Bad films come in many shapes and sizes. You see, some films are just so bad, they’re good. But on the other hand, some films are just so bad, they’re irreparably, soul-destroyingly awful. Fortunately (and it’s a very loose use of the word, fortunately), Season of the Witch falls into the former category. And whilst it’s not as universally awful as most critics have been declaring, Season of the Witch emerges onto DVD as an awkwardly fun, but ultimately forgettable romp through medieval Europe.
Of the little story that there is to propel the adventure along, we find ourselves thrown in with Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman’s Crusade deserters, who are charged with transporting a suspected witch across dangerous terrain to some remote monastery. It’s a thin plot as it is, and unfortunately it’s left to a heavily disguised Christopher Lee to gurgle out the exposition in one of the film’s most insipid scenes.
With such a limp plot to peg its 90-minute running time on, Season of the Witch falls back on that old scapegoat of cinema storytelling: the road movie. And this – for all its flaws – is where the film picks up a little bit of steam. Packing a few memorable suspense sequences, this middle act prattles along at a decidedly quicker pace to its preceding and succeeding acts. A particular stand-out sequence – however clichéd it is – sees our raggedy bunch of heroes trying to transport their horse and cart across a rickety bridge, and, with it all competently constructed and staged by director, Dominic Sena, it comes across as The Wages of Fear-lite-lite, but for a new generation of audiences. Yeah, it’s nothing special, but it’ll do for a sleepy Sunday afternoon viewing.
That’s more than can be said for the acting, which ranges from ham-fisted to campy via the befuddling unnecessary. Let’s start with Nicolas Cage. Actually, where do you even start with Nicolas Cage? The actor is an enigma. He can go from the one-two punch of Kick-Ass and Bad Lieutenant to this in the space of six months. It blows the mind. Usually the best thing about a Cage performance is his off-the-wall unpredictability and, above all, his unwavering ability to enjoy himself, regardless of the quality of the material he’s appearing in. Here he just looks bored. And when the most expressive thing about a Cage performance is his hair, you know something is wrong.
None of the supporting actors particularly fare much better, only serving to bolster the director’s need to kill a few characters off here and there. Ron Perlman has been much, much better elsewhere, and Christopher Lee – who usually adds a welcome dose of gravitas to any film – is maddeningly underused as the ‘bearer of exposition’.
Season of the Witch is undeniably a messy film. Its identity crises (it’s a horror film! it’s an historical epic! it’s an unintentional comedy!) makes for a somewhat directionless and confused final act, and a paper-thin plot does nothing to cover up any cracks that appear in the storytelling department. As a result, Season of the Witch is an example of genre filmmaking at its most conventional and any amount of production values can’t hide the fact that there’s really not that much going on here that we haven’t seen better elsewhere. We really can’t recommend this unless you enjoyed Van Helsing or are an avid enthusiast of Nicolas Cage’s hair.