The Wicker Man (2006 film)
The Wicker Man is a 2006 American/Canadian mystery drama thriller film written and directed by Neil LaBute and starring Nicolas Cage. The film primarily is a remake of the 1973 British film The Wicker Man, but also draws from its source material, David Pinner's 1967 novel Ritual. The film concerns a policeman named Edward Malus who is informed by his ex-fiancée Willow Woodward that her daughter Rowan has disappeared and asks for his assistance in her search. When he arrives at the island where Rowan was last seen he begins to suspect something sinister is afoot with the neo-pagans who reside on the island.
|The Wicker Man|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Neil LaBute|
|Screenplay by||Neil LaBute|
|Music by||Angelo Badalamenti|
|Edited by||Joel Plotch|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$38.8 million|
The film received hostile reviews from film critics at the time of its release; critics pointed to the film's unintentional comedy, weak acting, and poor screenwriting. The film was also a financial flop, grossing over $38 million against a $40 million production budget. Since its original release, it has developed a cult following as an entertaining unintentional comedy, particularly due to Cage's over-the-top performance in several scenes.
Policeman Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) receives news from his ex-fiancée, Willow Woodward (Kate Beahan), that her daughter, Rowan (Erika Shaye Gair), is missing. He travels to the western United States and takes a ferry to a coastal area, where he gets a pilot (Matthew Walker) to take him to an island off the coast of Washington State where a group of neo-pagans lives.
The island is led by Sister Summersisle (Ellen Burstyn), an elderly woman who supposedly represents the Goddess they worship. Sister Summersisle explains to Edward that her ancestors had left England to avoid persecution, only to settle near Salem and find renewed persecution in the Salem witch trials before arriving on the island. Sister Summersisle explains that their population is predominantly female, as they choose the strongest stock—evading Edward's concern about the birth of unwanted males. The economy of the island relies on the production of local honey, which Edward learns has declined recently.
Edward asks the villagers about Rowan, but they give him evasive answers. He later sees two men carrying a large bag that appears to be dripping blood and finds a fresh, unmarked grave in the churchyard. The grave turns out to contain only a burned doll, but Edward finds Rowan's sweater in the churchyard.
At the village school, teacher Sister Rose (Molly Parker) tries to prevent Edward from seeing the class register. When he sees that Rowan's name has been crossed out, he becomes outraged at the teacher's and Rowan's classmates' lies. Rose insists that Edward talk with her outside and, after a short discussion of the island people's view of death, she explains that capital punishment is used to enforce their laws. Edward asks how Rowan died and Sister Rose tells him that, "She'll burn to death." When Edward catches the tense she used, Sister Rose corrects herself quickly, saying, "She burned to death."
When Edward questions Willow about the grave, she reveals that Rowan is his daughter. On the day of the fertility rite, Edward frantically searches the village for Rowan. Disguised in a bear suit, he joins the parade led by Sister Summersisle, which ends at the site of the festival.
Rowan is tied to a large tree, about to be burned. Edward rescues Rowan and they run away through the woods, but Rowan leads him back to Sister Summersisle. Sister Summersisle thanks Rowan for her help, and Edward realizes that the search for Rowan was a trap. It is revealed that Willow, known on the island as Sister Willow, is the daughter of Sister Summersisle and that Willow sealed Edward's fate many years ago, when Sister Willow chose him as a human sacrifice to restore the island's honey production (after Edward deliberately destroyed the beehives in their crop earlier). The villagers tackle and overpower Edward, viciously breaking his legs to prevent him from escaping and torturing him with live bees. Then they carry him to an enormous wicker man where he's hoisted high above the ground and shut inside. Rowan sets fire to the wicker man, and Edward is sacrificed in a giant blaze amid his screams.
Six months later, a pair of off-duty cops walks into a bar, and one meets Sister Willow. She asks to go home with one of the cops, clearly to set him up the same way Edward was.
