Season of the Witch (2011)

Posted: March 15, 2011 in Movies

Worst. D&D session. Ever.

Okay, I take that back. The Dungeons and Dragons movie was the worst D&D session ever. But Season of the Witch gives it a real run for its money, signaling the most embarrassing failure in Nicolas Cage’s increasingly dubious career and serving notice to the movie-going public that yes, indeed, movies released right after the Christmas blockbuster season are usually pure crap.

The highest hope one can hold is if Cage goes all buggy-eyed on us and turns in some over-the-top scenery chewing of the kind that made The Wicker Man such a so-bad-it’s-good treat. No such luck. Oh, he sports the dodgy accent and dons the silly wig with suitable aplomb, but director Dominic Sena forces him to play every agonizing scene straight as an arrow. A similar fate befalls Ron Perlman, playing Cage’s best buddy in the whole wide world with a “three days till retirement” target painted right on his back. These two might have done wonders had they the license to really cut loose. As it is, they spend most of the time with the dead-eyed glaze of performers who realize just how big of a mistake they’ve made.

The pair are knights who desert the Crusades in the film’s overly long exposition phase, returning to Europe only to find the land decimated by plague. The church blames a young woman (Claire Foy) for the epidemic, claiming that she acts as the devil’s disciple. They task the duo to take her to a remote abbey, where a secret book held by the monks can purge her soul. It sounds simple enough in a fork-and-spoon way. They even pick up the usual rag-tag gang of misfits on the road to help them out (and serve as convenient sacrifices to the various woes which befall them). But Sena renders even this embarrassingly straightforward plot a confused mess, inserting twists and double twists which make no sense whatsoever. The combination of threadbare narrative and unnecessary convolutions compound the ridiculously affected dialogue, creating an unintentional howler with every new scene.

Season of the Witch finds a way to muck up the central mystery as well: whether Foy’s woman is an actual witch or merely a victim of circumstance. Sena takes the obvious route of blaming the Church for all manner of ills, but he might have maintained at least the semblance of interest had he played with the girl’s disposition a little better. We should have wondered whether she’s truly an innocent or if those pious monks have the right idea by putting her to the torch. Alas, Sena gives the game away far too early, destroying any semblance of suspense and leaving us with nothing but the dreary European countryside to ponder.

It comes to a head with one of the most egregious abuses of CGI since 2004’s Van Helsing, rendered here with depressed resignation rather than any zeal or flair. By then, we’re so glad it’s over that we think nothing of the ridiculous histrionics that brought us here. At times, it plays like a parody of itself. You almost expect Michael Palin and the Knights Who Say “Nee” to emerge from the woods at any moment. No such luck of course. Season of the Witch even lacks the self-awareness to crack a smile, relying instead upon thuddingly weak banter–delivered with all the fun of a backed-up toilet—for its humor. Considering the January release date, and considering that his last film was the barely seen Whiteout, one wonders whether Sena has made someone angry out there. If so, Season of the Witch is no way to apologize: a low bar for the new year that even the biggest cinematic debacle would be hard pressed to match.

New link 4/3/11

IMDB: Here | Wiki: Here | Download (AVI): Link

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