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03 November, 2007

DVD Review: THE WICKER MAN (2006)

Year of Release—Film: 2006

Year of Release—DVD: 2007

DVD Label: Warner Home Video



THE MOVIE

Christopher Lee, possessed of no small body of work with which to compare it, has stated that his portrayal of Lord Summerisle in the 1973 film THE WICKER MAN was his favorite role. I doubt very seriously if anyone will be making a similar claim regarding this chunk of cinematic excrement, the horrendously unnecessary remake from the uninspired Neil LaBute.

Robin Hardy’s 1973 version of the film, written by Anthony Shaffer, was one of the best Horror Films of the ‘70’s and remains one of my favorite British Horrors. It’s a literate, intelligent, beautifully filmed story of an isolated island village with pagan beliefs, and the devout Christian policeman sent to investigate a young girl’s disappearance. The remake bears only a superficial resemblance to that classic, and the differences are not endearing.

Nicholas Cage is a fine actor; he can, when called upon, perform well in a wide variety of roles. Comedy; drama; romance; action… all are film genres at which Cage has succeeded. Horror, however, has not yet been added to that list. He is singularly unimpressive in the role of Edward Malus, a California Police Officer summoned to aid an old girlfriend (Kate Beahan in an emotionless, lifeless job of acting…) in a search for her missing daughter. He finds an isolated community in Puget Sound following ancient Celtic practices, led by Sister Summersilse, played by the usually talented Ellen Burstyn. No one shines in this mish-mash of bad characterization, illogical plotting, and horrible dialogue, especially when compared to the exceptional performances of Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, and Elke Sommer in the original.

Nor is the acting the only area of deficiency in this remake. The script, by director LaBute, is in a word, terrible. Everything that made the original film unique and impressive has been stripped out, replaced by special effects and dream sequences. The slow, steady build-up to a dramatic, frightening, satisfying conclusion has been supplanted by jump-cuts and sudden scares. When the end does arrive, you’re well past the point of caring any longer.



THE DISC

The Double-Sided disc is about what you would expect for a major new release, even an inferior one. The quality is excellent, with subtitles and multiple language tracks. It seems like putting lipstick on a pig to this reviewer, but WHV maintains its high standards on this DVD.



THE SPECIAL FEATURES

Warner Home Video, usually the one of the best DVD distributors out there, at least in terms of the bonus features, really skimped on this dog. Perhaps this reflects the generally poor reception the movie received in theatrical release, or maybe there simply wasn’t enough interest in doing something special for the DVD. Whatever the reason, there is an absolute dearth of features here.

The main “special feature” is the extended version present on Side A of the disc, promising scenes “too shocking…” for theatrical release. Don’t bother. It sucks just as much as the theatrical version, only for a longer period of time… 102 minutes of my life, to be exact. I’m certain, as I someday lay on my deathbed and my life passes before my eyes, I’ll be forced to relive each and every one of those 102 minutes in slow motion, in partial expurgation of my past sins.
The only other features on the disc are the theatrical trailer and a commentary track, featuring the director, cast member Leelee Sobieski, (who has maybe four lines in the movie…) and the costume designer. I guess the craft services guy and Best Boy were too busy to make it in. As much as I enjoy looking at Sobieski on film, listening to her drone on about a movie she barely appears in is not my idea of entertaining; nor am I interested in hearing how LaBute got the idea to bastardize one of my favorite films. It is telling that none of the leads saw fit to record commentary for this project, however.



IN CONCLUSION

There is usually a price-point at which I consider a movie a good buy, even one that I may not find as entertaining as it could be. This disc does not have such a price. I got mine out of a $5 discount bin, and I feel ripped off. Please take whatever money you might have planned to spend on this refuse, and instead hunt for the superb 1973 original. If you do insist on watching this, then please, wait for it to hit TV… at least that way, all you’ve lost is time.




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