starring Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan, Frances Conroy
screenplay by Neil LaBute, based on the screenplay by Anthony Shaffer
directed by Neil LaBute
by Walter Chaw You mark off certain literary flourishes in Neil LaBute's remake of Robin Hardy's classic The Wicker Man, and then you can't help but note that beneath the pagan matriarchy that is its villain and the hangdog cop (Nicolas Cage) that is its dullard hero, the film is just the auteur's latest unnecessarily reductive gender deconstruction. It's another major disappointment from the man who put humanity on the spit in In the Company of Men and--to a lesser, if no less affecting, degree--Your Friends and Neighbors. This redux hates women and, more, it hates femininity--typical LaBute, you could fairly offer, especially after Possession and The Shape of Things; The Wicker Man demonstrates again that LaBute is one of the brightest, most well-read American directors working--and that he's become incapable of focusing his smarts on a target other than the cruel and essentially alien nature of women. Hitchcock's films are arguably as obsessed, but his "wrong men" were hardly free of complicity in the construction of their own downfalls. Fatal to the production, then, is the introduction of an unsullied male hero--a literal martyr this time instead of the figurative types of LaBute's last couple pictures: a man of action (no milquetoast intellectuals here) struggling against a rising tide of castrating, hippie harpies.