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Trivia There is a "Missing" sign in the police station with a photo of Edward Woodward's character from the 1973 original.
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The Wicker Man (2006)
15th Sep 06
An American sheriff investigates the case of a missing girl from a neo-pagan community on an island off the coast of Maine.
As predictable as the England football team failing to win yet another major trophy or my mate Malcolm failing to buy a round of drinks, the usual magazines jumped up and down moaning about another classic being remade when news of Neil LaBute's take on The Wicker Man was announced.
Director Robert Hardy's original film found an audience over the years and has built a solid fan base. It was inevitable that news of an update was going to rattle some cages from people that really shouldn't care so much about something so trivial. However when the finished product is as numbingly awful as this, it unfortunately feeds the fire that rages about whether such 'classics' should be remade or not.
So what went wrong? Initially LaBute's take sounded an inspired twist on Robert Hardy's original screenplay. Swapping Christopher Lee's patriarchal society to a matriarchal one, led by Ellen Burstyn (from The Exorcist), sounded intriguing with the community being run by women who are direct descendants of pilgrims. Women have had a pretty hard time on the receiving end of writer/director LaBute's pen through his well-received earlier movies In the Company of Men (1997) and Your Friends and Neighbours (1998) and none more so than here in his latest.
Quite what LaBute is trying to say here is not clear! Frankly it all comes over feeling really rather daft. Nicolas Cage is in pure hammy mode as Edward Malus, a man haunted by an incident in his past (like that's original!), rather than a devoted, virginal Christian in the source material. In fact he hasn't been so unbearable to watch since uttering that tripe ”Put the bunny back in the box” in 1997's Con Air.
When Edward's ex-fiancée writes to him saying that her daughter Rowan has gone missing, Malus pops on over to Summersisle to investigate. In doing so he gets stung by bees a lot, ridiculously pulls a gun on a woman cyclist and spends the latter half of the movie thumping and kicking as many of the 'sisters' that he can before dressing up as a bear and meeting the highly flammable Wicker Man. The scene in which Malus 'accidentally' bumps into a bee hive before agitating many more plays like something from TV's The Simpsons rather than a horror thriller.
In fact, there is no suspense at all, the movie flat-lining before it even gets a chance to take off, opening with Cage's cop trying to rescue a stropy brat whom the audience are keen to see offed rather than emphasize with. It doesn't help that the same scene is played out again and yet again throughout the movie's duration as if we are so stupid we had forgotten it had ever happened. La Bute is also bloody awful at 'BOO!' moments, as exemplified by a double 'jump' he tries to pull off that is just so bad that when it is left hanging around for reaction, one can't help but try and stifle a laugh.
Robert Hardy has got his knickers in a right old twist about the remake, demanding his lawyers remove his name for all publicity materials for the mega-budgeted affair. Hardy's concern is the public impression that he had a hand in writing this remake – an allegation he is eager to dispute. Perhaps also he knew that the new version stank and wanted to distance himself from such a dodo before he was associated with it.