REVIEW: “Season of the Witch”

Sandra: We had the misfortune of watching Nicholas Cage (at his “finest” – yet again), and Ron Perlman in the newly released film, “Season of the Witch”. Think “Van Helsing” and part “Hellboy” in medieval costume, with some Dungeons & Dragons dialogue thrown in for good measure….

The story starts with our heroes, Cage and Perlman, as Crusaders in some fictional Crusades during the 1330′s. After endless battle scenes, they happen upon a town where they are asked to kill the inhabitants in the name of God (“Deus Vult” anyone?). Cage accidentally kills an innocent woman and realizes the Crusaders are slaying helpless women and children. He and Perlman desert the Crusade in protest and head back to Europe. On their way home, they encounter pestilence in the form of a plague ravaging the land. They’re caught as deserters and given a choice, to serve God again by transporting a witch to a monastery for trial or being thrown in jail. They choose to accompany the witch along with a band of “merry men” – a knight, a monk, an altar-boy-wannabe-knight, and a swindler who peddles relics. The witch dispatches her chaperones one by one with some CGI help for her hocus-pocus en route to the abbey.

Peter: Claire Foy plays the ‘witch’ in this film and is the most interesting character – she uses all her charm to set the band against each other. Another interesting performance comes from Stephen Campbell Moore, who playa the priest Debelzaq – we have watched many films were the Catholic priest turns out to be the bad guy, so this character turns out to be refreshing.

Alas, little can be said about Cage’s performance – he delivers his lines but is not really believable as a medieval knight. Disappointing too, was Perlman, who plays the sidekick, gets in one or two lines, but otherwise is forgettable.

In terms of action – yes, there are several fight scenes, but nothing too memorable or cool. The CGI renderings leave one with the feeling that this movie could have easily been made ten years ago. Not bad scenes, but if you are forgetting them by the time you reach the parking lot, you will wonder why you actually paid money to see this movie.

Sandra: As the movie progresses, the attempts at being “serious” lessen and it becomes more and more like a fantasy hack and slash replete with undead monks (who look like the villain from the Scream horror franchise/Ring Wraiths) battling Cage and Perlman at the abbey. It spirals from bad to worse with CGI wolves, demons etc..and some truly campy, terrible, and cliched dialogue, uttered by Cage trying too hard to be a serious knight. The only good part of the movie was the twist near the end, which I won’t spoil, in case you’re compelled to see this (“WHY???!!!”). By the end, the movie degenerates into complete fantasy. If you’re going to see this, just go into it as a fantasy movie like “Van Helsing” with no real basis in the Middle Ages and you will leave feeling less like you lost another 2 hours of your life to bad Hollywood acting. This truly felt like Cage collecting a paycheque versus a serious attempt at making a medieval movie with some supernatural element to it. This should have gone straight to video. The movie was scheduled to be released in May 2009 but it was relegated to the January death-slot, where bad movies go to die. That’s never a good omen.

Peter: For those who want the Middle Ages on film to be historically accurate, avoid this movie – it barely tries. The story is vaguely set in medieval Europe around the time of the Black Death (although it is never called that during the film) but all the places mentioned are fictional, and more akin to a fantasy novel setting (the dark forest is called Wyrmwood!).  Once more supernatural stuff gets thrown into the story, you know to leave the history textbook behind.

Sandra: If this was a star rating, I would rate it 1/5. Peter, the kinder, gentler soul of Medievalists, rated this 2/5.

To watch clips of this film, click here to see our page on “Season of the Witch” .

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