Theatrical Review: Season of the Witch

Behmen and his companion Felson are Knights fighting for the Church during the Crusades. After ten years of battling for the Church, they turn their backs on the cause once they’ve been lead into killing innocents. Now on their own and returning to their homeland, they discover it to riddled by the plague which is believed to have been caused by sorcery. Behmen and Felson get drafted into taking the source of this black magic, a young girl believed to be a witch, to a remote abbey, where monks will perform a ritual to end the plague. All’s not quite as it seems though…

That’s the nutshell premise to Season Of The Witch from director Dominic Sena and stars Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman. Like his last movie, Whiteout, I believe Season Of The Witch has been held from theatrical release for awhile, which usually doesn’t bode well for the film. I thought the trailer looked pretty decent though and was interested enough to give it a shot. I’m glad I did, I thought this was a lot of fun.

One thing that I really like about this is it’s pulp sensibility. What happens through this movie seems to me the sort of stuff that wouldn’t be uncommon to something written by Robert E. Howard or Fritz Leiber (isn’t it about time a movie about Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser was made?) and it was cool to see something like this embrace that. There’s also a lot in common here with classic Hammer films (this is like a Hammer film with a big budget) and I just find it refreshing to see a current movie embrace that sort of thing.

I like the look of the film and it’s use of CGI near it’s end. From what I’ve seen on some other comments written about this, others find these effects to be marring, but from my own sensibility, they look totally fitting.

Cage and Perlman make a great team. They having fun with the parts but not going overboard to make it parody, in fact it might just be one of the most straight-up performances I’ve seen from Cage in awhile. they’re backed up with some solid support from actors Stephen Campbell Moore, Ulrich Thomsen, Stephen Graham and Claire Foy as the witch they’re transporting. And mentioning Hammer films earlier, it’s nice to see Christopher Lee in a small role in the film. Now no one will win any awards for this, it’s just not that sort of film, but still it’s fun work and the actors do their best to commit to it.

The only criticism that I have with the movie is that it tips it’s hat a little too early to what is really going on. It’s a little difficult to explain that without going into full spoilers, and I want to avoid that. There’s a definite direction though that this is going in from the start and I think this might’ve been better served if that direction had been milked for all it’s worth right up to it’s end. Now the film does make up for that with another couple of twists by it’s end, but still, I think it’s impact could’ve been greater if it had done what I described.

Even with that criticism, I still had a great time with this. It’s diversionary fun with a classic pulp, B-movie style that fully embraces that style. My expectations were low going into this and that no doubt helped to make Season Of The Witch a pleasant surprise.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

09. January 2011 by Darren Goodhart
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