For California highway cop Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) it was just another ordinary day, until he was riding his motorcycle and saw a doll fall from the window of a car ahead. Scooping it up as he sped by, he sounded his siren so the car stopped and he walked over to the driver to return the toy. The young mother driving was most apologetic, and admonished her daughter for acting out of boredom and petulance, but when Edward gave the little girl back the doll, she threw it out of the window once more. As he went to retrieve it, suddenly a huge truck smashed into the car, causing a fire; panicking, he rushed over and hit the rear window with his helmet to break it and pull out the trapped girl. Yet she just looked at him, and then the car was engulfed in an explosion, killing her and her mother. This plunges Edward into a trauma, but will a letter from his ex-fiancée pull him out of it?
Well, it will give him something else to think about, certainly. When it was announced that the cult classic British horror movie The Wicker Man was to be remade, fans were up in arms, but with a respectable director adapting the script in Neil LaBute, many wondered if it might just turn out all right. Alas, on its release it flopped due to it not turning out all right at all, transpiring to display the filmmaker's most heavy handed "men are great, women are rubbish" messages that were prevalent amongst his earlier work. Any questions about whether LaBute was misogynist were quickly confirmed by what was surely one of the most dementedly anti-female films to emerge from Hollywood since... the last Neil LaBute movie, I suppose.
Where the original placed its uptight hero in a deeply pagan society, this version puts its hero, who has little of the interesting character of his predecessor (an allergy to bees seems to be his most noticeable trait), in a society run by women, with men little better than mute and cowed slaves. So why does Edward go there? It's all down to the letter he has received from his ex, which tells him that her daughter has disappeared on the island community where she now resides. Although this is no official investigation, Edward decides to use his credentials to mount his own inquiry and heads up to Washington to help find the girl. However, when he gets there (by bribing the pilot who flies in the island's supplies), the locals are unfriendly and nobody has any idea of who the girl is - or so they claim.
These days, the dream sequence has become devalued, especially in horror movies, and here as in many other places LaBute's use of them simply looks like a man who has realised his rendition of this story is defiantly lacking in suspense. He even tries to pull off the tired old "he's woken up, my mistake, it's still the dream" shock effect. In a trudge to the by now well known finishing line, Edward finds a hatred of women bubbling to the surface, so that by the time the sinister ceremony is being held with island matriarch Ellen Burstyn at its head, he is itching for a fight. I was always told that any man who hits a woman is nothing short of a cad, but our hero gets to punch three ladies to the ground in this film, and spits out "Bitches!" at them too. The plot is loaded against the women all the way, making this society not chilling but ludicrous, and by the end of it LaBute looks like the kind of anti-political correctness bore who laments that feminism has taken the fun out of old fashioned sexism. On the plus side, the film is attractively photographed. Music by Angelo Badalamenti.