In the original The Wicker Man, Edward Woodward comes head to head with Christopher Lee as a dutifully Christian policeman looking for a missing girl in one of the greatest horror films of the twentieth century. In the remake, Nicolas Cage is a motorcycle cop who goes around pulling dolls out of little girl’s hands in a movie dedicated to the former guitarist of The Ramones. Secretive, matriarchal, neo-pagan beekeepers can’t save it. The Wicker Man goes up in flames.
Amelia: Okay, so… that’s a Nicolas Cage thing that just happened. I wish we’d taken the time to watch the original and the remake like we did with The Haunting films, but we didn’t. Just the 2006 version for us! And boy is it terrible!
Billy: The problem with The Wicker Man is that every scene feels like it was written completely separately from everything else in the script. There is no rhyme or reason to events, no escalation of stakes, and because nothing Nicolas Cage does actually matters for the end of the movie to work, each scene is essentially just killing time. Nicolas Cage looks for a girl in a barn and doesn’t find her. Nicolas Cage looks for a girl in a hole and doesn’t find her. Nicolas Cage tries to help a man with some logs but they all fall off the truck, so he just walks away. This isn’t a movie. It’s a collection of loosely connected scenes that could be re-edited into any order without losing their effect. The fact that their effect is make me laugh instead of scare me tells you even more.
Amelia: First off, is it scary? No. Not at all. I think this movie was hoping it would frighten you on the idea of tropes alone and not on the execution. Old, blind twins used for prophecy? Check. No cell service in a remote location? Check. Creepy children? Check. A matriarchal society? Check. Bees? Check.
Okay, firstly, a matriarchal society shouldn’t be being used as the frightening atmosphere. Is masculinity that fragile? Like, shit. This isn’t scary to me. This is paradise! Secondly, bees aren’t scary unless they’re crawling out of Tony Todd’s mouth. Candyman > The Wicker Man. As if there were any doubt about that in your mind. Everything that happens feels like a setup for scary things to come. But before anything scary actually happens, another setup is already half done. It’s so frustrating!
Billy: Take a look at how the original The Wicker Man handled the same building blocks to craft an actual story with meaningful and lasting appeal. In the original film, Sergeant Howie is unrelated to Rowan. His main antagonist throughout the film is paganism as a force. Howie isn’t solving a mystery in the movie, the movie is solving the mystery of Howie, laying him bare before his sacrifice in the final scene of the film.
Nicolas Cage, meanwhile, is stated over and over again to be Rowan’s biological father, and so, with the authority of a patriarch, comes to the island and proclaims everything he sees as “mine”. A beer. A bicycle. Attention in the room. He commands ownership because to him, it’s already his to take. I can see where a defense would form in the minds of the creators. He has a personal investment in this, they could say. He has his own stakes. But it also erases any selfless qualities of the character and makes him indelibly unlikeable.
Amelia: Nic Cage’s character is the least likable main character I think I’ve ever seen! He doesn’t start on a good note so watching him ‘go insane’ on Summersisle means nothing. He was an antagonistic prick to start with so who the fuck cares what happens to him in the end? And like, his journey dealing with the guilt of those two that die in a car crash. Who cares? The whole thing is completely nonsensical.
Oh, hey, speaking of nonsense, does that scene with the bleeding burlap sack mean anything? What about the scene with Sister Rose’s twin? Or the scene where Nic Cage helps that guy (that looks shockingly like Daniel Craig) stack wood? Or the bit with a naked teen girl covered in bees? Silly Readers. This is a Nic Cage movie. No scene means anything to the scene that precedes it! This movie was originally supposed to be rated R but the director edited it heavily because he wanted a broader audience. In doing so, all the horrifying to relevant things were left on the cutting room floor, and this movie goes from being for mature audiences to being for no audience.
Billy: I’ve seen this movie at least five times now through various rewatches with friends. The thing that continues to confuse me are the flashbacks to the scene at the beginning of the film where Nicholas Cage fails to save a young girl and her mother from a burning car. We don’t need a reminder of something that happened 20 minutes ago. And then again after 40 minutes. And then again only 12 minutes since the last. If Cage is reliving these events in his mind, sure. But why? It jams it down your throat that this scene is important and I still can’t figure out why! Do you know? I don’t. AND I really, genuinely feel like I should.
Amelia: One bee out of ten
I suppose there’s some charm to come out of The Wicker Man. It’s not so bad that I’ll never watch it again and I always get a pretty hearty laugh when he punches that woman while wearing a bear suit. It’s good fodder for filling out a bad movie night. Just avoid it like you’re allergic to it if you’re looking for spooks and/or scares.
Billy: One and a half bees out of ten
I’ll rewatch The Wicker Man exclusively for the absurd (yet somehow mediocre) Nicolas Cage performance it consistently delivers. He wears a bear suit for most of the third act, and that tells you everything you need to know. But it’s impossible to defend it as a good movie. Before we even get to Summersisle, characters appear as main characters in the opening scenes who are wholly and entirely forgotten twenty minutes later. The first shot of the film lingers on Michael Wiseman’s character of Officer Pete, giving us a conversation between his character and the waitress before the movie even remembers Nicolas Cage is in the room. It’s indicative of the attention span this movie has, and how much of your own attention it deserves.
Bitches, bitches, not the bees, indeed.