The Wicker Man (2006 film)

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The Wicker Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Neil LaBute
Produced by
Screenplay by Neil Labute
Based on The Wicker Man 
by Robin Hardy
Anthony Shaffer Ritual 
by David Pinner
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Cinematography Paul Sarossy
Edited by Joel Plotch
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 1, 2006 (2006-09-01)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[1]
Box office $38,755,073[1]

The Wicker Man is a 2006 American horror thriller film written and directed by Neil LaBute and starring Nicolas Cage. The film primarily is a remake of the 1973 British cult classic The Wicker Man, but also draws from its source material, David Pinner's 1967 novel Ritual. The film's plot concerns a policeman named Edward Malus who is informed by his ex-fiancée Willow Woodward that their daughter Rowan has disappeared and asks for his assistance in her search. When he arrives at the island where Rowan was last seen he begins to suspect something sinister is afoot with the neo-pagans who reside in the island.

The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from film critics at the time of its release; critics pointed to the film's unintentional hilarity, weak acting, and poor screenwriting. The film was also a financial flop, grossing $38 million against a $40 million production budget. Since release, it has developed a cult following over the years as an entertaining unintentional comedy.[citation needed] Cage dedicated this film to his friend Johnny Ramone, the guitarist of the band The Ramones, who had died in 2004.


Policeman Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) receives news from his ex-fiancée, Willow Woodward (Kate Beahan), that their daughter, Rowan (Erika Shaye Gair), is missing. He gets a pilot (Matthew Walker) to take him to an island off the coast of Washington where a group of neo-pagans live.

The island is led by Sister SummersIsle (Ellen Burstyn), an elderly woman who is worshipped as a goddess. Sister SummersIsle explains to Malus that her ancestors had left England to avoid persecution, only to settle near Salem and find renewed persecution in the Salem witch trials, before arriving on this island. Sister SummersIsle explains that their population is predominately female as they choose the strongest stock—evading Malus's concern about the birth of unwanted males. The economy of the island relies on the production of local honey, which Malus learns has declined recently.

Malus asks the villagers about Rowan, but they give him evasive answers. He later sees two men carrying a large bag that appears to be dripping blood, and then he finds a fresh, unmarked grave in the churchyard. The grave turns out to only contain a burned doll, but Malus finds Rowan's sweater in the churchyard.

At the village school, teacher Sister Rose (Molly Parker) tries to prevent Malus from seeing the class register. When he sees that Rowan's name has been crossed out he becomes enraged at the teacher's and Rowan's classmates' lies. Rose demands Malus talk outside and, after a short discussion of the island people's view of death, Rose explains that Rowan is "letting it snow". Malus asks how Rowan died and Sister Rose tells him first that "She'll burn to death". When Malus catches the tense she used, Sister Rose corrects herself quickly, saying, "She burned to death", and rushes back to her class.

On the day of the ritual, Malus frantically searches the village for Rowan. He attacks Sister Beech (Diane Delano), who has a bear costume for the ritual. Malus incapacitates Sister Honey (Leelee Sobieski) dons the bear suit and joins the parade led by Sister SummersIsle.

The parade ends at the site of the festival. Rowan is tied to a large tree, about to be burned. Malus rescues Rowan and they run away through the woods, but Rowan leads him back to Sister SummersIsle. Sister SummersIsle thanks Rowan for her help, and Malus realizes that the search for Rowan was a trap. Sister Willow is Sister SummersIlse's daughter, and his fate was sealed many years ago, when Sister Willow chose him. The villagers attack Malus and overpower him. Malus is held down and his legs are broken at the knee. A wire mesh helmet is placed over his head and live bees are poured in. Malus shouts "Oh, no, not the bees! Not the bees!" After he passes out, the helmet is removed and he is revived with a shot of epinephrine. Throughout all this, he keeps asking how can he be a good sacrifice if he does not believe in their religion. The women carry him to a giant wicker man and shut him inside. Rowan sets fire to the wicker man and Malus is sacrificed. The crowd chants "The drone must die!", believing that Malus's sacrifice will restore their honey production.

Six months later, Sisters Willow and Honey enter a bar and start talking with two off-duty police officers (James Franco and Jason Ritter). The women invite them to go home with them, presumably in hopes of using them as Malus was. The buzzing of bees and screaming from Edward Malus can be heard as the film fades to black.



