This 2006 remake of the 1973 horror classic (The Wicker Man) was a must-watch for me. A mysterious cult on a secluded island? Count me in! Going in to this viewing experience, all I really wanted was to be creeped out, which it sure did at some moments. I didn’t know much about it beforehand, but I had seen some clips of the iconic Wicker Man structure. I did certainly have quite a few issues with the movie, mostly lying with the underdeveloped plot. Please be aware that this review does include spoilers, so it’s best to give the movie a watch first. Now, let’s dive straight in.
I tend to be quite overly negative, so let’s make a change. I’ll start with my favourite section of the movie, the first couple of scenes. The opening scene was, in my opinion, very well done. It shows us Sheriff Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) picking up a doll, whilst on his motorway patrol. He quickly finds the owner and approaches the car, where he finds a young woman and her daughter. The mother seems apologetic for her daughter’s actions, whilst the little girl continues to throw the doll out of the car window when it is handed to her. The tension built in this opening scene is silent but deadly. It makes us, as the viewers, feel in our gut as if something is about to go wrong. Something I picked up on, is that the girl throwing the doll, was almost a way to buy time (before the eventual car crash.) This could’ve been a decision made by the director, as a way to transition into the accident. But for me it felt like a hint towards foul play and the carefully constructed plan later revealed by the ‘cult’. Nicolas Cage is a brilliant actor, so the way he handled the mental deterioration of his character was believable and touching. The exchange with his colleague at his home was seething in the shame and guilt Edward felt for the accident. That emotion, guilt, really comes across to the viewer and explains many of Edward’s actions throughout the movie. He feels terrible that he wasn’t able to save a little girl and her mother, therefore wanting to save other people to absolve himself of this guilt. When Edward gets a letter from his ex-fiancé, another colleague advises against him visiting her. I enjoyed watching the conflict inside Edward develop throughout this part of the film. The letter details the dissapearance of a child, the woman’s daughter. Due to the trauma Edward went through when he was unable to save a child from the car wreck and the attachment he still has to the woman, he is enticed to investigate. As I said previously, I enjoy Nicolas Cage’s acting, so his portrayal of this loyal, yet hurt, character was very interesting to me.
My issues with this movie start as soon as Edward starts his journey to the island. It is clear by this point that Edward is suffering from trauma related issues, as we see him taking medication on multiple occasions. In my opinion, this was a grab for sympathy from the audience. It also seemed to be an attempt to discredit him through his insinuated struggle with mental ilness, which was a tad distasteful. Once he arrives, Edward is confused by the customs and ways of the people on the island. In fact, he spends a lot of time being confused in this movie. Some movies leave gaps on purpose, to leave room for interpretation. Those movies usually do it well, this one didn’t really make the cut. A good example of something that is never explained is the recurring visions that Edward suffers from. These visions give a warped retelling of the car accident he witnessed. Some of the visions feature his daughter, whilst some display the car as empty. The many variations of the accident left me confused and wanting a clear explanation. The people on the island were always a little too calm in my opinion. To a certain extent, this was effective in creating an eery atmosphere. Beyond that though, it just made the interactions between Edward and the islanders boring and bland. Nicolas Cage is a very expressive and emotive actor, but compared to the seemingly low effort of the other actors, he seemed like he was doing too much. This movie was 1hr 42mins, which isn’t extremely short, but most of the information given in this movie seemed to be compacted and glossed over. This was in a poor attempt to include as much cheap horror/scares as possible.
Let’s talk about the ending. After around an hour of boring island interactions, I was happy to finally get some action. This was the only part of the movie where I really enjoyed Nicolas Cage ‘over’ acting. It made it feel like something was really off, and finally added some tension that lasted more than 10 seconds. The re-use of the bees was clever, and the contrast of his emotions to the ‘cult’s’ emotions made the last scene disturbing and actually well done.
Overall, this movie was okay. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I’ll give it credit for having some absolutely beautiful camerawork at some points in the movie, which took my attention away from the plot on occasion. I don’t regret watching the movie, because there were some gems in it. In addition, I watched it because I wanted to feel uncomfortable and creeped out, there was some imagery that succeeded in doing that. I personally wouldn’t watch it again in the near future, but if you want a (lot) more tame version of Midsommar, this just might be the movie for you!
– The Whiz