Published Jan 06, 2011The most remarkable thing about Season of the Witch is how completely unremarkable it is. Certain to evaporate from memories as soon as the advertising campaign finishes, this by-the-book medieval fantasy is positioned as a mystery thriller, but lacks anything more thrilling than Ron Perlman's dauntless charm.
He and Nicolas Cage are Felson and Behmen, a duo of heroic 14th century crusaders, as shown in a montage of battles and scenes where they act like a couple of sword wielding rock stars. The battle sequences are brief and tame, undercutting the horror accumulating in Cage's Behmen, who loses the taste for slaughter after mistakenly spearing a woman during a raid. Outraged by the murder(s) he's perpetrated for men claiming to speak God's will, Behmen goes rogue on the church and Felson follows. After laying low for a while, they come upon a town rife with the plague, but desperately needing supplies, they risk it and end up church prisoners for their desertion.
Cardinal D'Ambroise (Christopher Lee, caked in nasty plague boils, with an inexplicable silver hue) offers the duo amnesty if they agree to transport a purported witch to a monastery where a ritual will be performed to rid the land of pestilence. All the pieces of a standard adventure picture are moved into position ― enter the questionable guide and an impressionable youngster who follows the party unbidden. In addition to these characters and our rogue warriors, we have a suspicious priest, the suspected witch and a noble, in-house church knight.
The dialogue is bad enough, but it'd be challenging to come up with a more formulaic and predictable script, at least until a moderately cool mini-twist, and a resolution that fits the clearly spelled-out theme of sacrificing the body to save the spirit, witch death-test style. But by then, you'll have been lulled into uncaring by Cage's wilfully bland performance (the guy just can't play straight) and the sheer volume of nothing much happening.
After the journey begins, some possessed wolves, the aforementioned mirth of Perlman and a strong performance by Claire Foy, as the possible witch, are the only elements that keep eyes from glazing over. Oh, yeah, and a demon voice that sounds like Mr. T, but I'm pretty sure that was unintentional. Not bad enough to be funny, but not good enough to be fun, Season of the Witch plays like the season of whatever. (Alliance)