Witches, the Crusades and some modern buddy-movie chatter between Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman set the shaky and uneven stage for Season of the Witch, a thoroughly worthless horror movie.
And I so wanted to like this movie. Well, maybe not like it, per se, but enjoy it, delight at some good medieval-times camp. But, like a water hose to a cake full of birthday candles, this movie quickly snuffs out fun anywhere it might dare appear.
Firstly, witches exist. Allowing for absolutely no “maybe, maybe not” suspense, the movie’s opening moments lays out a “witches, real” setup — not only real, but also evil and magic, like the most elementary of Halloween decorations. Apparently, even hanging and drowning them doesn’t get the job done — to really end the life of a witch, a priest has to say some words from a special book over them. We see this happen in an opening scene that turns out to really have no point or connection to the rest movie, except its cat-from-bag witches setup.
The actual movie begins with a montage of Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) joining and fighting in the Crusades. Armed with chain mail, sassy attitudes and fascinating accents (not British, really; more like high school students reading Shakespeare), Behmen and Felson tear it up during all sorts of gruesome, sandy battles for the glory of God, or rather, some wienerhead trying to psych the army up with a bunch of stuff about God. During one particularly gruesome battle, however, Behmen and Felson start to think maybe God isn’t a big fan of killing women and children and tell the wienerhead to take this Crusade and shove it. While wandering home in Europe through a village filled with plague-suffering townsfolk, the boys are spotted, identified as deserters from the army, and are arrested by some extras from Spamalot.
Facing an unknown but surely horrible punishment, the guys are offered an out by the local cardinal (Christopher Lee), himself dying of plague. They can be on their way if first they escort a woman known as The Black Witch (Claire Foy) to an abbey where the monks will magic-book the evil out of her and put an end to the curse of plague (because witches cause the plague). The guys say yes, but Behmen, all soft-on-witches after his experiences in battle, demands that these monks give her a fair trial before they, like, push her off a cliff to see if she falls (a good, if dead, Christian) or floats (witch! witch!).
The existence of witches means the existence of magic which means the existence of some really shoddy CGI, like wolves with, I don’t know, demon-wolf faces and, late in the game, a demon that ooks vaguely like a shadow puppet. The movie treats all of this Very Seriously but doesn’t do it in the go-for-broke, screaming-score Black Swan-type way that would make the experience fun to watch. Cage and Perlman offer up some weak modern banter but, again, don’t go so Bad Boys as to make their buddy-cop-like selves (it’s one last job, after all) an entertaining counterpoint to all the plague and sword fighting.
Season of the Witch is dull and wastes all opportunities to be anything but a forgettable throwaway film. D
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content. Directed by Dominic Sena and written by Bragi F. Schut, Season of the Witch is an hour and 38 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Relativity Media.