Screen Rant's Paul Young reviews Season of the Witch
Traditionally January is set aside as the month studios release movies for which they have low expectations of success. Every once in a while a rare gem will emerge from the dross that is usually offered at this time of year – unfortunately or maybe unsurprisingly, Season of the Witch isn’t that rare gem.
However, that’s not to say that the film was a total letdown. Even though Season of the Witch is wrought full of problems ranging from weak dialog via poorly delivered, uninspired one-liners - to under developed characters and CG effects reminiscent of a Saturday night SyFy channel original film... I managed to walk out of the theater pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it.
Season of the Witch stars Nicolas Cage as Behmen, a knight in the time of the 14th century Crusades, who along with his best friend and battle partner Felson (Ron Perlman) grow tired of killing sinners and unbelievers in the name of God for the Church of England. After 12 years of fighting side-by-side they decide it’s time to break their vow by leaving “God’s” army and are branded as deserters.
Soon after, their travels bring them to a village which is besieged by a mysterious plague which the local monks are certain was brought about by the appearance of a girl whom they accuse of being a witch. After Behmen and Felson are revealed as traitors to the Church, they strike a bargain with the Cardinal D’Ambroise – a virtually unrecognizable Christopher Lee. In exchange for their freedom, the knights agree to escort a monk named Debelzaq (Stephen Moore) and a local man named Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen) to a monastery which is four days away.
Before they leave they pick up a guide named Hagamar (Stephen Graham) and an altar boy named Kay (Robert Sheehan). Along the way the witch, Anna (Claire Foy), gets into their heads and uses their weaknesses against them in an attempt to escape. Ultimately Behmen, Felson and Kay have a final showdown with Anna as they realize there is more to her evil ways than they first suspected.
Season of the Witch should have been a better film because the story had good potential. Writer Bragi Schut does a decent job of keeping the story moving along without letting it get bogged down in one place for too long – unfortunately, the dialog for the film comes across as very heavy - every word seems to trip and bumble off of the actors lips. Director Dominic Sena (Whiteout) doesn’t seem to help much; it feels like he told the actors to OVER. EMPHASIZE. EVERY. WORD. THEY. SAY as if each line was a witch they should be stabbing with a sword.
Even though Cage and Perlman’s characters are supposed to be long time friends there is very little chemistry between them and most of the “buddy” style banter – “You’re buying the drinks tonight” or “She stole a year’s worth of your salary” – feels forced and doesn’t come across with any emotion at all. I know I’m supposed to care about the relationship between these two long time warriors but at the end of the day I just don’t.
On a positive note, despite of all the above mentioned flaws there was something about Season of the Witch I found to be entertaining in a Beastmaster or 13th Warrior sort of way - when all is said and done, isn’t a film supposed to entertain?
A lot of other critics and reviewers – OK almost all of them – are giving this movie a very, very low score. It’s currently sitting at a 3% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.2 on IMDb but the film opened in third place on Friday while only showing on half the number of screens as True Grit and Little Fockers. Once again it turns out that while it might be fun to totally trash a film during a review, it doesn’t always mean the critic or reviewer has their finger on the pulse of what audiences are interested in seeing.
Season of the Witch may not be worth seeing for full price at an evening show, but if you’ve already watched everything else available in theaters right now and you happen to catch the midday matinee, then you should have a pleasant enough time.