Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Christopher Lee, Claire Foy
Directed by Dominic Sena
The Crusades were a particularly bloody time in the history of mankind with horrors that would rival any film we cover on Dread Central. Soldiers were expected to follow their leaders without question, as their task was set upon their shoulders by God himself. Behmen (Cage) is a man of honor and loyalty, and where he goes, Felson (Perlman) follows. Their swords fall upon the bodies of non-believers wherever they set foot at the church’s bequest. After a time, it seemed there was no distinction between armored soldier and hand maiden so the pair, weary of the innocent blood on their hands, leave the war behind and begin a new life in hiding as wanted men.
Though they no longer live by the sword, death is not easy to escape, and Behmen and Felson find themselves in a town ravaged by plague. Everyone in the town blames their woes upon on a single girl who torments them all via dark magic. A deal is made. If the knights see this witch to justice, they will be free men. Along with a young would-be-knight, an aging knight, a monk and a thief to guide them, they set themselves against the elements and inhospitable terrain through which they must drive the caged witch to monks that will decide her fate.
The Crusades are an excellent backdrop to this story, but they act only as the prelude to the real story like the Costner film version of Robin Hood, but waaaay bloodier. The actors even employ Costnerian™ Medieval accents to pay homage! I generally like the whole arms and armor gig, but after the second or third sequence through which we are supposed to get the idea that war has been going on forever, you wonder if this war IS going to go on forever.
Happily, the brothers in arms soon hit the road, launching you into the REAL story of the film. Unfortunately, you’ll revisit these scenes through post-traumatic (perhaps supernaturally induced) stress dreams that startle Cage to waking as if he remembered he’s got ye old racquetball at six and his alarm has failed to go off.
In a conscious state, Cage plays his role fairly deadpan … or in deep thought … or considering every little thing … very … carefully. As counterpoint, Perlman dominates his scenes with bravado, charm and no small amount of sarcasm. He scores what little laughs are had in the film … well … those that are intentionally sought.
As the crew trudge through the countryside, you definitely get a sense of the environment and the weight of the cage itself as they constantly struggle to move it forward. In a recent interview Perlman likened the task to Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, and that parallel is not overstated! Disappointingly, the journey is mostly toil, and though some of our party lose their lives, the experience is as plodding as the task you are watching. In place of monsters or unseen spirits in the darkness, we get deception, dire conversation and some extra mean looking wolves who startlingly transform from mere forest wolves to slightly angrier, a tad more demonic looking wolves!! The terror.
For her part, Claire Foy plays the witch to perfection, though she isn’t given much to do with her duplicitous nature. It’s clear she can act her way out of an iron cage, but much of this must have been left on the cutting room floor. What’s left is enjoyable nonetheless, and her knowing glances will ease your boredom through the long journey.
When we finally reach the mountaintop castle in which reside the monks who will test our witch, many of you will have checked out … AND YOU WILL BE MISSING OUT!! After a few moments of discovery at this new location and a bit of background story (yes, even this late in the damned film), everything goes to hell … LITERALLY!! The finale of Season of the Witch makes it all worth it with creatures around every corner like a sword and sorcery version of The Mummy with a gargoyle looking demon at the center of it all. The simple fact is Cage fighting demons equals AWESOME. With Perlman fighting alongside him … well, that’s just a bonus … and a sort of horror geek fever dream.
Season of the Witch has plenty of faults, make no mistake, but I can see this becoming a guilty pleasure film for fans of monster bash-ups. If there is any crime to hold against the filmmakers, it’s that Christopher Lee is featured for all of three minutes. In his casting, it is almost as if they were on to something for a fleeting moment. Imagine a new school Hammer horror film with Nic Cage as the hero and Ron Perlman providing the muscle??!! If that was the pitch of this movie, you’d all be going in droves. Unfortunately, the creators deemed this a “journey” movie in which the characters come to know themselves as they overcome hardships when they should have just been fighting bat-hags in the trees screeching “I’LL SWALLOW YOUR SOUL!!!” Finally getting to the Army of Darkness ending is extremely satisfying, but only the weekend’s take will tell if it was too little too late.
3 out of 5
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