Friday, September 01, 2006

The Wicker Man

Written and directed by Neil LaBute from the 1973 screenplay by Anthony Shaffer
Warner Bros.

The wild, weird world of Nicolas Cage--we all know the guy is a likable, but mostly enigmatic actor, with strange tics and odd acting choices. He can be great--Leaving Las Vegas or World Trade Center, or he can be goofy--The Rock or The Weather Man, or he can lend his oddball talent to creepy movies and make them unintentionally funny--like with 8 MM and this latest remake.

It's an offshoot of redneck horror--the setting is an island off of Washington this time, but it's still a location where evolution seemingly never took place. Edward Malus (Cage) is a cop who has been sent a letter from his ex-fiancee Willow (Kate Beahan, who went through the missing-girl routine as a flight attendant in Flightplan--maybe she and Julianne Moore should hook up in a movie because they have four of these under their combined belts), claiming her daughter is missing and he should come to Summer's Isle to help find her. Malus, of course, is haunted by a previous incident where he couldn't save a little girl from a burning car. Now on the creepy island where people speak in a different manner and mean things in a different way, Malus tries to question everyone on the island about the girl--getting only that she doesn't exist, or that she died but not really, or some other cryptic crap. There's a lot having to do with bee harvesting, sacrifice, and the idea of women being in control--personified by the Queen Bee herself, Sister Summersisle (Ellen Burstyn).

It's a completely unintentionally funny horror flick--Malus hallucinates a great bit, leading to scenes that should be the kind of "gotcha!" moments that The Descent did so well but really just ended up making me laugh...hard. Add that to Cage's presence, playing his character sincerely but ending up making some of his lines too funny for the situation, then we have ripe camp. But it's nowhere near trashy enough to be a camp classic. It's a toned-down PG-13 flick with no scares, more laughs than You, Me, & Dupree (even if they are unintentional, they count), directed by a guy who came onto the scene with brutal dialogue (a la David Mamet) in classics like In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbors--which makes it all the more disappointing.


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