Published on January 10th, 2011 | by dvdpinson1
Season of the Witch Review
Season of the Witch
As far as Midnight Movie Monsters go the Witch has been neglected. While the Vampire gets Coppola’s take on Dracula and herds of teenage girls screaming for more Twilight, the Witch gets Bette Midler’s cackle in Hocus Pocus. The Zombie receives the classic treatment with Romero’s original trilogy and Woody Harrelson cracking skulls in Zombieland and the Witch has to settle for Neve Campbell forcing cute in The Craft. Even when the Witch has a hit with The Blair Witch Project, our dastardly lady is a no-show and not seen for one second on the screen. The time is ripe for the Witch’s shot at redemption and, unfortunately, the new Nick Cage vehicle, Season of the Witch, is not the film to deliver it.
It is the Middle Ages and the world is a dark and muck-covered place. Cage plays Behman, a grizzled veteran of the Crusades who has shed enough blood in the name of God. He abandons the war along with his equally grizzled counterpart, Felson (Ron Perlman), and aimlessly roams the land searching for a new beginning. The men stumble upon a filth-infested fortress that is in the grip of the Black Plague and are instantly recognized as deserters and thrown in the dungeon. There they meet a young girl (Claire Foy) who has been imprisoned because the monks believe her to be a witch who has brought the Black Death to the people.
Behman and Felson are brought to the bedside of the dying, boil-covered Cardinal D’Ambrose (an unrecognizable Christopher Lee) who offers the men freedom if they are willing to transport the girl to a nearby Abby that possesses the only copy of a sacred book that contains incantations that will destroy the witch. Behman agrees but, believing the girl innocent, demands that she be given a fair trail and not merely burned at the stake. They throw together a motley crew (a swindler, a monk and a young alter boy who has no business sporting a mustache) and begin the journey. It soon becomes apparent that the callow girl might, in fact, be hiding her true nature and the prospect of the men making their destination becomes more and more grim.
Season of the Witch suffers from an inconsistent tone that plagues the film throughout. Director Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds , Whiteout) goes to great lengths in the first few reels of the film to establish the time and setting of the picture, needlessly presenting dates and locations for the formless action on the Crusade’s battlefield. This seems to be an attempt to present the film as period accurate but then Sena defeats his intentions by sprinkling the film with cheap one-liners that merely succeed at making the viewer roll his/her eyes.
Nicholas Cage struggles with the material and never fully gels his character. While attempting to speak with the “Sword and Sorcery” elocution that is common with these sorts of films, the cadence of his delivery is constantly off and awkward. With action films, Cage’s believability is hit (The Rock, Con Air) and miss (Knowing, Ghost Rider) and Season of the Witch is big misfire that might have been strictly monetarily motivated. His heart just doesn’t seem to be in it.
The film does deliver a few jumps and chills but they are few and far apart. Ron Perlman is a joy and fully embraces the material. The movie would have been better off making him the central figure. The effects vary wildly as well, featuring some great makeup on the plague victims while showcasing some sub par computer effects that make up the majority of the films climax. Season of the Witch is dim bulb entertainment and, sadly, the Witch has to hang her pointed hat and except her status as a second tier villain once again.