The Wicker Man: Biggest Differences Between The Original & Remake
The remake of The Wicker Man is largely faithful to the original, however there are big differences between the two films that make each one unique.
The remake of is largely faithful to the plot of the original, however there are big differences between the two films that make each one unique. The critically-acclaimed 1978 original is a classic, which helped to define the sub-genre of folk horror and pave the way for films like . Although it did so with mixed results, the 2006 remake was an attempt to follow the plot of the original while adding some modern flourishes.
In the 1978 version of The Wicker Man, a religious police sergeant (Edward Woodward) investigates the disappearance of a missing girl on a remote island off the coast of England, after receiving an anonymous letter. As he interrogates the locals, he quickly discovers the island’s inhabitants to be followers of a pagan cult led by Lord Summerisle, played by horror icon Christopher Lee. They challenge the sergeant’s faith and lead him down a rabbit hole, ultimately dooming him to be sacrificially burned alive inside a giant wicker man, all so that the next year’s harvest of crops will be successful. The 2006 film, notably starring Nicolas Cage as the investigating police officer, is a remake that sticks fairly close to the plot above, while also trying to make “improvements” on elements from the original film.
The 2006 version of The Wicker Man features standard remake differences, such as name changes and the incorporation of modern conveniences. However, there are key changes when it comes to location and characters that drastically alter the mood of the entire story.
Perhaps the biggest difference between The Wicker Man remake and original was the relocation of the story to a remote island off the coast of the United States, in Washington state. While taking place off the English coast allowed the 1978 film to take advantage celtic occultism, the remake’s setting in the United States brings the history of the Salem Witch trials into the backstory. This detail ends up changing the whole origins of the pagan cult in the story, as well as their motivations for luring Cage's character onto the island.
Because of the difference in location, and subsequent change in the backstory, the pagan cult in the 2006 film is matriarchal. This resulted in another big difference from the original Wicker Man, which involved transforming the male Lord Summerisle into female Sister Summersisle. This character, played by Exorcist-actress Ellen Burstyn, is essentially the same as her male counterpart in the original, and even speaks some of the same dialogue. By giving the cult a female-oriented focus, this allowed for the creation of other subplots which expanded on elements in the original film. While the sergeant in the 1978 film is lured to the island anonymously and selected because of his devout faith, Cage's character is lured by his ex-fiance, and the missing girl turns out to be their daughter.
Remakes can be tricky territory. Some stick so closely to the original material that you wonder what the point of remaking it was at all. Others try to make improvements on elements from the original film, with mixed results. The remake of The Wicker Man falls in the middle when it comes to the story; it’s the tone that totally misses the mark of the original. However, regardless of the remake’s shortcomings, both versions have become cult classics in their own right, for vastly different reasons.
Next: How Wrath Of The Gods Would Have Ended The Wicker Man Trilogy