With that out of the way, let’s get right to it. The Wicker Man is a horror film starring Nicholas Cage and various other actors and actresses that are not Nicholas Cage. It is a remake of a 1973 cult classic by Robin Hardy (that, sadly, does not star Nicholas Cage). Edward Malus is a cop traumatized by the death of a little girl and her mother who were hit by a truck after he pulled them over. While taking time off from work to recover, he receives a letter from his ex-fiancée saying her daughter has gone missing and she wants him to find her on a little island in Puget Sound. When Edward arrives, he finds out (much later than the audience does) that things on this strange little island are not what they seem.
Cage plays Edward with the nuance and skill of a squirrel on quaaludes; every line, facial expression, and gesture is either a completely nonchalant declarative statement or a tirade of anger and frustration. It’s a masterpiece of mediocrity. There is no rhyme or reason to anything he does. I wonder, does Cage try for this kind of image? Does he secretly know that he’s such a fantastic actor that he can get away with not giving a shit? Or does he genuinely think that random changes in volume make for compelling performances? The world may never know. But at least we can all agree that he has the best hair the world has ever seen.
Writer-director Neil LaBute and Nicholas Cage are a match made in heaven comparable to Joss Whedon and Robert Downey, Jr. in The Avengers. There is no way that the world back in 2006 was ready for the magic of this movie. This is the movie that began some of the most iconic bad-movie moments, including the infamous “Not the Bees!” and “How’d It Get Burned?!” scenes, but more importantly, The Wicker Man contains what I believe is the greatest moment in cinema history. (Seriously, click it. The title of the video backs me up.) As for the plot itself, it’s so poorly paced that you have to laugh at it in the same way you laugh at two drunk guys trying to order Dominoes. LaBute tried to keep the audience on edge by gradually releasing information as the script went on, but it’s painfully obvious from get-go that there’s something fishy (or sharky) about this island and Edward is completely oblivious to it. He tries to reason with people on the island, but even when they spout out some poorly-written line about nature and the gods and something or other, he stops and brushes it off like nothing is happening. It makes no sense and it’s comedy gold.
The original Wicker Man is regarded as a horror classic (I wish I could have seen it), so I can only imagine that the island’s nature cult in the original film was menacing and scary instead of incompetent and emo like the remake portrays them. The nature cult is the reason the original movie could have worked, so I’m amazed that LaBute and his creative team could have 100% missed that extremely important element in this remake.
Unless he didn’t.
Earlier this year, Studio Canal and Robert Hardy launched a major search for the original cut of The Wicker Man and found a working original cut, which was to be remastered and released. If it worked for the original UK version version, maybe it’ll work for the remake. I propose that we launch a search for extra Wicker Man footage that may have been lost. It’s very possible that the crew was so incompetent that they lost an entire reel of important footage; after all, they thought this was a good enough performance. Even if we don’t find any competent footage or actually discover that none exists, maybe we’ll find some great undiscovered Cageism that has yet to take the internet by storm.
Somebody get Oprah in on this. She loves bees.
This article is part of NUFEC's Bad Movies series. Find The Wicker Man on Amazon here.