Fans of the original The Wicker Man appreciate the film for many reasons: Its dichotomy of paganism and Christianity, its skillful use of Celtic folk music, its eerie and overbearing ambience. Although some might find it slow, disturbing, and at times absurd, it is redeemed by a general sense that the actors and filmmakers felt a genuine passion about setting a mood, posing philosophical questions, and making the audience feel and think. Somehow, with the mystery and horror meant to achieve a higher goal than just shock and alarm, so it’s not a total enigma — on some levels, anyway — why some consider the 1973 film a “classic.”
A classic remake, on the other hand, tends to be an oxymoron. Unless classic is used as a sarcastic term, and remake in the most derogatory sense of the word, which, in the case of director Neil LaBute’s version seems entirely appropriate.
While the original relies on an impending sense of doom to carry viewers to the chilling end, the remake piles on a steady steam of violence, flashes of very disturbing and shocking images, and outbursts of nonsensical emotion to give the film weight. The gimmicky horror-flick conventions ultimately drag the film to a screeching halt when it becomes clear that no deeper meaning will be found and no redemption attained. Most bizarre, however, is the film’s attempt at humor. Comic relief to break the tension in the action/horror genre is not uncommon — take, for example, Lake Placid, Anaconda, and to recent extremes Snakes on a Plane — but this film’s almost slapstick stunts, most courtesy of star Nicholas Cage, have no continuity or context. Most of the concepts presented — such as human sacrifice, betrayal, murder of one’s own family members, and mutilation — have no place alongside desperate attempts to garner laughter at the absurdity of life.
Ultimately, even as the film leaves viewers with a terrible and horrific final scene, the audience leaves questioning not the meanings of evil and murder in our society but the validity of a film that puts such concepts on display with no greater purpose or goal.
Parents should know that this film has many highly disturbing images and presents upsetting concepts such as human sacrifice and torture. In one scene, a car blows up with a mother and daughter inside, and in another a young girl is tied to a tree with the implication that she is to be killed as a sacrificial offering. The individual relationships in this film are meant to shock and awe, such as a woman deceiving her ex-fiance to his death and a daughter lighting the fire that is used to kill her father.Many images are as shocking as they are memorable, and impressionable children and adults alike may be left with highly unpleasant images in their mind.
Some main themes of the film include a female-dominant society (in this case, unfortunately tied to the negativity of the film) and betrayal of loved ones. Families should discuss the meaning of community, and what makes some communities healthy and some oppressive. Families should also talk about different cultures and societies, and what makes our societies and others prosper or fail.
Families who enjoyed this film might also enjoy 1973’s Soylent Green, and the original Wicker Man of the same year.