You’ve got to hand it to Nicolas Cage: while age peers Brad Pitt and Sean Penn refuse to work on anything but highbrow, Malick-ian fare and Tom Cruise rejects any role that doesn’t reflect his Level VII OT superhuman awesomeness, Cage willingly rolls around in the muck of any and all genres, with even the most dubious of filmmaking talent. In the past year alone, he’s starred in the action/horror hybrid Drive Angry, the family friendly The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the meta-comic book movie Kick-Ass and the gritty drama The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Seriously, you’ve got to love this guy for working so much. He’s like a hungry immigrant but with the net worth of his fatherland. (well, before back taxes). Continued after the jump.
Too bad most of his recent flicks have been utter crap (Kick-Ass aside). But hey, at least the guy embraces genre filmmaking. Can you imagine Sean Penn deigning to take part in Witch? (Although, from the looks of the posters for the upcoming This Must Be the Place, he’d make a terrifying one). Anyway, when I sat down to watch Season of the Witch, I knew it bombed with critics and audiences. Still, I hoped to find something worth championing about it on behalf of our hard working, genre-friendly leading man. Sadly, however, even camp value eludes this badly acted, scare-free disaster.
Witch’s main problem is that it’s not really much of a horror movie. In fact, it’s more of a traditional knight’s tale with horror elements thrown in, none of which elicit much fright. In the film, Cage plays a 14th century knight who defects from the Crusades after realizing the holy war might not be so holy. He’s joined in his defection by a quipping sidekick played by fanboy favorite Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade 2). When the twosome return to their homeland, they discover everyone’s got nasty, bulbous growths on their faces, including Cardinal D’Ambroise (played by Cage’s hot mess horror-lovin’ spiritual godfather Christopher Lee), who blames the burgeoning Black Plague on a young woman accused of witchcraft. Cardinal Whatever assigns Cage and Perlman to deliver the witchy girl to a remote abbey where monks will perform a cleansing ritual. From this point on, the story becomes a sort of odd mash-up of knight’s journey and Exorcist movie (well, bad Exorcist prequel movie).
A major problem with the film is that none of the cast attempts any sort of period dialect or manner. Both Cage and Perlman enact jarringly anachronistic performances with flat American accents. Performance issues can probably be blamed on director Dominic Sena, who was apparently too busy filling his frames with wholly unnecessary CG. Overreliance on CG is another one of the film’s biggest shortcomings. It’s especially egregious during the third act, when the film’s ultimate villain is unveiled. I won’t reveal who or what said villain is, but let’s just say he/she/it’s one of the most unfrightening combinations of one’s and zero’s ever put on screen (and yes, I’ve seen Van Helsing). Come on, Sena! Everyone’s going organic these days. Try a little makeup and puppetry!
I honestly believe a more interesting version of this script might have been made with less money, a troop of unknown British thespians and more use of practical effects ala Coppola’s bewitching Dracula. Still, I still love Cage for taking part in genre films like this. I just wish he’d be a bit pickier with scripts. Well, not much pickier. We like our Cage uncaged.
Extras include deleted scenes, Becoming the Demon, On a Crusade and an Alternate Ending. The Blu-ray also features a bonus digital copy.
Picture and sound are fine, although one wishes the excessive CG was a bit more muddied or shadowed. Impressionistic fakery trumps crystal clear bullshit every time.
Season of the Witch is an unholy brew that fails to stir up much fright or fun.
Season of the Witch is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content.