The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man (2006)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Leelee Sobieski, Kate Beahan, Ellen Burstyn
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer

"Is this hers? How'd it get burnt? How'd it get BURNT?! How'd IT GET BURNT??!! HOW'D IT GET BURNT??!!??!!"

Unbelievable. Did you enjoy that quote? That's what you're about to feel whipping across your skull when you sit down to watch the latest in pointless-horror-remakes to hit the box office with a fizzle. Can you blame audiences? When handed unimaginative trash that strips a brilliant, classic horror film of everything that made it great… what does a studio expect?

'The Wicker Man' should be the story of a police officer who investigates the disappearance of a young girl on an increasingly creepy island full of new age, religious zealots. Instead, 'The Wicker Man,' circa 2006, is the story of a police officer (Nicolas Cage) haunted by the death of a child that looks strikingly (and pointlessly) similar to a girl that disappears on an island almost a decade later. Making his way onto the mysterious island of plot holes, he begins to search for the girl with a delusional, frantic, nonsensical approach to his investigation. He soon discovers a secret society of pagan worshippers that have obvious and sinister plans in store for our mindless hero. Everything winds down to the same great climax as the original, but in this version, we get the added bonus of a bear-suited Nicolas Cage fleeing a group of maniacal old women through the forest.

This remake is so laughable, so unintentionally awful, that it pays a ridiculous amount of disrespect to its source material. Where the original was patiently paced, shockingly unnatural, and strangely frightening, this new version of 'The Wicker Man' plays like a 9th grade, English class video project. I'm a fan of the idea of remaking older classics… but I dread seeing anything remade lately because it's often little more than a pale imitation. If I had the time, I could write belligerent paragraph after paragraph of everything that's wrong with this film. As it is, this will be the shortest review I've ever written (even at 831 words, I'm being extremely generous).

To be clear, unless you want to see how bad a movie can actually be… or unless you have a unique taste in comedies and love a good laugh, avoid this film at all costs.

The video presentation for 'The Wicker Man' is identical on HD DVD and Blu-Ray and utilizes the VC-1 codec to deliver this sub-par film at an undeserving level of visual quality. Colors are vibrant, shadows are crisp without any delineation problems, and the print transfer is unblemished, revealing no noise, macroblocking, or scratches. Hair, skin, and clothing texture add a nice range of depth and only an occasional bout of softness bogs things down. Overall, the palette of the movie seemed more unattractive than fantastical to my eyes and I wasn't a fan of the cinematography. Still, both high definition formats deliver a great technical transfer.

The audio package is also a nice touch to this torturous film and gave me a chance to compare the Dolby True HD track on HD DVD to the standard Dolby Digital mix on the Blu-ray version. While both created a realistic soundscape of rattles, crunches, and crackles, the True HD track followed an adventurous path with an impressively accurate soundfield that took advantage of every speaker. To be fair, there isn't much to enjoy since dialogue and an ambient score silence much of the potential, auditory punch. However, unless you're comparing the two side by side, you probably won't notice the difference and, once again, your format preference will likely come down to other factors beyond the technical presentation.

My biggest compliment to 'The Wicker Man' and its filmmakers is that the extras only curse us with a commentary featuring director Neil LaBute, actresses Kate Beahan and Leelee Sobieski, editor Joel Plotch, and costume designer Lynette Meyer. Even though the group sat down to record this track together, it's insanely dry, technical, and delusional… the three things I hate most in a commentary. I found myself fast forwarding a lot, only to realize that they were still talking about the same subject I was trying to skip. LaBute dominates the conversation (practically proclaiming his brilliance at every corner) and I found myself on the verge of walking away. Finally, there was a moment when the group began to discuss the alternate ending in this unrated package. LaBute talks a bit about his struggle with the MPAA and his reinsertion of the original, less optimistic and more violent ending, but never adds much to the ongoing debate of our current ratings system. Do yourself a favor and skip this track.

So what do I have to say to wrap up my review of 'The Wicker Man?' Skip this mess of a remake… hiss at it when you pass the high definition racks at Best Buy… and hide it behind better movies so fans of Nicolas Cage aren't duped into spending their hard earned cash. Ugh. Argh. Eh. For me, this flick has easily joined the ranks of the worst ten movies of all time.