When, exactly, is Witching Season? Right after duck season? Actually, the Season of the Witch takes place during the Crusades of the mid-1300s. Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are bad-ass knights that love to slaughter heretics. We know this because the two basically tell the camera in so many words. You'll have to take their word for it, since the large action sequences aren't very convincing.
|I find it hard to believe that anyone reached age 60 in the Crusades, much less a knight|
|Co-starring Christopher Lee's plague corpse!|
|"Okay, maybe I should have thought that one through."|
|"I've reason to believe we both will be received in Monkland"|
Sounds like an acting tour de force, eh? Yeah, well...this was never going to be a great film, so I went into this with low expectations. Ron Perlman was decently likable. Robert Sheehan was kind of annoying as the d'Artagnon of the witch-escorting-party, but he's not so bad that you'll remember his performance the next day. Claire Foy had a terrible character to play, but she still wasn't very good. On the plus side, she is about the only person in the cast who looked dirty enough to be in the 14th century.
|Surprisingly clean hair, though|
|Stephen Campbell Moore witnessing Nicolas Cage overacting for the first time|
|"You want me to overact more?" I know, I know.|
The fact of the matter is that Season of the Witch is about as fun to watch as watching plague blister pus dry. Why is that? Director Dominic Sena is no stranger to stupid movies, but at least he usually has the sense to be completely goofy or have Halle Berry take her top off to distract audiences. This movie is just dull. The battle scenes in the beginning were tepid, the horror angle never really pays off, and there is no suspense. This isn't the most incompetent directing job I have ever seen, but it is an impressive blend of disappointing special effects, a lousy script, cheesy acting and boring plot.
...And then there are the frequent story and visual parallels between Season of the Witch and Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. If absolutely nothing else, I will say that Sena was bold to invite comparison between this mess and a classic film. "Bold" isn't always a smart choice, though. Witch takes a lot of cosmetic similarities --- two men return from the Crudades (disillusioned) to a plague-ridden homeland, the men form a traveling group in the woods, there is a potentially wrongly accused witch being transported through the woods in a wooden cage, etc. --- and tries to twist its premise into an action/fantasy film. It could have worked (somewhat) with a better script or better special effects, but the constant reminders of a better film just make Season of the Witch seem that much worse. On the other hand, it was pretty freaking hilarious to see just how heavy-handed the parallels were.
There is something worth noting about this film, but I have to warn you...SPOILER ALERT: Season of the Witch has no witches in it. Ha! HA! That's almost funny enough to make up for the rest of the film. That's right, the supposed witch is really a demon. What a twist! And that's worse because...um...well, it's the first time demons are mentioned in the story, so...I'm not sure. The witchy-demon does animate monk corpses to fight our heroes, which is awesome in theory. In practice, the special effects and lack of suspense or horror ruined that seemingly foolproof plot element. Oh, well. While that is remarkably stupid, it's not enough to make up for the rest of the movie. It is good enough for one star, though, and I did enjoy one of the death scenes and I laughed whenever it compared itself to The Seventh Seal. It's not much, but you take what you can get from witches.
Here's a live recording from Liars, from their witch-themed album, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned.