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Movie Review

The Wicker Man

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for disturbing images and violence, language and thematic issue

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Suspense, Mystery, Thriller, Drama, Horror, Remake
1 hr. 46 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 1, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.

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Featuring: Nicolas Cage, Leelee Sobieski, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan, Christa Campbell
Director: Neil LaBute
Producer: Nicolas Cage, Norman Golightly, Avi Lerner, Randall Emmett, John Thompson, Boaz Davidson
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.

Before his role in the “Lord of the Rings” Christopher Lee said that the 70s cult film “Wicker Man” was the best film in which he had ever been. Those familiar with the cult film know that it was a bizarre mixture of paganism, folk music, perversion, and Christianity. The hero of the film was a devout Christian, and the twist ending was emotionally effective; especially for a Christian. However, the movie was so depraved (with much eroticism and blasphemy) that I could never recommend to a believer.

When I first heard that they were doing a remake “The Wicker Man,” I had no interest in seeing the movie, but when it was made clear that the film would be PG-13 I became intrigued. Could they remove the elements which hampered the original and make a pseudo-Christian horror film? I doubted it, but decided to allay my skepticism and see what the producers did with the story.

The plot involves a police officer who investigates the disappearance of a young child. His investigation leads to a small island community which practices bizarre rituals. Soon the officer begins to suspect that these pagans may be hiding the young girl and planning a human sacrifice.

Let me begin by saying that Christianity has been completely and totally removed from the movie in every possible sense. The most startling example of this is discussed in a spoiler section below. Consequently, the movie is itself an ironic example of our society. Critics have even attacked the movie for its “anti-paganism” and “anti-feminism,” and yet the movie reflects (incidentally) an anti-Christian bias by its deliberate omissions.

It is quite interesting that the critics have already labeled the movie as misogynist on account of the fact that the movie emphasized the feminine nature of paganism. This is actually a very realistic portion of the movie. The ancient pagan religious practices found in Wicca and other occult religions (better known as “witchcraft” in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:10-14) are emphatically feminist religions that demean the role of men in the same way that men are often accused of demeaning women.

The men in this movie never speak, and hints are given that they have had their tongues cut out. They exist solely for manual labor and to provide the means to reproduce. This aspect, the sexual aspect, was downplayed in this version as the director strove for a PG-13 rating. There is a mention of the “phallic symbol,” but little else of an explicit nature. Once again, this is an accurate portrayal of paganism. The Ashteroth poles which Solomon is believed to have built for his pagan wives (and was judged for having built) were, in fact, giant phallic symbols (c.f. 1 Kings 11:7-8), around which the pagans practiced their deviant sexual rituals. Although depicted in the original, the remake thankfully excised this from the movie.

Along with the blatant paganism and phallic reference, the movie contains ten instances of foul language including the F-word once and twice shouting “G-d D-.” There is also some violence including a gruesome scene of a man who had his lips sewn shut, and his eyes plucked out. Another scene shows a grossly deformed man who has apparently been subjected to numerous bee stings. We also hear the cracking of legs being broken in one scene. There are some strong sexual suggestions, including having a baby out of wedlock, but nothing explicit is shown. Finally, the hero is constantly shown popping pills of some kind which lead to several hallucinations throughout the film.

It is obvious to any who have seen the original that the Christian police detective of the original has been replaced with a pill popping detective who is revealed to be the true father of the missing child, Rowan. This is a particularly interesting change since the original movie placed an emphasis upon the officer’s sexual virtue and chastity! This leads to the most startling example of why this movie fails on so many levels…

***SPOILER*** Those who saw the original will already know the “shock” ending to this film. It is not the little girl that the pagans want to sacrifice, but Detective Edward Malus. This was not only the most effective part of the original, but also what made his Christian faith so relevant. As the pagans were about to burn him in the Wicker Man, Malus declared (in the original version), “I know Christ our Lord. If I die I will know life eternal” or something to that effect. Christopher Lee then responds with the words, “Then we bestow on you a rare gift these days; martyrdom. You will sit with the saint in heaven.” Now this is brought up because the remake replaces this dialogue Malus crying “God no …God no …God no.” The lord of Summerville Isle then inexplicably says, “We make you a martyr. You will sit with the gods and goddesses.” Such an absurd remark reflects how important Malus’ faith was to the original, and how inane the idea of martyrdom without Christ truly is.

The original Malus died spouting Scripture and warning the lord of Summerville of the coming judgment. The new Malus dies hopelessly and uselessly. The original Malus was a “virgin” sacrifice. The new Malus is the father of the child. We felt compassion for original Malus as he died. We felt nothing as the new Malus died.

This was the most obvious failure of the remake. “Sacrifices must be made” was the tagline of the movie. What a wonderful tagline that could have been had Malus’ death been shown in the context of Christian martyrdom. Even as our forefathers laid down their lives for the faith of Christ Jesus, the tagline could have, and should have, become double entendre for the sacrifice of Christ and even those of his disciples throughout the ages. As it is, the pagans won. Malus’ death meant nothing. ***END SPOILER***

Cinematically, the director has some talent, but fails to deliver. He does not seem to know how to bring the audience into the story and make them feel a part of what is going on around them. In the original, I felt compassion for Rowan and for Detective Malus. In this version, I didn’t care. The slower pace is meant to make it feel more like a mystery, but really just makes it tedious. Nothing about this remake stands out above the original. Even the odd choice of moving the location to America seems out of place. Indeed, they must explain at one point in the movie that the pagans fled England to Salem. In that way, they could place the old pagan religion of England in the U.S., but it simply isn’t believable.

In the end, I cannot really recommend this film. If someone has not seen the original, he may find this a worthy rental, but it would still not be worth seeing in the theaters.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Neutral—For the most part, this was entertaining. It was totally engrossing, and even though it was full of cliches, I was able to overlook them and enjoy the film. However, it does have many weaknesses. Most of them have to do with the script. Some of the dialogue is absolutely horrible, almost to the point where it is laughable, ex. “Killing me isn’t going to bring back your (expletive) honey!” Also, there are times when the acting is very weak, and it does become a distraction. Nothing grates at my nerves like a bad performance! Other than that, it was tolerable.

With all of that being said, I must also mention this. While it was entertaining and all, it was extremely disturbing. It IS about a bunch of feminist Wiccan paganists after all, and it’s one of the most pessimistic films that I’ve seen in a long while—although for some reason, I liked the way it ended—which means you probably need to pray for my sanity!

I guess the best advice that I could give other Christians is this: you may want to think twice about going, but if you do go, and you’re strong enough in your faith to handle some of the evil that you will be seeing, I’d say go for it. It’s a downer, but it’s kinda worth it. I wouldn’t buy the DVD or anything, but I did enjoy it just this once.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3
Adam Renkovish, age 24
Negative—While this movie offers some surprises and definitely an unexpected ending, the plot and message that viewers are left with is extremely offensive. Both my husband and I were left wondering what, if any, redeeming value this movie held. We couldn’t think of any. It is feminism taken to the extreme, portraying a complete lack of value for men and families in general. Don’t waste your time or your money.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3
Rachelle Smotherman, age 33
Negative—This was one of the worst films I have every seen. The story line was poor but the quality of the acting, photography, set, and costumes were even worse. It is obvious that the film’s producers calculated that they could trick people into coming to the movie based on movie’s famous actor. I am sad to admit that my wife and I fell for this trick. I want my money back.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 1
Mark, age 47
Negative—I went to see this film with my husband. We were totally appalled at the outcome of the film… As we are both Christians, we feel that any one that believes in Jesus Christ and him crucified should not go to see this movie.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 5
Tammy, age 27
Negative—I watched this film because I study cults informally. Since many cults are a perversion of the Gospel, I study them to see how Christians can best point them in the right direction. So my interest was piqued when I heard this movie was about a feminist cult. When I found out it had a “shock” ending, I decided not to read the spoiler. Now I wish I had.

I was prepared for an offensive film, but not for something nearly THIS offensive. I wrote Christians Answers’s reviews of “Pulp Fiction” and “The Green Inferno.” “Wicker Man” was more disturbing to me than either of those movies. Yes, “The Green Inferno,” Eli Roth’s R-rated cannibal slasher, was less disturbing than “Wicker Man.” Don’t get me wrong; “The Wicker Man” is very light on gore. But “The Green Inferno,” being a slasher, is hard to take seriously because it was clearly only made to be gory. “Wicker Man” actually gets you invested in the plot, and you come to respect the hero. What you see actually seems to mean something.

Yes, I understand that sometimes evil wins over good in the real world; and it’s not wrong for the same to happen in movies. But I’ve seen very few movies that portrayed it in a God-honoring way. Even “The Big Short,” with its profanity and nudity, succeeded in that. “Wicker Man,” on the other hand, leaves you with nothing to walk away with except nausea. As a reviewer, I’ve seen a lot of bad films, but I would rather watch almost any of them again than this one.

This PG-13 film, which has very few curses and very little gore, may be the most depraved film I have ever seen. Christians, please avoid this disgusting film like the plague.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Gabriel Mohler, age 26 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—Me and my friends were expecting this to be a good movie, since Nicholas Cage is in it. But it was the complete opposite. It wasn’t even that scary. There are only 4 words to express my attitude toward this movie: not worth your money.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 2
Gabby, age 16
Neutral—I have a lot of both pro’s and con’s on this movie. I will speak neutral first, pro’s next and con’s last.

Neutral: I would advise strong believers of Christ, and mostly the not so strong believers, to be warned if you want to see this movie, not only because the elements of some wicca is involved but also because of the depressing state of the movie’s ending and some of the visual images that appear.

Pro’s: I loved this movie’s whole plot and the excellent twist at the end. The suspense …kept me guessing all the way through. Not only does this movie have good storyline, but of course, Nicolas Cage, one of my favorite actors, is yet again, doing his very best acting. I also liked the fact of no sex scenes, no nudity and no improper clothes for the women were used.

Con’s: Even though the story did have a very good plot, I would have to, as a believer in Christ, put a lot of the movie’s content down. I hated the fact that the usage of the dreaded F-word was used by Nicolas Cage in one sequence in the film, and a couple of the 'G.D’s' were added. I think a couple of the D-words were used as well. Not only has the cussing upset me, especially coming from one of my favorite actors, but the disturbing sequence in the end. (It doesn’t disturb me that much, but it would other viewers I’m sure). Some disturbing images… as well. Not as disturbing as some other movies I’ve seen, but it did make me jump a little. Also, because I’ve seen a Christian movie use some witchcraft and wicca in it, I’m not so much disappointed in that category. If it’s for the movie’s whole plot then I don’t mind. Because without it, the movie, I don’t think, would have made any sense. But if you are offended by wicca and witchcraft, then I would advise you not to see it.

From a christians standpoint view I would say, if you really would like to see it, and you have no doubts, go ahead, but if you are having second thoughts or you’re not sure, go see something else because this movie is offensive in some aspect of its nature.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
Lacey, age 14