Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.
Release Date: January 7th, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Dominic Sena Actors: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Claire Foy, Ulrich Thomsen, Rebekah Kennedy
eason of the Witch” doesn’t aim very high, which at least allows it to accomplish what it sets out to do. A few cheap scares, some bloodless swordfights, a slightly miscast Nicolas Cage, and a perfectly cast Ron Perlman keep the simple plotline moving along, while the bevy of witches, demons, and deformed priests don’t hinder the minimal thrills. Perhaps the film never really knows what direction it’s ultimately going, but that uncertainty offers a level of unpredictability that keeps the audience guessing – to an extent. Is the girl a real witch or just an innocent child? Are the priests evil torturers or wise saviors? Is there an underlying theme of redemption through sacrifice, or a championing for fair trials? Nah, probably not.
After many years and countless battles, Crusaders Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) grasp the devastation they have caused in the name of God. Denouncing the church and casting off on their own, the two knights wander the countryside until they happen upon a village ravaged by plague. Apprehended by soldiers and faced with execution for desertion, Behmen and Felson agree to once again assist the church in a perilous mission – transport a young girl (Claire Foy) accused of witchcraft to a remote monastery where the monks’ rituals might at last end the suffering. Enlisting the aid of weary knight Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), disgraced merchant Hagamar (Stephen Graham), paranoid priest Debelzaq (Stephen Campbell Moore), and young runaway altar boy Kay (Robert Sheehan), the knights begin a dangerous quest through uncharted territory – where mysterious forces attempt to destroy them from the outside while each man’s internal demons threaten to destroy them from within.
It’s been some time since a theatrical swords and sorcery movie was released, sticking strictly to the time period of the medieval 14th century, with themes of witchcraft, crusaders, knights, the church, and the devil. Although supernatural in nature, “Season of the Witch” is thankfully devoid of Krakens, Gorgons, and other such mythological creatures that disrupt the generally more believable notion of demonic possession. Unfortunately, with generous amounts of computer graphics during the conclusion, the marginally creepy, craftily foreboding opening act is forgotten to the utterly unconvincing animation.
Nicolas Cage, who portrays his average self in a new environment, isn’t nearly as authentic as his partner Ron Perlman, who carries himself like an aging warrior knight crossed with Will Ferrell. The language, which cuts in and out of old English and contemporary jesting, also betrays the setting, despite the costumes and gruesome makeup effects that work to complete the illusion. The random flashbacks to scenes witnessed a mere 15 minutes earlier are nothing short of insulting, along with the raspy demon and mutant wolves that appear hideously out-of-place, but a certain atmospheric charm exists over the basic epic quest plot.
While the film only briefly succeeds at creating suspense, the inclusion of swordplay for the sake of swordplay, staring contests, castles, flesh-eating disease aftermath, mass graves, duels, ferocious animals, treacherous bridges, lightless forests, ghostly towns, unsettling fog, and boil-covered monks lend to amusing imagery. Sadly, “Season of the Witch” can’t quite recapture the entertainment of ‘80s sword and sorcery or sword and sandals B-movies. And this is despite the wealth of technological advancements.
– The Massie Twins