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Blu-Ray Review: ‘Season of the Witch’

Nicolas Cage gets witched out in this mediocre medieval action dreck. 

Season of the Witch is so ‘not bad’ that it’s just awful. It recently landed by Most Mediocre Movies of 2011 (So Far) list. Nicolas Cage stars in a thoroughly forgettable B-Movie romp through the Middle Ages as a knight who abandons the Crusades on moral grounds (which if movies are any indication was a problem as prevalent as the plague) only to find himself forced back into the church’s service when he gets home. It turns out that the Black Plague ravaging the whole of Europe was entirely the fault of a young witch, who must be escorted to a far-off monastery to undo the evil spell.

You know what? That’s not a bad idea for a movie. A medieval prison transfer story that tests the guilt of the accused and the resolve of their captors. You could have a lot of fun with that. It’s too bad that nobody making this movie seemed to think so. Season of the Witch is a dour, lifeless movie that ignores the dramatic potential of its plotline in favor of… nothing, apparently. Rather than dramatizing Cage’s crisis of faith, or build suspense by raising doubts about the existence of magic or even just going bug nuts and bringing forth a series of supernatural action sequences, Season of the Witch just weakly treads from one vignette to the next (oh, here’s the part where we cross a rickety bridge!) leaving a game cast straggling behind it helplessly.

By the end of the film the fit finally hits the proverbial shan and all pretense of mystery and wonder disappears into an overblown action sequence filled with unconvincing CGI monsters. The Blu-Ray of Season of the Witch includes an alternate ending in which the witch (Claire Foy) actually got to play herself in the climax without a computer-generated impersonation of the monster from the end of Golden Child, and it’s a superior sequence for it, incorporating a character we’ve come to know (as little or as much as any other in this movie, anyway) as opposed to a bunch of poorly conceived nonsense. The very end of the film is the worst offender though, rewriting all the lessons to be taken from The Dark Ages at the last minute for no reason whatsoever other than to give the events of the film a modicum of relevance. Too little, way too late.

Season of the Witch doesn’t look bewitching on Blu-Ray, but that’s because the movie is shot without particular zeal. The actual transfer is a beautiful recreation of that mediocrity. It also sounds just fine, although it won’t replace the works of Michael Bay as a demo disc. Special Features are limited to the aforementioned alternate ending, a series of deleted scenes that would have added little to the movie (and would certainly have solved none of its problems) and a few short featurettes. Nothing to curse about, at least.

Season of the Witch is a thoroughly forgettable, vaguely competent production that would have been better served by throwing $2 million at John Carpenter in 1983. There’s a directness to the concept that I admire, and an amusing B-Movie tale to be told inside of it. But it’s so rote, so bland, so inoffensive, so so-so that it’s not worth discussing at length. If you absolutely must see it, rent… Black Death instead.

 

Crave Online Rating (Film): 5/10

Crave Online Rating (Blu-Ray): 6/10