Reviews

Film Review: Season of the Witch

★★★☆☆

Death, plague, Nicolas Cage – what could possibly unite such an unholy trilogy. Could it be… witchcraft? Dominic Sena’s plumping for a big fat yes with his ridiculous titled effort Season of the Witch (2010) (not to be confused with the 70’s Romero shocker of the same name). Even more ridiculous is the film itself, which is as dumb as it is grimy.

After a spot of good old-fashioned witch hanging, we cut to a scene from the Crusades, where Nicolas Cage’s heroic knight Behmen appears, kitted out in the latest in shiny armour and blonde wigs (truly, he’s never looked more like Carrie Bradshaw in his entire life). Some swordplay later and “Hex and the City” is in full swing, but when Behmen et al. come across a mysterious girl (Claire Foy) locked up behind bars for apparent witchcraft, the knight’s tale takes a turn for the worst.

Tasked with taking the accused maiden to a far-off town to see a ‘fair trial’, Cage’s Behmen is a knight in the service of God, but not the church. It sounds like he has a deep theological understanding – the illusion is helped along by placing Behman next to towering brute Felson (Ron Perlman, playing Ron Perlman) – but Christopher Smith’s Black Death (2010) this ain’t. If anything, Season of the Witch is (unintentionally) much more akin to medieval cult comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), which should tell you just about all you need to know.

Trudging through textbook plot points, Season of the Witch goes from silly antics to dodgy climaxes by way of daft obstacles (and yes, there’s even a Pythonesque “Bridge of Death”, though there’s no sign of mind boggling riddles such as “What is your favourite colour?”). It’s all in the name of nonsense, yet at times the film clearly has some misguided dreams of Exorcist-like grandeur. All big eyes and naughty smile, Claire Foy milks her part for all its worth. “We believe what we want to believe,” she says to the doubting Behman. On this damning evidence, Dominic Sena clearly believes in making stupid films.

Compared to Christopher Smith’s aforementioned faith wrangling horror, Season of the Witch appears as thick as a tin of Dulux “Idiot” Grey. It has big swords, bad wolves, a lumpy-bumpy Christopher Lee and even Hellboy headbutting Satan. Even as Beelzebub himself flies through a window at the films tame finale, the token priest (Stephen Campbell Moore) cries “We’re going to need more holy water!”, almost unbelievably, with a completely straight face.

The Piranha 3D (2010) of medieval horror, Season of the Witch is ridiculous in every way. But it’s as ridiculous as any ironic fan of Nicolas Cage or hammy, “swords ‘n’ spells” nonsense could ever wish it to be. Dumb, fun, yet ultimately forgettable trash.

Ivan Radford