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Season of the Witch

2011-05-19 16:37
What it's about:

A heroic Crusader and his closest friend, who return home after decades of fierce fighting, find their world destroyed by the Plague. The church elders, convinced that a girl accused of being a witch is responsible for the devastation, command the two to transport the strange girl to a remote monastery where monks will perform an ancient ritual to rid the land of her curse.

What we thought:

You know a movie’s going to be good when English Knights launch into war-banter with heavy American accents. And when Persians ululate. But I walked in with a very open mind, knowing very little more than the title and a brief synopsis. So I kept it that way, despite its rather distinct and immediate flaws. Besides, I LOVE historical movies.

The beginning is unsettling and eerie: three witches lined up on a bridge, being prepared for a hanging. After their quick and graphic deaths, the priest is rushed through his preferred rituals. In his desperation to ensure the witches’ powers are eternally destroyed, he sneaks back that night to read prayers from the Book of Solomon. Only, he’s too late...

There’s something more appealing to scary movies with a slightly mythical element - perhaps the fact that you can enjoy it more knowing it’s not real. (Or is it? Muuahahaha! - I jest, apologies.)

Following the cracker of an opening, the film sets out to establish that ever-tricky "background" story. Two knights, evidently the army’s strongest, are shown battling all over the world as the Crusaders fought in God’s war. When they eventually leave, they’re set with the task of removing a witch whose evil has cast the black plague over a town.

There are interesting angles and creepy moments. The whole thing was a good idea that’s simply poorly executed. It opens with excitement, and ends with a little less excitement. The in-between is the problem. If you’re going to put demons and witches in a scary movie, make them petrifying. The kind of scary that makes you leave the light on when you go to sleep that night. I was more afraid of the rabies-infected humanoids in I Am Legend. I want Al Pacino using nothing more than his face and a moving artwork to drive me to church from fear, you know? Not an enlarged fruit-bat and a scraggly-haired girl with a naughty grin.

Nicolas Cage’s character Behmen (which I heard as "baby" most of the time out of Felson’s - played by Ron Perlman - mouth) is weak. I was also hopeful when I saw Christopher Lee’s name in the cast. Pity he’s only in it for five minutes. Literally. Character depth and even acting doesn’t always matter - but then you have to have a riveting plot to make up for it. Every war-hero cliché is used in attempt to make the protagonists complicated, and for their characters to reach beyond the simplicity of an eerie witch-flick. One wants to go home to his farmland, the other is doing this duty under duress to rid himself of guilt. It’s too weak an attempt. And it makes the seemingly long intro pointless.

More action was needed. More scary shit. More witches, more demons, more frights. The Bible and its history are such a fantastic base for movies like this - there’s so much to work with! There are horrifying things in ancient religion - for heaven’s sake, Sena, use it! There were so many angles they could’ve taken, elements they could’ve added to make the whole thing more riveting. I feel like they should’ve consulted Dan Brown.

Instead they relied on one mythical book of prayers and one element of evil, unbalanced by any overwhelming force of good, and tried to make that suffice. And some bright spark thought they should top off the very bitty action/horror/thriller with a completely random monologue that sets out to claim the story has some true historical merit. The Matrix made you walk outside and look at the sky, wondering if it was real. Season of the Witch did not make me wonder if we’d been saved from a world of hell by two wayward Crusaders.

It’s a very diluted version of what could’ve been a cool movie. Unfortunately, disappointing.

* You can hear Kim every weekday from 9am - 12pm on 5FM for more candid opinions and hilarity. For extra sass and some profanity, follow her on Twitter: @KimSchulze

A good idea that’s simply poorly executed, this is not the most exciting or scary take on witches and demons. Nicolas Cage has seen better days.
Read more on:    nicolas cage  |  review  |  movies  |  bible

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