The 1973 film The Wicker Man was quite a revolutionary horror movie in its day, up until its reputation was largely sullied by the 2005 remake starring Nicolas Cage. It’s a shame, because the original had a powerful and shocking ending that knocked people sideways. The remake, meanwhile, messed up the end so badly that the film become a lightning rod of mockery and animated gifs.
The oddest thing about the new horror film Nothing Left to Fear is that it has essentially the same plot as The Wicker Man. Quality-wise, it lies somewhere between the original and the remake.
Rebekah Brandes plays Rebecca, the elder daughter of a pastor father. Father Dan (James Tupper) has been hired as the new pastor for the small, isolated town of Stull, Kansas and brings his wife (Anne Heche) and three children (Brandes, Jennifer Stone, and Carter Cabassa) with him. While Stull seems idyllic, though, suspicious things slowly begin happening to the family and the townspeople seem to be hiding something from them.
Most of the movie is nothing special. The story is stale, the ending’s predictable, the directing’s adequate, and most of the acting is wooden. The large exception is Brandes, who makes her two-dimensional character seem real and gives a riveting performance that holds even the slowest scenes. Clancy Brown, a character actor with credits in everything from Lost to The Shawshank Redemption, is also quite good as the previous pastor of Stull.
Borrowing its central plot from The Wicker Man isn’t enough for Nothing Left to Fear, either. Various parts of the movie also recall scenes and plotlines from The Grudge, Scream, The Ring, Phantoms, The Strangers, The Village, Halloween, and Silent Hill. Even the scenes that aren’t largely stolen seem vaguely familiar.
Brandes’s performance goes a long way to making the movie work, as does the effective camerawork, but Nothing Left to Fear is not a great movie. Considering its reheated plot and budgetary restraints, though, it’s a better movie than it really has any right to be.