Say hello to The Wicker Man, a horrible remake of the British cult horror film that stars the semi-reliable Nicolas Cage, is directed by the often good Neil LaBute, and yet couldn't be worse. LaBute, maker of such fine dramas as In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, makes it clear that while social horror is his forte, he has no business directing a straightforward horror film.
Cage plays Edward, a California cop who witnesses a fatal accident at film's beginning and goes into a funk. He was unable to save a little girl, and this haunts him. Then, he gets a letter from an old girlfriend asking for help, because her daughter is lost. She's apparently living in some sort of commune off the Oregon coast, and her predicament is somewhat intriguing, so he sets out to help her.
The strange commune is run by women, and they harvest bees. They speak like the annoying bastards in The Village, a sort of half-Shakespeare, half-pilgrim tongue. This makes every word of dialogue out of the commune inhabitants' mouths damn annoying (an actress playing a bartender looks like she's struggling not to laugh as she delivers her lines). Ellen Burstyn plays the queen bee, so to speak, of the island, and her wig is funnier than, well, the wig Cage is wearing.
Edward shows up, drinks some mead, squashes a bee with his mug and immediately gets on everybody's bad side. He meets up with his ex (Kate Beahan), who is the spitting image of Fiona Apple. Cage's performance then goes from somber to total camp. It's some of the worst work he's ever done, and it makes his acting in Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes seem nuanced.
This is a movie where Cage--I shit you not--is required to wear a bear suit and run through the forest near the film's end, like he's in Bjork's "Human Behavior" video. This actually occurs during what's supposed to be a serious part of the film. We're supposed to feel dread for his character, and he's dressed in a fucking bear suit. He's on his way to rescue somebody from burning in some sort of pagan festival, while Burstyn is wearing blue facial makeup that makes her look like Mel Gibson's William Wallace from Braveheart, and--I feel it's necessary to point this out one last time--he's dressed in a goofy-assed bear suit. With a big male effigy ablaze and a bunch of people in stupid animal suits, the movie ends like a low-grade Burning Man festival.
The Wicker Man is so bad, you start playing movie games. I, for one, started watching Cage's character as if he were H.I. McDunnough, his role in Raising Arizona. This made the unintentionally funny film even more hilarious. There's a scene where his character finds out he has a daughter, and the inner dialogue in my head screamed, "What, are ya kiddin'? We got us a family here!" I laughed out loud, confusing patrons around me.
In fact, watch this one as a comedy. You'll have a much better chance of enjoying yourself. Go with a friend this week, and yell your own dialogue at the screen like you were in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Don't worry; nobody else will be there to hear you.
Proceed with caution, because we are talking about a film that's bad to a monumental degree. Cage will probably rebound, but I imagine this will cause some serious problems for LaBute, who failed on so many levels, it will be a wonder if he ever works again. Nothing's in the pipeline, but it's a safe bet another horror film remake is not in his future.