TMP Reviews: Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch (2010) – Disillusioned knights.

 

The Set Up

Season of the Witch is set in a medieval world where absolution is gained through violence, and the church and the Black Plague has the land well within its powerful grip. Superstition is the order of the day and innocent women are executed by holy men for the crime of witchcraft. Behmen (Nicholas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are two disillusioned knights tired of fighting in the Crusades. Fighting the infidel has lost its allure, and after Behman accidentally kills an unarmed woman, he and Felson desert the army, deciding to return home. Along the way, the two knights are captured after they are discovered to be deserters and imprisoned by the plague riddled Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee). It is here that their fate is entangled with that of a girl accused of being a witch responsible for causing the plague. Extracting the promise of the Cardinal that the girl will be given a fair trial, Behmen accepts the duty of delivering the girl to a secluded abbey where she will be tried for her offence against God and man. Seems fairly straightforward, yet Behmen, Felson, and their eclectic band of volunteers find themselves in the fight of their lives with the souls of all mankind on the line.

Cast: Nicholas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Christopher Lee

Directed by: Dominic Sena

Written by: Bragi F. Schut

 

Season of the Witch (2010) – Claire Foy is one witchy woman.

 

The Good

Don’t get me wrong, Season of the Witch has a lot going for it. The opening sequence of the hanging of the witches is quite horrifying. It sets the tone for the movie. We know witchery of any kind will not be tolerated and you know not to hold out much hope for Anna, the condemned witch.

There are some big names in this film, yet it is Claire Foy as Anne that will hold your attention. She plays the part of the witch with a certain menace that you just can’t put your finger on, and though she appears harmless and innocent at times, there are times where simply her glance and the slight curl to her lip will send chills up and down your spine. It’s simply delicious when you hear the howling of wolves in the distance and you just know the witch has summoned them, though she would try to have her escort believe otherwise. Camped as they are for the night on a deserted segment of mist enshrouded road on their way to the abbey, the feeling of doom is easy to perceive. The ensuing life or death chase definitely revs things up. The moments of tension in this movie were definitely a highlight, and the death-trap-of-a-rickety-bridge sequence will definitely have you on the edge of your seat.

The best part of the film though was that moment where there is a bit of a twist and the truth is revealed. Jaded as I am, I was certain that Anna was just a poor, misunderstood woman wrongly accused who would be saved by Behmen. Case closed. Wasn’t I surprised to find out what was really going on. It definitely called for a change in the priest’s game plan.

 

Season of the Witch (2010) – A nearly unrecognizable Christopher Lee as Cardinal D’Ambroise suffering from a bad case of the Black Plague.

 

The Bad

I could have done without the witty repartee between Cage and Perlman’s characters, though the, “We’re going to need more holy water,” was really great for a chuckle and extremely fitting.

The battle sequences weren’t epic like Braveheart, but necessary to establish character and give a sense of the times. Yet the CG in these scenes and the wolf attack sequence could have been a little more proficient since the scenes where CG is used were pretty important.

Getting back to the less is more point, near the end of the opening sequence I did have to suppress a bit of groan when a demonic hand popped out of the water. That moment was like a harbinger of the too muchness that was this movie at times, but especially near the end. Less obvious scariness at moments would have achieved a more chilling effect. It would have made the horror revealed to us that much more fearsome and nightmarish. Adopting a less mantra would have given this movie the finesse it needed to be a really great medieval supernatural thriller. The too muchness made the scare factor a little less potent.

 

Season of the Witch (2010) – Witchcraft will not be tolerated.

 

The Scorecard

Acting: What we expect of Nicholas Cage, minus the obnoxious cockiness which makes for a likable character. The rest of the cast held up their end, though I felt confused by Stephen Graham and kept thinking about Boardwalk Empire whenever I saw him. Claire Foy is the person you will remember most in this movie.

Direction: Dominic Sena should have realised most of the repartee between Cage and Perlman looked good on paper but didn’t work as spoken words.

Writing: Overall a script with great imagination and moments of huge potential with great characters.

Sound: The music helped and didn’t hinder, and it was bold and aided in upping the ante during tense moments.

Visuals: Nice panoramic scenes that were obviously styled after the overdone yet still popular 300 style. However, that being said, the visuals on a whole fit the movie and enhance the medieval feel.

Overall

Things of this ilk must be handled with a skillful subtlety carefully combined with sudden impact which would make the story more thrilling and much, much more terrifying. Season of the Witch should have saved the full reveal for the battle at the last possible moment, giving us only stark glimpses of the evil that was hidden within the witch right up to the very, very end. It did manage to give sly hints up until the third act, but somehow got impatient and made the mistake of giving everything up before the right moment.  Unfortunately, Season of the Witch didn’t quite hit the mark of greatness, though it had all the ingredients, but neither did it make me want my money back. It was the kind of movie that makes an audience go, “Oh, so close!”

Season of the Witch gets a 7 out of 10.

 

Season of the Witch (2010) – Beware the witch.