The Wicker Man Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan, Frances Conroy Director: Neil LaBute The film: Sometimes you have to ask yourself why. British director Robin Hardy's 1974 original is one of cinema history's great oddities, combining Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee with an orgy of pagan perversities. It's certainly not a film you'll forget in a hurry. But in time, as they must, the good people of Hollywood deemed it fit for a remake. Filmmaker and playwright Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Nurse Betty) was given the difficult task of updating Hardy's oddball gem and he took Nicolas Cage along for the ride. Cage, of course, is no stranger to the remake having previously helped strip Wim Wenders' wonderful Wings of Desire (1987) of any soul whatsoever in City of Angels (1998). What they do with The Wicker Man is amazing. And for all the wrong reasons. Cage (below with Molly Parker) steps into Woodward's shoes as the policeman on the hunt for a lost girl who stumbles on a community of weirdos. Except this time around they are all women and the religious nuttiness that made the original so compelling has been lost in the haze. So, too, has the original's sexual pulse. In their place comes a thriller that reverts to every old trick in the book - yes, including spooky dream sequences - in an effort to put its audience on edge. Where Woodward gave us a depth to his Calvinist character - we wanted to find out what he was all about and squirmed as he became tangled up in the mystery of a community living by its own laws - Cage gives nothing more than a sweaty-palmed pill-popper who looks constantly confused. Perhaps he was trying to work out what had gone wrong with the script. Worst still, LaBute has dispensed with much of the primal fear that stalked Woodward - a fear of the unknown. Cage wanders into something that is indeed out of the ordinary - but one that lacks any real sense of menace or intrigue. Worst still, there are scenes - Cage running through the woods dressed as a bear - that border on the absurd. The women involved - Ellen Burstyn, in particular, is wasted - are asked to do little more than move in and out of the shadows while remaining po-faced. And it is a humourless and uninspired mess from start to finish. There are two versions on the package just released - the theatrical release and one with an alternate ending. And it would take a brave soul to watch the whole sorry thing twice. The extras: Maybe they just wanted it to all go away, but there is a simple commentary provided and that's all. You get LaBute trying manfully to explain his 'vision' and everyone, up to and including the costume designer, adding their angle. Tellingly, Cage didn't get involved. The verdict: Another Hollywood movie that drowns in a sea of self-importance.