It’s October and with it comes Halloween, autumn, and the first theme month at Insomniac Movie Theater. In honor of Halloween, it’s bad horror remake month on Insomniac Movie Theater and there’s no better movie to kick it off than 2006’s Nick Cage catastrophe “The Wicker Man.”
Written and directed by one-time University of Kansas graduate student and accomplished playwright Neil LaBute, “The Wicker Man” bares a lot in common with the 1973 original, from a plot standpoint, at least.
Cage plays Edward Malus, a police officer haunted by a vehicular homicide he witnessed during a routine traffic stop. One day Malus receives a letter from his ex-fiance Willow Woodward, asking him to come to Summerisle Island and help her find her missing daughter, Rowan.
Things are instantly off on the island as the locals dress in colonial-era garb and can barely hide their ulterior motives for Malus. What’s more, the island is populated predominantly by women, with the men appearing meek and soft-spoken. There are no male children on the island and every woman is referred to as “Sister Insert-plant-name-here.”
Much has been made about Cage’s abysmal performance and the overall poor direction of LaBute, but the worst thing about “The Wicker Man” is its banal tone and its uneventful pacing. Maybe the banality was intentional because by the time Cage starts really scene-chewing, it’s a welcome change. It’s a terrible example of acting, but at least it’s entertaining. At least something is happening aside from LaBute’s grossly mishandled flashback sequences and shots of a clearly slumming Ellen Burstyn like this one:
But once Cage goes bonkers, he really goes bonkers. Fed up by the town’s lack of cooperation in his investigation, he finally snaps when he discovers that Rowan is likely to be sacrificed as part of a harvest festival. When that happens, he becomes a crazed hunter, stalking from house to house in the movie’s funniest montage. And when he’s not doing that, he’s harassing the townsfolk, knocking masks off of children’s faces and kicking Leelee Sobieski in the face.
But the absolute best part about Cage’s performance in the last 40 minutes of the movie is his reactions. There’s nothing worth saying that the following video can’t say better, but I imagine this is how LaBute’s direction went:
LaBute: “Okay Nick, for this next scene you’re enraged by the town’s apathy toward your investigation and their continued denial that Rowan even exists.“
Cage: “I’m thinking I’ll approach this scene with tangible frustration and irritability. Maybe appear kinda world weary.”
LaBute: “What? No. You know how people interact with each other on a daily basis, talking and listening and actually making metered responses? Do the opposite of that.”
Anyway, even with Cage’s campiness and the hilarious alternative ending that sees his character getting his legs broken and his face stung by dozens of bees, it’s not enough to make the rest of the movie worthwhile. Especially frustrating is the gorgeous cinematography by Paul Sarossy, which is the equivalent of a shiny new paint job on an abandoned car that a pack of raccoons have lived in for a year.
Luckily, some faithful YouTuber collected most of the best scenes into a single clip, saving you from having to suffer the same fate I suffered.
If you want to see Cage in a good crazy mode, check out “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” And for a great LaBute movie, check out “In The Company of Men,” if you haven’t already, but skip this PG-13 remake at all costs. It’s so bad that I was advised to just watch the above YouTube clip BY THE PEOPLE RENTING ME THE MOVIE. There’s a tagline fit for the posters: “So bad, not even retailers want to make money off of it.”