. So he goes, and then weird pagan stuff starts to happen, and it is spooky as hell.
Well, where can I start with this amazing piece of work? The movie does so many things right it’s difficult to say exactly what it did right. But I suppose we should start with the lead actor, Mr Nicolas Cage himself. No, SIR Nicolas Cage, for he is a true visionary of the acting world.
Nic Cage is incredibly subdued in this role, giving every scene the true respect it deserves. He plays his role (whose name I forget) with such realism that it’s hard not to be moved by it. His distress at finding a burnt doll in a grave feels like the kind of reaction we’d all have in his situation, furiously shouting at his ex-girlfriend the entire time. When he later points a gun at a woman and tells her to “step away from the bike”, you know that stuff’s really about to go down, so watch out now.
But the true Oscar-winning performance here is when he beats up three women in quick succession. It’s easy to identify with a man who’ll casually walk to up a woman and punch her in the face, then drop kick another woman into a wall and then run up to another woman while wearing a bear suit to punch her in the face too. The man is an example to us all.
His co-stars are also fantastic. His cop lady friend lights up the screen and her performance doesn’t come across as stilted and awkward at all. His ex-girlfriend is also a winner, with her persistent pauses and tripping over her lines really adding the right level of suspense. None of it makes it seem like she’s constantly forgetting her lines at all. And then there’s Ellen Burstyn as the island’s leader Sister Summersisle, whose expressions definitely say “I am evil” and certainly not “I was in The Exorcist and Requiem For A Dream, what am I doing in this piece of sh…” but anyway.
The plot is also spectacularly written. The elements not taken from the original movie don’t detract at all from the plot at large. The concept of a colony of women living on an isolated island off the coast of Washington state is never explained, but let’s face it, it doesn’t need to be. There’s also a real sense of mystery generated by the mysterious car crash early on, as well as witnessing the Pagan women carrying a bag containing something wriggling and bleeding. These plot aspects are never expanded on, but that’s fine because it lets the audience make up their own minds and certainly doesn’t come across as lazy writing.
Also, the attempts at generating horror through various jump scares are truly effective. You will be so shocked when you witness a child on a ship get hit by a truck that you will involuntarily laugh from the terror. There’s also a double jump scare via Nic Cage having a bad dream within a bad dream that is terrifying and not silly at all.
The Wicker Man is a truly wonderful movie that blows everything else out of the water. A masterpiece of horror movie production that will forever stand the test of time.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan, Frances Conroy, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Parker & Diane Delano
Written by David Pinner (novel – Ritual) and Neil Labute
Produced by Nicolas Cage & Avi Lerner
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Cinematography by Paul Sarossy
Edited by Joel Plotch
Favourite Scene: Nic Cage portrays real terror when faced with a face covered in bees. Not the bees, indeed.
Scene That Bugged Me: Absolutely nothing. This movie was perfect and not silly and pointless at all.
Watch it if: You like to see Nic Cage overacting gloriously
Avoid it if: You believed this was the real review (stay tuned for that tomorrow 😉 )