I used to like Nicolas Cage for his career choices. Then I came respect him for his acting talent. After that I kept coming back to see just how over the top crazy he could get onscreen. Now, it's basically just to see how he's rocking his latest hairpiece. In Season of the Witch, Cage is crowned with Prince Valiant meets Jeff Spicoli golden locks.
While there aren't any lines nearly as good as "Hey, bud… Let's party!", there are a few comical one-liners tailored for the movie-savvy medieval horror fan: "We’re gonna need more holy water!" Too bad Season of the Witch isn't actually supposed to be a comedy. It's not even an unintended comedy.
In this insipid, uninspired Crusades chiller, Cage plays holy knight Behmen. For a decadent decade, he and his best brother in arms, Felson (Ron Perlman) have fought the good fight on behalf of the main man, God Himself. They raped and pillaged and partied hearty. But when they see the tides not turning heavenward, not even a little, disillusionment swoops in and sends them scurrying back to Europe. Unfortunately, all that awaits them at home is The Plague and wicked witchery.
Season of the Witch starts off promisingly enough with a proper, old-fashioned (or new-fangled, for the time) witch dunking. Saturated in the supernatural, these underworldly creatures don't drown like they're supposed to, leading to all kinds of Satanic shenanigans. Or, one would hope. Instead, after this somewhat intriguing moment, the film sinks like a millstone.
Fingered as deserters, Behmen and Felson are forced into holy service once again by the plague-stricken Cardinal D'Ambroise (Christopher Lee) to act as escorts to the unsinkable Black Witch (Claire Foy). She needs to be taken to the biggest, baddest abbey in the land for proper religious reprimand, and she's not going to go willingly.
Along the way, a ragtag team of misfits is assembled, and the cross-country journey begins. Unfortunately, the 'religulous' road trip doesn't end until way after most discerning viewers have long since canceled their subscriptions to the Resurrection. (I won't even go into the Big Armageddon Showdown which offers up a gigantic CGI devil who'd be embarrassed to be caught dead in an mid-90s Mortal Kombat movie.)
Unlike other outré Cage outings (or even Perlman's more memorable missteps), Season of the Witch isn't over the top, so bad it's good, or even remotely entertaining. With one-liner quips that come off like non-sequiturs in this sea of solemnity, a gray "color" palette, and only one witch (who may or may not even be a witch, much less a whole season of them), this flick is fallow fare indeed. (If you're looking for another Ghost Rider, Wicker Man, or Dungeon Siege… keep looking.)
One thing I was surprised to learn, in the course of watching the behind the scenes featurette, was that Tippett Studio actually took credit for the CGI —! When it comes to the other additional release material on the DVD, I actually have good things to say. Well, maybe not "things", plural, but something I'm pleased to report: for once, the alternate ending actually makes a difference. The Big Armageddon Showdown is much subdued, opting for lighter CGI, making less more — and, giving Foy's otherwise thankless role a modicum of redemption.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson