The Wicker Man … not so scary

BIRD AND A CAGE <br>Nicolas Cage gets all serious in <span style=The Wicker Man.">

Nicolas Cage gets all serious in The Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man Starring Nicolas Cage and Ellen Burstyn. Directed by Neil LaBute. Rated PG-13.
Rated 1.0

Director Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men) has managed in the course of a scant few films to build himself up a fairly solid reputation for being a misogynist, but with this completely unnecessary remake of the 1973 cult film of the same name he also proves once and for all that he certifiably has a few too many holes in his underwear.

A California Highway Patrolman (Nicolas Cage, with his lugubrious expression heading even farther south than usual), guilt-stricken after failing to avert the death of a young mother and her child, travels to a remote Washington island at the behest of his ex-girlfriend to try to find her missing daughter.

“Have you lost your bearings?” a resident of the isle inquires portentously upon his arrival. Upon further out-of-his-jurisdiction investigation he finds a matriarchal society of literal castrating bitches ruling like queen bees over the muted, drone-like menfolk.

Sniff … do I smell some effin’ issues here?

This inadvertently hilarious trainwreck of a faux horror film not only looks and feels like one of those cheesy made-for-television potboilers from the ‘70s, but also plays like a cinematic Rorschach test for both the director and his hangdog lead Cage (looking more with each successive feature like a dyspeptic Don Knotts with upside-down ears), neither of whom would apparently recognize an actual pagan if one were bound naked to a Maypole and planted in his front yard.

Inexplicably substituting the Christian-ethos-confronted-with-old-world-rituals of the source material with shrill-voiced agitprop of a gender war of attrition, this load of bollocks would be offensive if it weren’t so endearingly hare-brained. And it does make for some interestingly synchronistic meta-filmmaking, as LaBute’s own socio-religious issues seem to match those of the protagonist of the original film, played out against the quasi-Wiccans of the remake.

Add to the mix a resolution that, when explained, completely negates everything that preceded it (which was doing fine negating itself even as it happened), buttloads of hoary horror tropes that most self-respecting horror directors threw in the Dumpster years ago (like the dream-within-a-dream cliché), gratuitous and repeated flashbacks that serve no other purpose than to pad the running time and a superfluous coda that’s written as if spelling things out for retarded third-graders, and we have an early winner for worst movie of the year.

And it’s been a bad year for movies.