In William Friedkin’s 1973 The Exorcist, the two priests have an emotional and thought-provoking conversation as to why a demon would possess such a sweet, young girl. The entire movie is built around this moment; it’s the scene that clearly defines it.
In 2010 Relativity Media releases Dominic Sena’s long-delayed Season of the Witch, a film that instead opts to have the witch/demon (already ruined in every TV spot and trailer) cling to a ceiling and spell out its evil ploy detail by detail in a very cheesy “Xena”/”Hercules”-esque moment. The entire movie is built around this moment; it’s the scene that clearly defines it.
Sena shoots himself in the foot during the opening sequence and limps through the rest of this mediocre/stale tale of anti-religion, redemption, and challenges of faith. The film opens on a staged bridge with a group of monks/priests sentencing a trio of “witches”. The actors work in front of a green screen that made the film look like a cross between 300 and “Spartacus”. Then the audience is treated to a heavy CG witch bursting into flames. Cool! No.
The first 45 minutes feel like a (never-ending) prologue as the audience is transported deep into the Crusades where Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) fight side-by-side “in the name of God.” That is until Behmen kills a young woman and declares he will fight only for God – and no longer for the Church. Note: his faith is never challenged. He willfully leaves his group with his trusted sidekick Felson, and are soon discovered a few months later in a small town. After a yawn-inducing sword fight, Behmen reveals himself. Captured, the duo learn of the spreading Bubonic Plague, which the local priest blames on a witch currently in their custody. The deal: they transport her to another town where they will try her for her crimes. “A fair trial,” Behmen promises. A lazy motley crew is assembled and the group takes lead on their supposedly “near impossible” adventure.
At this point you’d think the movie would have actually started, but it’s shocking when you reflect back at the fact that what you’ve watched for 45 minutes is an epically long prologue. FINALLY on the road, the audience is bombarded with a slew of useless and boring-as-sh*t sequences that stop the movie and muddle any further progress. They spend ten minutes crossing a bridge. They spend ten minutes attempting to recapture the witch after she escapes. They spend ten minutes fighting a pack of hungry wolves. They spend another five “knighting” one of their crew (I am sooo not joking). After what feels like hours just getting to the actual transportation of the witch, the physical journey feels like it takes all of but one evening. Such a harrowing journey, eh? LOLOLOL. Or should I say ROFL?
When the big reveal is finally shared with the audience, the movie spirals into CGI hell as the group have a sword battle with resurrected (by more demons) Plague victims who spew oddly rendered black smoke from the stumps of their decapitated heads. In fact, the rules (which are barely even established) are thrown right out the window, as all hell breaks loose.
While Season of the Witch might not be the worst thing I see this year, it’s apparently been riddled with its own case of the Black Plague since day one. Every inch of the movie is infected with bad decisions that spread throughout each and every frame. In fact, the movie doesn’t even look finished, which is a shocker considering how long they’ve been fiddling with it. If you enjoy being bored, dig watching Nicolas Cage (with yet another odd hairpiece) freak out on screen, and want to see a poor Sam Raimi filmmaking impersonation, Season of the Witch is for you.