DVD Release Date:  December 19, 2006
Theatrical Release Date:  September 1, 2006
Rating:  PG-13 (for disturbing images and violence, language and thematic issues)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time: 102 min.
Director:  Neil LaBute
Actors:  Nicolas Cage, Kate Beahan, Ellen Burstyn, Leelee Sobieski

Don’t let the scary DVD jacket fool you.  This is no horror movie.  You may enjoy a few laughs, though – however unintentional.

During a routine day along the highway, California cop Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage“World Trade Center”) retrieves a doll dropped from a passing car.  When he stops the vehicle and returns it, one of the two passengers, a little girl, impishly tosses it across the road again.  When Malus walks over to retrieve the doll, a semi plows into the car containing the mother and child.  Malus attempts a rescue from the burning wreckage, but it bursts into flames, killing both.

The good Samaritan is left with few injuries but a serious addiction to antidepressants, or maybe painkillers (we’re left to guess), which he uses to ward off the frighteningly real – and frequent – hallucinations about the tragedy.  Soon, however, a letter from an ex-girlfriend gives him something else to worry about.  Malus’ former fiancée, Willow (Kate Beahan“Flight Plan” ), has returned to her childhood home in the Pacific Northwest, to a privately-owned island called Summersisle.  Her daughter Rowan has gone missing, and she is desperate for Malus to help.

Malus travels to Summersisle and begins questioning the island’s inhabitants – who are mostly female and who address one another as “sister,” while eschewing all forms of modern technology, Amish-style.  They dress in clothing from the 1800s and farm honey for a living.  Stranger still, the island’s few male residents carry out all the arduous physical tasks yet appear to be deaf-mute.  They are not, however.  They just don’t speak – even to one another. 

Everyone denies knowing Rowan, despite a plethora of evidence that she exists and is about to be the victim of perhaps another crime.  Soon, however, Malus is fighting for his own life.  He’s also about to realize that the upcoming May Day celebration may have a far more sinister intent than anything he could ever have imagined.

Writer/director Neil LaBute likes to write about the war between the sexes, especially the most sinful aspects which pit us against one another.  His films (“In the Company of Men,” “The Shape of Things”) usually have a strong misogynist bent as well, where women are out to get men and no one can ever be trusted.  Hailed for his realistic portrayals of human nature, LaBute’s work tends to be dark and very depressing, without redemption.  Not surprisingly, none of his films (with the possible exception of “Nurse Betty”) have been box office hits.  And his latest, which has a strikingly similar theme, is no doubt headed for the same fate.

A remake of the 1973 British indie hit by the same name, LaBute’s version transforms the island’s men into women and the main character, formerly a self-righteous Christian, into an agnostic.  He also uses a beehive allegory for the pagan cult of women on the island, complete with a queen bee (played by Ellen Burstyn, “The Fountain”) and drones (the men).  So, while steering clear of the spiritual implications of the original (not necessarily an asset), LaBute plunges into full-scale woman-hating here.  It’s disguised by the character’s own man-hating, but is obvious – even though its reasons are never made clear.