Season of the Witch is a little bit like a 90 minute long escort mission from a poorly made videogame. Except the viewer has no control over the dreary events and it is about as interesting as watching jam slide down a wall while a mad friend raves about the benefits of Wicca.
We follow two stab-happy knights called Behmen and Felson as they romp through a montage of various medieval battles, crusading against the enemies of God and carousing with two whores apiece each night like the smug sociopaths that they are. Behmen ditches life in the army after accidently skewering a woman in the heat of a battle and Felson follows him in desertion because they’re the best of buds. Stumbling into a plague-infested town they are arrested but then given the chance to redeem themselves if they transport a young girl accused of witchcraft to a far-off abbey in order to revert the pandemic which she has allegedly caused.
Tension in Season of the Witch should hang on one point: is the girl charged to the care of disillusioned crusading mercenaries played by Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman actually a supernatural plague-spreading hag, or is she being wrongly persecuted because of the superstitions of the 14th century? This could have been a significant mechanism for instilling mystery and intrigue in the story, and the film raises questions about the mysterious girl’s past and intentions through clumsy exposition and events. However, in movie’s opening scene we are shown that, yes, witches definitely exist and, yes, they will kill you as soon as look at you. This means that the ‘is she, isn’t she’ mechanic doesn’t work, as if the title had left you in any doubt in the first place.
Cage and Perlman don’t bother to put on any accent other than their own, which for some reason inspired the filmmakers to insist that the largely British supporting cast also slap on mid-Atlantic drawls in an illusion-shattering cacophony. This Is England’s Stephen Graham does his best to impersonate a 1920’s wiseguy, perhaps as a result of his role in HBO series Boardwalk Empire, while only Christopher Lee, who is obscured in John Merrick-style plague makeup, speaks the Queen’s English. Which is odd, since he’s playing an ailing Eastern European monarch. In short, everything is wrong.
What I’ve described above would make a great B-Movie style flick, but it is so joyless and lacking in excitement that it fails to hit any high notes. Its filmic flute is made of mud, hair and regret. There is one absolutely hilarious scene of lupine slaughter which hopefully someone will upload to YouTube so you don’t have to sit through the whole film for its single moment of levity.
Season of the Witch? Autumn of the Arse-Awful.