October 10, 2012

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man is misogyny the likes of which even God has never seen.

Now we all know that Kim Ki-duk hates women, and film is his medium to preach his gospel of hatred for vaginated persons. Women in the world of Kim Ki-duk are screeching harpies--conniving, deceitful creatures whose sole purpose is to pervert the purity of Man with their dirty sex and menstruating and having babies and then abandoning their babies. The only proper response is to kill them, and if Kim Ki-duk's hero fails to accomplish this, you can be sure that Nature itself will wreak divine vengeance upon them for their sins.

Now we in the Empire have our own Kim Ki-duk...or maybe Kim Ki-duk Lite. Neil LaBute isn't quite as misogynist as Kim Ki-duk--who possibly could be?--but daggone it, he's trying. He can't bring himself to outright murder the "bitches", but he does have Nicolas Cage kicking them into walls and punching them in the face while wearing a bear suit. Maybe this weakness on LaBute's part is why The Wicker Man remake hasn't been hailed as an art house masterpiece by Eurotrash hipsters wearing berets and quoting lines from Superbad "ironically", like Kim Ki-duk's "work" has. I guess misogyny is only cool when exotic Orientals do it.

The Wicker Man is a disastrous train-wreck of a film, a cinematic nosedive into the mind of a writer/director with serious relationship abandonment issues. Yet it's redeemed by outrageous overacting (especially by Nicolas Cage and his hair) and some tremendously silly sequences. Like the scene that has Cage almost...but not quite open a burlap sack that may or may not have a shark in it. The women carrying the sack then laugh uproariously, because it's apparently hilarious on Summersisle to almost...but not quite open burlap sacks that may or may not have sharks in them.

Summersisle is the name of a feminazi colony that sucks men in and consumes their life essences  New Age commune off the coast of Washington state. California highway patrolman (cue CHiPs theme!) Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) goes to the island to investigate the disappearance of his old flame's daughter despite his having no jurisdiction in Washington. Our man Eddie is a cop on the edge because in the opening sequence he pulls over a mother and daughter in a stationwagon to return to them the little girl's doll, only to have a semi come out of nowhere and smash the stationwagon into splinters. Eddie feels responsible and has flashbacks to the little girl's fiery death throughout the film in a failed attempt to connect his grief to his ex's missing daughter, which only get more hilarious every time you see them. "Whoa, Carl Eusebius!" I hear you saying as you thoughtfully stroke your neckbeard. "Little girls getting run over by semis isn't funny. And also your blog sucks and you're not funny." Well you see, my otaku friend, it is funny in The Wicker Man, because this movie fails just that badly. No matter how hard it tries to scare you, it's so incompetently filmed and acted and so absurdly staged that you can't help but laugh.

If you watch this movie, I guarantee you'll laugh at sixth iteration of a little girl getting run over by a semi, even on a ship in the middle of the ocean. The Wicker Man is that kind of movie, folks.

The girl's mother, with the embarrassing moniker Willow, is played by Australian actress and animated coat rack Kate Beahan. This gal is skinnier and more wooden than a Calista Flockheart voodoo doll. With her enormous eyes and lips and hallow face, she looks like some kind of bizarre human-bush baby hybrid. I blame LaBute for this, because he's the one who filmed her looking like that. Try looking through a few pictures of (alleged) actress Beahan on the IMdb. Flip through a few of them until you get to a still from The Wicker Man. See the difference? When she's at a film premiere, Beahan doesn't look like a drowned corpse with eyes made of glass. This is LaBute's idea of a feminine beauty: giant childlike eyes constantly on the verge of tears or emotional breakdown, lips approaching Angelina Jolie levels of trout pout, and a body so thin Brittany Murphy asked her for dieting tips.

Willow sends a letter to Eddie, asking him to come to Summersisle to find her missing daughter. Why isn't she asking, I don't know, a police officer in Washington to investigate? Because she was engaged to Eddie before she abruptly left without a word to return to Summersisle some years ago. And if that doesn't make sense to you, that's because it's stupid and pointless and is only in the movie so LaBute can film a scene of Eddie demanding to know why she left while she evades the question because women are devious and spiteful and they're only messin' with your head, man.