- Nicolas Cage as Edward Malus
- Ellen Burstyn as Sister Summersisle
- Kate Beahan as Sister Willow Woodward
- Leelee Sobieski as Sister Honey
- Frances Conroy as Dr. T.H. Moss
- Molly Parker as Sister Rose / Sister Thorn
- Diane Delano as Sister Beech
- Mary Black as Sister Oak
- Christine Willes as Sister Violet
- Erika Shaye Gair as Rowan Woodward
- Michael Wiseman as Officer Pete
- David Purvis as Ivy
- Sophie Hough as Daisy
- Sam Velasquez as Whitey
- Aaron Eckhart as Truck Stop Patron
- George A. Murphy as Virginity Protector
- Matthew Walker as Sea Plane Pilot
- Paul Rudd Man pulled over in first scene
Universal Pictures had been planning a remake of the 1973 film of the same name since the 1990s. The British film had been in the licensing library of Canal+, which was optioned by producer JoAnne Sellar to Universal. In March 2002 it was revealed that Neil LaBute was writing and directing The Wicker Man for Universal and Nicolas Cage's production company Saturn Films. Around the same time, the original film's director Robin Hardy and star Christopher Lee were preparing a semi-remake of their 1973 film, titled The Riding of the Laddie, with Vanessa Redgrave and Lee's Lord of the Rings co-star Sean Astin attached. Hardy stated Lee would not play the villain as he did in the original Wicker Man, but instead a door-to-door born again Christian preacher who comes to Scotland along with his wife (Redgrave) as they are introduced to the neo-pagan cult. Hardy hoped for filming to begin in Glasgow, Scotland in 2003, but The Riding of the Laddie would not materialize until years later, when it had undergone many changes to become the film The Wicker Tree. Universal's remake with LaBute moved forward, who changed the Scots setting to contemporary America. The remake rights eventually moved from Universal to Millennium Films. Filming began in Vancouver, Canada in July 2005. Millennium sold distribution rights to Alcon Entertainment for distribution through their output deal with Warner Bros. Pictures.
Upon release, the film received mostly negative reviews from film critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 15% based on 107 reviews, with a weighted average score of 3.5/10. The website's consensus says, "Puzzlingly misguided, Neil LaBute's update The Wicker Man struggles against unintentional comedy and fails." On Metacritic, the film has a normalized score of 36% from 19 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". CinemaScore gave it rating of "F" based on surveys from general audiences.
The film was not without its positive reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly saw the film in a more positive light, saying that director Neil LaBute brought some "innovation" over the original film.
The original film's director, Robin Hardy, had expressed skepticism over the Hollywood remake, and had his lawyers make Warner Bros. remove his name from the remake's promotional material. According to Hardy, he was given writing credit for the screenplay, when he had not received any for the original. Christopher Lee, who played Lord Summerisle in the original film, commented: "I don't believe in remakes. You can make a follow up to a film, but to remake a movie with such history and success just doesn't make sense to me."
Cage himself acknowledged that the film was "absurd". He remarked in 2010: "There is a mischievous mind at work on The Wicker Man, you know? You know what I mean? And I finally kind of said, 'I might have known that the movie was meant to be absurd.' But saying that now after the fact is OK, but to say it before the fact is not, because you have to let the movie have its own life." In February 2012, Cage gave a live webchat with fans to promote Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. When asked what roles from his career he would most like to revisit, Cage responded, "I would like to hook up with one of the great Japanese filmmakers, like the master that made Ringu, and I would like to take The Wicker Man to Japan, except this time he's a ghost.
The Wicker Man opened on September 1, 2006 in 2,784 venues and earned $9,610,204 in its opening weekend, ranking third in the domestic box office. The film closed on November 16, 2006 after eleven weeks of release, grossing $23,649,127 domestically and $15,105,946 overseas for a worldwide total of $38,755,073. Based on a $40 million budget, the film was a box office bomb.
The film garnered five Golden Raspberry Award nominations but failed to win any:
- Worst Picture - lost to Basic Instinct 2
- Worst Actor (Cage) - lost to Marlon and Shawn Wayans for Little Man
- Worst Screenplay (LaBute) - lost to Leora Barish and Henry Bean for Basic Instinct 2
- Worst Remake or Rip-off - lost to Little Man
- Worst On-Screen Couple (Cage and his bear suit) - lost to Shawn Wayans and either Kerry Washington or Marlon Wayans for Little Man
At the 2006 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, the film garnered two nominations, one of which was a win:
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The film was released on DVD on December 19, 2006, with an unrated alternate ending included. The film continues in the same way as the theatrical version until the ending. Before Malus is taken to the wicker man to be burned alive, he is sedated with a hive of bees, whose venom he is allergic to. The credits then begin after the wicker man's burning head falls off, omitting the "6 months later" scene. A Blu-ray of the film was released on January 30, 2007.
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