Movie Review: Season of the Witch
By Matthew Huntley
January 19, 2011
Boy, what a dumb movie this is. Season of the Witch has almost no redeeming qualities other than it moves fast and it’s sometimes funny to laugh at. For me, the funniest moment came near the end when the villain complains he’s been trying to destroy the sacred book of rituals for decades. Or was it centuries? Either way, it’s funny not because of what’s being said but because of who’s speaking it and how. The movie is utterly silly, and unfortunately not on one of those dumb fun levels; it’s more along the lines of us asking what the hell were the filmmakers thinking?
The story takes place during the Crusades in the 1300s, back when it was customary for towns to hang women suspected of witchcraft. During this era, two knights who once vowed loyalty to the church, Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman), dissent from their army because they no longer believe killing innocent women and children fulfills the word of God.
It’s amusing how the movie actually thinks we’d lend credence to a montage where Behmen and Felson fight in battles one minute (while still managing to joke back and forth with each other) and enjoy ale with two women on each knee the next. Did knights during the Crusades really say to each other, “You’re buying the first round”?
Speaking of anachronistic dialogue, this movie is full of it. At one point, Behman mutters the “sh” word when he finds himself trapped. Another instance occurs when a character says, “Let’s just kill the b*tch!” Such language might have been funny if the movie didn’t take itself so seriously. At least then we would have been laughing with it instead of at it.
After Behmen and Felson go wandering for a month, they come upon a town struck by a mysterious plague. Even the church’s Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee) looks like a leper. He and a priest named Debelzaq (Stephen Campbell Moore) attribute the affliction to a girl they suspect is a witch (Claire Foy). When Behmen and Felson are revealed as knights and arrested for dissension, the cardinal offers them a choice: a) fulfill their vow to the church and escort the girl to a distant land, where she’ll be read the proper rituals; b) or death. Behmen agrees to take her so long as the girl receives a fair trial. Along for the journey are the priest; another local knight (Ulrich Thomsen) whose family was killed by the plague; a swindling guide (Stephen Graham); and a young man name Kay (Robert Sheehan), who wants to earn his knighthood.
I suppose the hook of the movie rests on whether the girl is a witch or not. She sure does have uncommon strength and a cunning personality. She makes the men so afraid they can’t bear to even look at her. When members of the group start dying, Behmen begins to question whether or not he should go against the will of God and take the girl’s life.
On a technical level, Season of the Witch is competently made. It’s well photographed and has impressive production design. But that’s as much praise as it gets because we simply can’t be asked to believe in its story, not with all the bad dialogue and absurd plot developments. If the screenplay actually took the subject of witchcraft seriously instead of using it as a mere stage for action and special effects, we might have had something to go off, but the movie gets more frivolous as it goes on and we quickly lose interest. The only things keeping it going are its somewhat punchy rhythm and unintentional laughs.
This is the type of bad movie that simply gets forgotten. It’s not bad enough to the point where you feel offended, but you still feel robbed of your time. Movies like this are sort of astounding because it’s hard to believe anyone who read the script or watched the dailies was pleased with the content. How does anyone justify this movie getting made? Again, I ask, what were they thinking?