Monday, January 10, 2011

No Reason For This Season

When I first checked out the Tomatometer rating for Season of the Witch last Thursday, it rang in at a resounding 7% positive. When I looked again on Saturday, it had dropped to 3%. As of this writing, it has rocketed back up to 4%. I will now damn this movie with faint praise. While it is definitely bad, it isn't as bad as a 4% rating would make you think it is. It has its moments and isn't really any worse than other horror movies of its type. That type, sadly, is, "dark, depressing and stupid."

Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play Behman and Felson, two fourteenth century European knights who spent about ten years fighting the Crusades before getting fed up with killing women and children. When the movie opens, we see them at the beginning of their military careers on a battlefield in which one computer generated army is fighting another and they seem chipper and enthusiastic. We drop in on them every few years becoming more and more jaded until Behman accidentally stabs a woman In the joke review of this I wrote on Friday, I described Nic Cage's choice to play his character as a clinically depressed mumbler. I was wrong about that. He doesn't mumble but man oh man, is he ever depressed. In fact, everyone in the movie is depressed to one degree or another. I'll never, ever understand why so many horror movies decide to make their characters depressed. Watching people like that isn't entertaining. It's (surprise) depressing and leads to things like having your movie get a 4% rating on

When the two knights return home (I think they're in England but it really doesn't matter), they find a country being ravaged by the Black Death. When they get arrested for desertion, an act that actually seems to perk them up a bit, they find out that local church officials think an accused witch (Claire Foy) is responsible. Considering medieval Europe's track record on finding actual witches, you'd be right to be a tad skeptical that this girl was really a witch but I failed to mention the movie's opening scene in which a hanged and drowned witch came back to life and hanged the priest who killed her the first time so I guess those sadistic, homicidal medieval witch hunters weren't so bad after all.

The authorities tell Behman and Felson that they can go free if they escort the witch to a far off abbey. Turns out the monks there have some ancient witch killing book that can take away her powers. At this point, one might ask why such you wouldn't make many copies of this book and pass them out all over the country in case a witch pops up so you wouldn't have to escort her to some remote abbey. You may also wonder why, if she's really powerful enough to create a damn plague, she can't just magically unlock herself from her cage and run away. One of those moments I was talking about when I said the movie has its moments is that those questions actually get answered. It's not much and doesn't make up for everything that's wrong with the movie but it's something.

What is wrong with the movie? As I said, everyone is depressed. Felson and Behman are depressed because of the horrors of war. The country folk are depressed because everyone is dying of the plague. The witch is depressed because everyone wants to kill her. Even the land itself looks depressed. It's either fall or spring and everything is gray and barren and, something I accurately predicted on Friday, everything looks like it was smeared and stained with manure. This is an ugly and unpleasant looking movie. I suppose director Dominic Sena and whoever else was responsible for these art direction choices to evoke an atmosphere of dread appropriate to a cursed land being ravaged by disease. What they ended up with was a movie that got a 4% rating.

Even Nic Cage couldn't save it as he eschewed the normal crazy moments he normally likes to bring to the screen in favor of being depressed and solemn all the time and, for the most part, the other actors followed his example. Still, it wasn't what I expected. What I expected was the worst movie ever in the history of anything and that the experience of watching it would make me want to tunnel down to the Earth's core so that the theater would be swallowed up into the ground with me and others would be spared the horrific experience of watching it. Fortunately, it wasn't quite that bad and that was a welcome relief. So my advice is to avoid Season of the Witch as only 4% of you will like it. To those 4% I ask, what the hell is wrong with you?

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