Island of Screams
The Wicker Man of 2006 illustrates the dangers involved in doing a remake. The original 1973 British thriller, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, told an eerie tale about horrific happenings on a Scottish island. It soon became a cult classic. Unfortunately, this new version will probably meet with considerably less success, and I’m sorry to report that the usually brilliant Nicolas Cage delivers a disappointing performance here as a California policeman who’s drawn into the case of a young girl’s disappearance.
After Edward Malus (Cage) receives a request from his former fiancé (Kate Beahan) to help find her missing daughter, his investigation takes him to Summers Isle, an island off the Pacific Coast run by women who are members of a feminist cult led by Sister Summers Isle (Ellen Burstyn). Because Edward is an outsider, he knows nothing of the islander’s bizarre customs. The more he gets involved, the stranger everything becomes -- and the harder it is for him to retain his sanity, which was on the edge even before coming to the island. You see, he’s still suffering depression after failing to save a little girl, who -- guess what? -- looked like the one he’s searching for now. On Summers Isle, Edward not only discovers honey bees (which he’s allergic to) buzzing around EVERYWHERE, he also loses his temper while interviewing the island’s mysterious inhabitants, and ends up wearing a bear suit (!) in order to join in a dangerous and horrifying ritual.
I admit to finding The Wicker Man quite suspenseful in the opening scenes. Nicolas Cage definitely earned my sympathy for his character during that part of the film, but the moment he stepped onto Summers Isle, he became someone difficult to like -- mostly because of his character’s obnoxious yelling and violent behavior toward women. And the movie itself changed completely at this point. Instead of maintaining a mysterious tone, it turned into something almost laughable. Ellen Burstyn in Braveheart make-up? A person allergic to bees wandering around a bunch of beehives? Pagan rituals off the coast of Washington state? Cage in a bear suit? Monty Python, yes; serious mystery or suspense, no.
My husband’s comment as the movie’s end credits rolled was, “Well, now we see how terrible everything would be if women were in control.” “Don’t worry,” I replied. “It’s probably just writer/director Neil LaBute’s way of expressing his fears about powerful women -- but I think he’s only kidding around.”
Still, I can’t help wishing I’d checked out the 1973 Wicker Man instead.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “PG-13” for disturbing images, violence, language and thematic issues.)