Fox // 2011 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // June 20th, 2011
They ain't afraid of no witch, but maybe they oughta be.
What do you do with a movie that just leaves you feeling empty? It wasn't bad, it wasn't good, it just was. The final credits roll and all you can muster is 'meh.' This was my dilemma with the Nicolas Cage vehicle Season of the Witch, a forgettable run of the mill witches tale where CGI was king.
Nicolas Cage plays Behmen, a burned out knight tired of fighting in the crusades and who decides, with his buddy Felson (Ron Perlman), to go AWOL after Behmen accidentally kills an innocent young girl during one of their campaigns. Looking for a peaceful place to live out life, these bosom buddies choose the small quaint village of Styria, and by quaint I mean a town where the plague is running rampant and the townspeople believe their plight is caused by a young girl (Claire Foy) who they say is a witch; that should look good on the brochures. After Behmen and Felson are discovered to be deserters, the only way they can escape the death penalty is to escort the supposed witch to an abbey, where the monks are said to possess the last copy of an ancient book of rituals that will destroy the witch's power and therefore end the plague.
So three knights, a priest, a thief and an altar boy escort a witch to a monastery and on the way there nothing really exciting happens. In Season of the Witch, there's a whole lotta nothin' going on for three quarters of the movie then we're treated to a pitiful ending just to make sure box office failure is complete. The alleged witch is carted across rough and dangerous terrain in a makeshift jail cell on wheels, while Behmen, Felson and the rest encounter situations that are supposed to be suspenseful but only prolong the boredom that is this journey. There's the scene where Behmen proves he is the man to lead the mission when he foolishly plunders across a dilapidated bridge that the men are afraid to cross with a heavy cart in tow. Behmen shows either courage or stupidity, I'm not sure which, making his way across the unsteady overpass seeming not to care about his own safety. The crazy stunt works and following in their fearless leader's footsteps the men dutifully push the cart, with the girl in tow, across the bridge. Yawn. The whole expedition to the monastery is fraught with one overly dramatic situation after another, not one of them unique or interesting, and by the time they reach their destination, all you can do is count your blessings that the end is near.
Nicolas Cage's portrayal of Behmen was a more understated performance than I'm used to seeing the Cage man deliver. However, this laid back interpretation made Cage look as if he had taken some powerful sedatives just before filming began. Throughout Season of the Witch Cage looks uncomfortable in his role, delivering his lines with little to no conviction; not one of his finest acting moments but he hasn't had many of those in recent years. Ron Perlman plays the loyal friend Felson, a no nonsense, hit first and ask questions later kind of guy, who would gladly follow his friend into the pit of hell if asked. It's the typical best buddy roll except it takes place in the 14th century. The quintessential bruiser who grunts and head butts any guy who'll get in his way, unfortunately Felson was written with the character depth of a kiddy pool. I say all of this with a heavy heart, because I like Nicolas Cage, got some mad movie love for the man, yet even as a fan I can't turn this sows ear into a silk purse.
The accused witch, the reason for the season, is played by English actress Claire Foy. Somehow she seems almost incidental to the plot even though the only reason any of them are on this trek is because of her. It didn't help that she was stuck in her prison cage for most of her screen time and was unable to take her imprisonment and turn it into an acting tour de force. Watching her face contort from innocent school girl to something more menacing wore out its welcome very quickly. After a while I could care less if she were a witch or not. I'm sure there was supposed to be something mysterious and alluring about her; however the only mystery was how a movie about witches and knights could be so utterly boring.
Season of the Witch was shot in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen, and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. Extras included a making of portion that drones on and on about the lousy special effects, deleted scenes, behind the scenes of the uninspiring crusade fights and an alternate ending that was far better than the ending that made its way into theaters.
Although this movie left me cold, there was one huge highlight, and that was Nicolas Cage's long flowing, although phony locks. I don't believe I've seen him wear a finer looking hairpiece ever. It was so realistic looking that it didn't distract one bit from the nothingness that was happening on screen. Is it enough of a reason to watch Season of the Witch? Why, it may be the only reason to watch it.
If you decide to watch Season of the Witch because you like Nicolas Cage, or you like to fall asleep in front of your television set, I would like to make one suggestion. Stop the movie at the 89 minute mark and watch the alternate ending instead. There's no need to see the heavily laden CGI ending that moviegoers were forced to sit through in theaters. At least get some enjoyment out of your hour and a half and view the ending they originally shot and should've stuck with. You'll thank me later.
Guilty, with time off for good behavior because of Nicolas Cage's awesome hairpiece.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Cinema Verdict Review