Eddie has to bribe the pilot of a private plane who makes regular runs to Summersisle to take him along, since, despite Eddie's claim that it's close enough to the mainland he could swim to it, this plane is the only way to get there. Eddie doesn't even check in with the authorities in Washington to let them know he's going off alone to investigate a possible kidnapping in their jurisdiction (no doubt because they'd ship him right back to California after taking his statement and the letter if he did), so that way there's no-one to help him when he finds out the colony of New Age lesbians is evil. (Oops. Sorry to blow that plot twist for you.) And yes, of course his mobile doesn't work way out here in the sticks, because, well, they didn't have mobiles in the original 1973 Wicker Man.

Eddie arrives on the island, has the encounter with the burlap bag mentioned earlier, and essentially goes about town being told by everybody that the little girl, Rowan, doesn't exist. Now, everybody in the original film denied Rowan's existence, too, but in that film, this includes her mother. That's because the original wasn't a piece of bitter chauvenistic tripe, so the letter sent to the cop was anonymous and not from Willow, he and Willow didn't know each other, and Willow was just as adamant about Rowan's non-existence as everyone else. In the remake this denial is just silly, since Eddie has Willow right there. There's some lip service paid to Willow perhaps being delusional and never having a daughter at all, but the women on Summersisle are all so obviously evil--well, apart from their being women; I mean that they're openly hostile and uncooperative with our hero, which is movie-speak for "they're hiding something"--that we never doubt they're lying about the girl's existence.

Eddie eventually figures out that Rowan is to be sacrificed to the pagan Goddess (of course it's a female divinity!) that these tree-hugging hippie chicks worship, and so he takes off the kid gloves and karate kicks Leelee Sobieski into a wall of framed photographs, punches out LaBute's offensive bull dyke caricature, puts on a bear suit, and lays out another woman witch with a Nic Cage haymaker in his attempt to rescue Rowan. I don't want to spoil the M. Night Shyamalan-like twist of the ending, but let's just say it ends with some of that patented Nic Cage crazy, including a scene of him robbing a woman of her 1920s bicycle at gunpoint ("Step away from the bike!") and the immortal line "BITCHES! YOU BITCHES!"

There isn't a moment of tension or horror in this piece of crap. It's so ludicrous you can't do anything but laugh. Now, some people might object that, given the scorn I've heaped on this movie for its misogyny, that it's wrong to enjoy it on a bad movie level. Isn't it so hateful that it ought to be avoided? Should I really be encouraging people to see it?

Yes, I should.* Because you will laugh at its absurdity. And that's what should be done with misogynists. They should mocked, ridiculed, and laughed at for the ridiculous charicatures of humanity they are. If something is made taboo, it's got an edge of cool. What, I'm not allowed to do that? I'm not allowed to say that? I'm not allowed to watch that? Screw that, man! I'm a rebel. I want to know what you're trying to keep from me. It only makes people more curious about it. Read up on the Video Nasties if you're interested in how this works. (Long story short: People in the UK successfully sought out and watched films they'd never heard of and didn't otherwise care about just because they were banned.)

But misogyny isn't something that should be hidden from view, squirreled away and locked up hoping nobody finds it. It should be dragged into the light, tossed into the centre, and held up for ridicule until it's too embarrassed to continue existing.

And that's why I love The Wicker Man. By being so naked, it exposes the absurdity at misogyny's rotten core.

Oh, and it's got this scene. It's worth seeing for that alone!


* Since there's almost as much stammering and unfinished sentences in this movie as in your average Twilight film, for those of you who can't bear to sit through the entire movie, YouTube has a video that compiles five minutes of the movie's best (worst?) scenes, including all the ones I've mentioned here. Warning: Make sure you aren't in a library or otherwise not supposed to make loud noise!


  1. This is such a great review! So much better than sitting through that 2 hours! Love it! Your review, I mean.



  3. Hilariously bad it was, but body shaming women who don't for your idea of the correct body size is kind of misogynist too. Please keep that in mind, as plenty of very healthy women look like Willow.

    1. Nice try, but no. The Willow character is in no sense at a healthy body weight, at least from the visual evidence on screen. What I'm saying is the opposite of body-shaming, which is bashing people (not just women, fyi) for not being at a "normal" weight. ("Normal" is in quotation marks because the shaming is frequently aimed toward people who actually are within the healthy range but are judged not thin enough.) I'm bashing the *film* for portraying a feminine ideal that is abnormal and unhealthy for the women expected to comply with it.

      Keep trying, though!