The Wicker Man Neil LaBute

The Wicker Man remake is one of 2006’s biggest mysteries. Like most classics, there was little need for an update, especially with an American slant. But Cage and LaBute saw that it was made and the result is a jaw-dropping accomplishment. The director/writer took complete control of Anthony Shaffer’s 1973 screenplay, adapting it into something modern and completely ludicrous. Cage plays Edward Malus, a semi-retired cop who travels to the enigmatic California island of Summersisle in search of an abducted young girl believed to be his daughter. Once there, he finds a strange matriarchal community with a wholesome yet sinister vibe. Aggressively instituting his lawful ways on the populace, he quickly finds himself in a vulnerable position that leads to a shocking conclusion. Personally, I’m still wondering if LaBute’s film is some expensive inside joke because what he’s delivered is absurd and sensational cinema. Cage is manic in his portrayal of an impatient and smug detective; he loses his cool in such an unhinged and nerdy fashion that it’s hard to determine what his inspiration for this role was. In the original, Edward Woodward was a devout Christian driven to madness by an obscure and immoral village. Cage’s impulsiveness may have to do with his blood relations, but moments such as running off into the forest carrying a child in a full bear suit give this is an unintended comical feel. The "shocking alternate ending” features a sequence in which they torturously prepare Edward for his fate (which gives Cage yet another moment to ham up his character) then cutting out the theatrical version’s final scene, which took the sacrificial tradition to the next generation. ("Shocking” is hardly applicable for this extra.) Additionally, LaBute and company’s commentary is surprisingly straight in explaining the film and completely oblivious of its ridiculousness. He speaks of updating it and doing something quite different from the original. For instance, the radical shift to matriarchy stems from using the bee colony as a thematic and symbolic device. There are laughs, but mostly through memories and not through what’s unfolding in front of us. Everything about this DVD is positively confounding. Plus: theatrical trailer. (Warner)