Universal Pictures has planned a remake of The Wicker Man since the 1990s. The British film had been in the licensing library of Canal+, which was optioned by producer JoAnne Sellar to Universal. In March 2002 it was revealed that Neil LaBute was writing and directing The Wicker Man for Universal and Nicolas Cage's production company Saturn Films.[2] Around the same time, the original film's director Robin Hardy and star Christopher Lee were preparing a semi-remake of their 1973 film, titled The Riding of the Laddie, with Vanessa Redgrave and Lee's Lord of the Rings co-star Sean Astin attached. Hardy stated Lee would not play the villain as he did in the original Wicker Man, but instead a door-to-door born again Christian preacher who comes to Scotland along with his wife (Redgrave) as they are introduced to the neo-pagan cult. Hardy hoped for filming to begin in Glasgow, Scotland in 2003, but The Riding of the Laddie never materialized. Universal's remake with LaBute moved forward, who changed the Scots setting to contemporary America.[2] The remake rights eventually moved from Universal to Millennium Films. Filming began in Vancouver, Canada in July 2005.[3]


Box office[edit]

As of November 16, 2006, the worldwide box office receipts for the film totalled $38,775,073 with $23,649,127 of the receipts earned in North America, making the film a financial flop.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was not screened in advance for critics though upon release the film received mainly negative reviews from film critics. The film holds a 15% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 105 reviews. The consensus says, "Puzzlingly misguided, Neil LaBute's update The Wicker Man struggles against unintentional comedy and fails."[5] On At the Movies, the film received two thumbs down from Richard Roeper and Aisha Tyler, although they both said the film was "entertainingly bad". The film was not without its positive reviews, however, as film critic Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, saw the film in a more positive light, with Gleiberman saying that director Neil LaBute brought some "innovation" over the original film.[6]

The original film's director, Robin Hardy, had expressed skepticism over the Hollywood remake, and had his lawyers make Warner Bros. remove his name from the remake's promotional material. According to Hardy, he was given writing credit for the screenplay, when he had not received any for the original. Christopher Lee, who played Lord Summerisle in the original film, commented: "I don't believe in remakes. You can make a follow up to a film, but to remake a movie with such history and success just doesn't make sense to me."[7]

Cage himself acknowledged that the movie was "absurd." He remarked in 2010: "There is a mischievous mind at work on The Wicker Man, you know? You know what I mean? And I finally kind of said, 'I might have known that the movie was meant to be absurd.' But saying that now after the fact is OK, but to say it before the fact is not, because you have to let the movie have its own life."[8] In February 2012, Cage gave a live webchat with fans to promote Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. When asked what roles from his career he would most like to revisit, Cage responded, "I would like to hook up with one of the great Japanese filmmakers, like the master that made Ringu, and I would like to take The Wicker Man to Japan, except this time he's a ghost."[9]


The film garnered five Golden Raspberry Award nominations, for Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Cage), Worst Screenplay, Worst Remake, and Worst On-Screen Couple (Cage and his bearsuit).

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD on December 19, 2006, with an unrated alternate ending included. The movie continues in the same way as the theatrical version, except the credits begin after the wicker man's burning head falls off, omitting the "6 months later" scene. However, it adds the famous bee torture scene, which has become an internet meme.

The Blu-ray of the film was released on January 30, 2007.

The "Not the bees!" scene became famous on the Internet after a compilation video of scenes from the DVD was posted on YouTube.[10]


  1. ^ a b "the wicker man". Box Office Mojo. 
  2. ^ a b Jonathan Bing (March 20, 2002). "‘Wicker’ horror war erupts". Variety. Retrieved March 18, 2015. 
  3. ^ Dana Harris (March 3, 2005). "Nic’s next pic is indie ‘Wicker’". Variety. Retrieved March 18, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Box office earnings". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  5. ^ The Wicker Man at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ Owen Gleiberman (30 August 2006). "The Wicker Man Movie Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  7. ^ " News". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 11 September 2005. 
  8. ^ Drew McWeeny (7 April 2010). "Interview with Nicolas Cage". HitFix. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Cage, Nicolas (February 2012). "Exclusive Nicolas Cage Webchat". Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Lisa Eadicicco (February 20, 2012). "'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' Flops Opening Weekend, the Best and Worst of Nicolas Cage". International Business Times. 

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