The Wicker Man remake is one of the worst movies of all-time. It is also perhaps the “best worst movie” of all-time.
So Bad, It’s Good
There are times when a movie is so bad it transcends its awfulness and morphs into something else entirely. The egregious ineptitude of such films causes them to elicit more guffaws than most pure comedies could ever dream of.
A couple of the most famous “so bad, it’s good” films are The Room and Troll 2. Both films are so mindbogglingly awful, yet hilarious, that they have entered the public consciousness. They were also both immortalized by critically-acclaimed films about their production and/or legacy (The Disaster Artist and Best Worst Movie).
Another film that continues to build momentum in the battle for the dubious honor of “best worst movie” is Neil Labute’s remake of The Wicker Man starring Nicolas Cage. The Wicker Man is a film that is oft discussed for its plethora of guffaw-worthy moments, including those involving CGI bees and Nicolas Cage punching women whilst wearing an incredibly lifelike bear costume. These scenes and a multitude of others are stuff of legend.
Best Worst Movie
In my opinion, The Wicker Man is a better bad movie than both The Room and Troll 2. It’s a better example of a “so bad, it’s good” movie in that it’s a professional Hollywood production. At the end of the day, both The Room and Troll 2 were amateur productions from top to bottom.
In the case of Troll 2, its Italian director, Claudio Fragasso, had some experience making no-budget b-movies, and while he may have been very efficient and economical, he’s no Clint Eastwood. The Room’s writer-director, Tommy Wiseau, was an amateur filmmaker with zero experience. When you take the background of these filmmakers into account, it’s not completely surprising that they made such historically awful films.
Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Ingredients for Failure
Neil LaBute, the writer-director of The Wicker Man remake, was somewhat of an acclaimed filmmaker in the late 90s and early 2000s. His work prior to The Wicker Man was often audacious, dark, and biting, so he seemed to be a solid, outside-the-box choice for this material. Surprisingly, LaBute completely missed the mark, and he made a monumentally incompetent, ineffective, and cheap-looking movie.
The casting of Nicolas Cage in the lead role of Edward Malus was another huge gaffe. Cage can be a fine actor in the right role (he is an Academy Award winner after all). At the same time, he can be too ostentatious and unhinged for his own good as in Vampire’s Kiss and Deadfall. Thankfully, Cage decided to give a more understated performance in The Wicker Man. The problem is that he couldn’t have been any more lifeless; he just seemed vacant and bored throughout much of the film (except for the more emotional moments where he’s equally awful, but hilarious).
From a production standpoint, The Wicker Man carried a decently sized $40 million budget (I’m guessing about half of that went to Cage). The problem is it’s produced by Millenium Films. MIllenium is basically a modern day Cannon Films in that it churns out innumerable moderately budgeted b-movies with name actors (it’s also run by Israeli, Avi Lerner, who followed in the footsteps of Cannon’s Israeli co-owners Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus).
Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Up in Flames
The Wicker Man crashed and burned at the box office faster than Nicolas Cage’s Edward Malus when he meets his fiery demise at the film’s climax. According to Box Office Mojo, it grossed a paltry $23,649,127 in the US.
While the film didn’t make much of an impact at the box office, it found new life on home video thanks to the release of an unrated cut (like Troll 2, The Wicker Man is a PG-13 horror movie. Notice a pattern here?). This unrated cut reinstated the infamous “not the bees” scene, which is one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments in the history of cinema. I dare you to try to to get through this scene without bursting into laughter.
In a 2013 interview with IndieWire, Nicolas Cage attempted to save face by proclaiming that the absurdity of The Wicker Man was intentional. I find Cage’s statements about the film to be completely disingenuous. The film is far too deadpan and dull to be anything other than a complete tonal misfire; it’s not the adroitly hilarious, misunderstood satire of matriarchy that Cage makes it out to be.
The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall
Again, what makes the complete and utter failure of The Wicker Man more fascinating than that of some of the other historically awful films is its pedigree.
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Everyone loves an underdog, so we inherently want to see neophyte filmmakers succeed. When they fail, it’s often humorous, but ridiculing them feels somewhat mean-spirited.
Watching professionals fail can have just the opposite effect: some of us almost derive a twisted pleasure from watching these goliaths suffer ignominious failures. In a weird way, it makes us feel better about ourselves knowing that those who we perceive to be the best at what they do aren’t perfect.
At the same time, I don’t know how healthy it is to indulge in “good bad” films. We should be indulging in purely good films. Sadly, the current state of cinema is so shabby that I can understand the desire to seek out anything that will entertain. This is why I feel The Wicker Man will continue to amuse unsuspecting audiences, and that it may one day be recognized as the “best worst movie.”
What is your favorite bad movie? Is it The Wicker Man, or something else? Please let us know in the comment section below.