The 1973 original The Wicker Man movie is one of the strangest cult horror hits of the era. Five decades later, its shoestring budget, trippy soundtrack and even the distractingly obvious dubbing of Swedish star Britt Ekland combine to create a uniquely weird viewing experience whose influence can clearly be seen on modern horror classics like Ari Aster’s Midsommar.
It was always going to be challenging for a remake to capture the original’s uniquely provincial tone – particularly when shifting the action to America. To give director Neil LaBute some credit, he does at least attempt a fresh take on the material, replacing the free-loving pagans of the original with a matriarchal society of bee-worshippers.
Obviously the aspect of the film that really tips The Wicker Man over the edge into its own strange, wonderful thing is the casting of Nicholas Cage in the leading role. Of all Cage’s unhinged performances, this comes the closest to his deranged early turn in Vampire’s Kiss. The script for this remake is by and large terrible, but Cage doesn’t so much elevate the material as take a steamroller to it, to the extent that many of his line readings have now become classic internet memes.
After the film debuted to disastrous reviews and a weak box office, Cage insisted that the film was always supposed to be a comedy. Easy to say in retrospect, but in this case I’m inclined to believe him. In the hands of virtually any other actor – possibly excluding his equally campy Face/Off co-star John Travolta – The Wicker Man remake would be a boring kind of failure, but the increasingly operatic mania of Cage’s performance is just too good to be accidental, sealing the film as a camp classic for the ages.
On this week’s podcast, we discuss some of our personal highlights, including unconvincing disguises, terrible detective work, a highly cavalier attitude to deadly bee allergies and some of the most distracting wig and teeth work in movie history.
As always, we also brainstorm some drinking games, check in with our listeners and pitch sequel ideas to bring Cage and The Wicker Man back from the ashes! If you enjoy this week’s show, hit subscribe to receive a brand new episode every Monday morning, and please consider leaving us a review on your preferred podcatcher.
Next week, we’ll be leaving Cagemass behind and checking in with one of our favourite returning guests for a modern rom com classic. Until then, happy listening and remember, ritual human sacrifice is mildly effective at best for combatting a disappointing harvest.