Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Season of the Witch

Title:Season of the Witch

Didn't Nicolas Cage Used To Act Once? Yes, I seem to remember that, too.

So This Is A Lost Cause, Then? You'd think that, wouldn't you? Surprisingly, SotW is not the atomic trainwreck you might expect. Far from it, actually.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three bee-covered Nicolas Cages from The Wicker Man out of five.

Tagline: "Not all souls can be saved."

Better Tagline: "Just how big was that IRS bill, anyway?"

Brief Synopsis: Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are two former Crusaders charged with transporting the witch suspected of befouling the lands with pestilence to an abbey where she can be "dealt with" properly.

Not-So Brief Synopsis: Behmen -- having (finally) tired of killing after nearly ten years of Crusading -- and his bosom chum Felson have abandoned God's cause, because it took Behmen a decade before he accidentally killed a civilian, making him the luckiest Crusader of all time. The two travel back to Europe where they find the lands stricken with plague. Recognized as deserters, the two are ordered to escort the suspected "Black Witch" to her fate. It's a plot that could've come straight out of one of our 8th grade D&D campaigns.

Wait A Minute, Did You..Like This Movie? Don't you dare judge me.

"Critical" Analysis: Look, sometimes your expectations are so low you end up letting your guard down, and that's pretty much what happened with this. Given Cage's recent history, it's perfectly understandable to anticipate the worst, but SotW holds up surprisingly well.

That's because what you've essentially got here is a throwback to the sword and sorcery "epics" of the 1980s. Flicks like Krull or The Beastmaster or Conan (the Destroyer, not the Barbarian) weren't really "good" by any objective measure, but they were dumb, enjoyable fun. A goofy plot, supernatural foes, and buxom lasses in fur bikinis were all you needed for a Saturday afternoon.

This being the 21st century, we have to bid adieu to the bikinis. But this is actually a good thing, for as the accused Black Witch, Claire Foy proves to be a formidable opponent --even if we're never really sure of her actual witch status until film's end -- making life miserable for her captors (Behmen and Felson are joined by four other mostly disposable characters on their journey).

The movie works to the extent I think it does because Cage appears to be in on the joke. He readily delivers most of the straight lines for Perlman to tee off on, and gamely hacks and slashes his way through the movie sporting what looks like Kevin Costner's hairpiece from Waterworld.

Perlman, the strongest component of the otherwise unknown cast, is clearly enjoying himself during the Sons of Anarchy off season. Character background is light, but all we need to know about Felson is he likes to drink, get laid, and kick ass. Who couldn't use a buddy like that?

The film is also a little freakier than I was expecting, with some unsettling dream sequences and a fight with wolves that will probably offend several members of Team Jacob.

No one is going to mistake Season of the Witch for quality cinema: it's fairly ridiculous, rather short (the running time is listed at 93 minutes, but I bet that's about 10 minutes too long), and looks rather cheap. Plus it has Nicolas "Ghost Rider" Cage.It's hard to describe how a movie like this could succeed, but somehow it does. Barely.

See It/Rent It/Skip It: Rent it. Maybe as a double-feature with Ator: The Fighting Eagle.

Season of the Witch is in theaters today. Don't see it with anybody who has a passable knowledge of the Crusades.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar