Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with some thoughts on Season of the Witch. I have been greatly looking forward to this movie for a long time. I mean, it’s Nic Cage and Ron Perlman, two of my favorite batshit crazy great actors, as disgraced Crusade Knights escorting a possible witch through plague-infested medieval countryside… How could anybody NOT be looking forward to this?
So it is with some sadness that I tell you the film doesn’t live up to its premise and cast. It still has many moments, but most of those moments fall under the umbrella of unintentional humor. Like seeing Nic Cage’s character Behmen gain 40 pounds in one scene that was obviously reshot a year after the original. Or the laughably bad CG work towards the end. Or the clunky merging of six actors on a sand hill with a big, LOTR style CG army behind them.
But the real heartbreak can be blamed completely on the script and direction. Nic Cage and Ron Perlman bring everything they can to their roles and keep the film above the shit waterline. Young Claire Foy, playing the captive girl that might or might not be a witch is also surprisingly strong even if her casting is completely wrong since they fuck up her character so badly at the script stage.
I am going to go into some spoilers here, especially in regards to Foy’s character, so you’ve been warned. I’d avoid it if I could, but what they do to her character is the reason why this movie ultimately fails.
So, they spend so much time trying to make it ambiguous if “The Girl” is really an evil, deceiving witch or an innocent young girl being cruelly accused of being responsible for the horrible black plague sweeping the land. Here’s an idea: if you’re wanting to keep the audience in the dark, don’t have the girl do witchy things like have the strength of 10 men and make people see visions of their long dead daughters. Or, like you see in the trailer, make Nic Cage’s torch go out and come back while asking him if he thinks you’re a witch or not.
Here’s the trouble. There are two good movies here, but it feels like the screenwriters got to that particular Y in their storytelling and couldn’t decide which way to go. One way is essentially Wages of Fear/Sorcerer, with the priests and Crusade Knights transporting a dangerous element (instead of Nitroglycerin, a pissed off witch) across hostile territory in order to reach a place where it can be safely disposed. Hell, there’s even a “tense” bridge sequence.
The other way is the way they seemed to want to go: is she a witch or isn’t she? Is she manipulating their kindness or a genuine innocent?
So instead of two equally interesting approaches to this story we get elements of both that dilute the whole. On top of that the twist of the movie (hint: the title is deceiving) is ham-handed and makes little sense if you think about it for more than 4 seconds.
So you have a story trying to pull into two different directions and a director who doesn’t find one little bit of visual charm to help ease us over the rocky script. Dominic Sena won’t ever be confused for a great director, but at least Swordfish, Gone in Sixty Seconds and Kalifornia all had a little bit of style and some energy. Season of the Witch is competent at best, but so devoid of any real forward drive that it’s never as exciting as it wants to be.
Sure, the CG is late ‘90s level stuff, but if this was a true fun B movie I could have overlooked that in place of crazy fun time. I wouldn’t be able to say the same if it was going for a more serious tone, but at least then I would have something else to grab on to instead of just sitting back counting the minutes to the crappy American Werewolf in Paris-ish CGI kicks in. “Nope, not yet… not yet… Oh, there it is.”
What I will give it is a great opening scene that features a priest hanging three women accused of witchcraft. This is the only scene in the movie that feels like there’s some tension and atmosphere all while setting up the rules of this world, showing that the supernatural is part of this reality.
On top of that, Cage tries (although his tortured knight performance is more suited for the serious take on the story that the rest of the creative minds on the project decided not to pursue) and Perlman brings just enough lighthearted energy to keep it from dragging. The Girl, Foy, is adorable and can deliver some lines that would be eye-rollers coming from a lesser actress. And they got Christopher Lee in the movie! Sure, they hide him under some (admittedly) disturbing make-up, but it’s always great to see Lee on the screen.
I didn’t hate this movie, but found it sadly disappointing. It’s not offensively bad, but damn does it strive for mediocrity. And I’m kind of the target audience for this movie, the guy that was pulling for it to rock my world.