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Season of the Witch

If this year is anything like the last, January is going to be a cinematic wasteland with little to cheer about. Limited releases notwithstanding, the month is looking to be a bad one. So here we are with the first wide release movie of the year, Season of the Witch, and, well, it’s terrible.

The story takes place in the 14th century during the Crusades. Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) have dedicated their lives to the church and their cause, but after witnessing the slaying of innocent people, they decide to defect and go about on their own. After some time, however, they find need for supplies and are forced to stop in a local village where they first come into contact with the Plague, which is said to have been caused by a witch roaming the lands. They are quickly spotted and recognized as traitors, but rather than condemn Behmen and Felson to death, they are asked to help transport the alleged witch (Claire Foy) to a monastery where she will stand trial, to which they begrudgingly agree.

Season of the Witch, to put it lightly, is one of the most embarrassing movies I’ve seen in a long time, to the extent that everyone onscreen and behind the scenes should be ashamed for having worked on it. While it may be set in the early 1300’s, all characters speak with modern dialects. The actors make a bare bones attempt to bridge the gap between then and now, but each line comes off as hokey. Every utterance from the mouths of Cage and Perlman, in what could be the worst performances of their careers, was cringe worthy.

Had the film been tongue-in-cheek, this could be forgiven, but the subject matter, as silly as it is, is taken deathly seriously. Aside from an effective opening scene (that is only loosely tied to the movie as a whole), the rest transcends unintentional camp and reaches pure awfulness. The whole affair is a cumbersome, mishandled and painfully amateurish vision that is brought to a quick death as soon as Cage steps onscreen in his raggedy wig.

All one can hope for is some exciting action, but director Dominic Sena, who is responsible for the guilty pleasure, Swordfish, and little else, works them like your typical mindless hack ’n slash movie, in that unnamed people (and animals) run towards the screen only to get slaughtered and disappear. It also suffers from showing us too little. In order to avoid an R rating, camera shots are kept close and tight, so we see only the reaction of the person getting gutted rather than the actual gutting.

Season of the Witch is a film where nearly anything that can go wrong does. On top of all the problems already mentioned, it sports bad CGI, bland cinematography, a forgettable score and a script that feels like it was written by a teenager who has played one too many video games. It all ends with a final twist that goes against the very title of the film, which would have come as a surprise had it not already been given away by an early poster with a none too subtle logo behind a silhouette of the supposed witch. I predict that having already shot itself in the foot by ruining its ending will hear little outcry, however. It’s hard to believe that anybody with a modicum of self respect could find this interesting anyway.

Season of the Witch receives 1/5

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