Haunted by a death he couldn't prevent, policeman Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) is having a bad time of it: Off the job, taking pills so he can sleep without dreams, shaking hands and shaken spirit. And then he receives a letter from his ex-fiancee Willow (Kate Beahan); they haven't spoken for years, since she went back to her childhood home on an agrarian commune on a small island in Puget Sound. Now, she's reaching out to Edward because her daughter Rowan (Erika-Shaye Gair) is missing. She needs him. And with the pull of memory and the necessity of finding Rowan propelling him, Edward makes way to Summersisle, the isolated island Willow calls home, to try and unravel the mystery of Rowan's disappearance. And it is not the only mystery he will find.
A remake of a lesser-known but well-loved 1973 British horror film, The Wicker Man returns to the big screen as a project of writer-director Neil LaBute. With a track record of short, sharp, shocking plays and indie dramas to his credit (In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things), LaBute doesn't seem like a typical choice to helm a horror remake; then again, The Wicker Man isn't your typical horror film. My memories of the original are thin at best -- I viewed it a long time ago, and all I recall is Edward 'The Equalizer' Woodward using his shouty voice, and some truly interminable musical numbers -- and, of course, the climax, which we won't discuss. The Wicker Man was first written for the screen by Anthony Shaffer -- like LaBute, a filmmaker who started in the theater. And The Wicker Man -- which wasn't even screened for critics until 10pm the day before it opened -- is actually a compelling and disquieting film, especially after Cage's Malus gets to the island to help his old love look for her daughter. Summersisle, it turns out, is private -- in more ways than one. It's owned by Sister Summersisle (Ellen Burstyn), a bright-eyed natural leader who's made a peaceful, agrarian community where people live simple lives and worship as they choose. At first, Edward's annoyed but accepting of the islander's ways -- Hey, that's why we have a First Amendment, right? -- but gradually we notice that the ways of Summersisle go far beyond the limits of reason ... even if Edward doesn't.