Nicolas Cage is a highway cop haunted by a gruesome accident. He receives a mysterious letter from his ex-fiancee, begging him to come to the remote colony where she lives and help find her daughter. Cage arrives there to find a grim matriarchy, uncooperative locals, and sinister hints of something nasty going to happen to the child.
I wrote about this film when it was in the theatres, and rather than repeat myself through paraphrase, I repeat myself verbatim. Note there are some spoilers below.
“Remakes can certainly be worthwhile, especially if they take the original premise in a new direction. Thus, the new versions of The Thing and The Fly became classics in their own right. Writer/director Neil LaBute, unfortunately, has simultaneously been too faithful to his source, and betrayed it. How he has done so is by misunderstanding what made the original work so well, and then, having destroyed its soul, kept a lot of the original dialogue. This is called being true to the letter, and not the spirit.
“One couldn’t expect the remake to feature all the folk singing that makes the first film so very peculiar (it’s almost a horror musical), but that singing was part and parcel of the daylight horror approach of Robin Hardy’s film. Comparatively little of the film takes place at night, and much of the movie is so cheerful that one can’t imagine anything REALLY horrible taking place. And then it does. Along the way, of course, there are just enough off-kilter elements to keep the audience off-balance and uneasy. Then there’s the police officer played by Edward Woodward. The man is a repressed prig, and no fun at all, and so audience isn’t sure exactly where to place its sympathy. The islanders seem such a jolly lot, and their version of religion seems much more exciting and open than Woodward’s. The thing is, though, Woodward’s heart is in the right place, and he in no way deserves what happens at the end. This delicate balance results in one of the most wrenching endings of the 1970’s, a decade known for more than a few downbeat endings to movies.
“LaBute, on the other hand, gives us plenty of traditional horror movie nighttime creeping-around. His matriarchal community is as repressed as Hardy’s pagan town was liberated. LaBute’s folks look like depressed Amish. Nicholas Cage is a problem, too. Never mind the largely unexplained trauma that lurks in his background, he is generally too ‘normal,’ too straightforwardly likeable, and nowhere near as interesting as Woodward.”
To the above I will add, however, that Nicholas Cage going mano-a-mano with Leelee Sobieski is not something one sees every day. And our man has rarely been more over the top.
The DVD has two different versions of the film. The unrated one has a slightly different ending. The climax is marginally less silly than it is in the theatrical version, and we are spared the groan-inducing coda with Sobieski in the big city. So this is a teensy, weensy, itty-bitty bit better. The film is still crap. But it is pretty damn funny for all the wrong reasons.
No complaints about the sound, though. This is probably the best aspect of the disc. The score is granted a very lush, enveloping mix. The environmental effects aren’t overwhelming, but they are present, and nicely placed (the buzzing and calling of insects is particularly relevant in this instance, since they aren’t just background in this movie). The dialogue is very crisp and clear.
The strong point here are the colours, which are very warm and rich, with excellent flesh tones, greens and blacks. The grain isn’t severe, but it is noticeable, and the picture overall lacks perfect solidity. Not only is there some edge enhancement visible, but these are edges whose roughness makes it seem like they should be enhanced.
Neil LaBute is joined by co-stars Sobieski and Kate Beahan, editor Joel Plotch and costume designer Lynette Meyer on the commentary. This track is very much LaBute’s show, though, and there is none of the chaos that characterizes most such heavily populated tracks. It’s a commentary, and illuminates exactly what LaBute was thinking (wrongheaded though he was). Apart from the fact that there are, of course, those two different versions of the film, the only other extra is the theatrical trailer.
Don’t watch this. Watch the original. You’re welcome. Now come back for the unintentional comedy.