We get a scene before the title is shown. It involves a priest, some strong men, and three women. The women have been charged as witches, and are sentenced to a hanging. That happens, but the strong men leave before the priest is allowed to recite something that is supposed to ensure that they don’t come back from the dead. Of course, one does, although this proves to not be particularly important for almost a dozen years.
After the title, Season of the Witch, is shown, we cut to Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman reciting something that reminded me of a dialogue given to us in one of the Lord of the Rings films. They’re talking right before a massive battle, and they decide to wager on who will kill the most amount of people. “Okay, I could get into this,” I thought at the time. “It looks like a film that won’t be taking itself too seriously. This could be fun.” Oh, how I was wrong.
We soon watch the duo slaughter countless unknown enemies at different periods all throughout the 1330s. Eventually, they come to the realization that killing innocent women and children is wrong, so they leave the Church and go exploring. At one point, they wander on the town that we saw in the pre-title sequence, which is currently being rampaged by a plague that disfigures your face so much, you won’t be recognized even if your name is Christopher Lee, who tells them to escort the witch that rose from the dead (Claire Foy) to a place where it can be determined whether or not she is a witch or not. Well, okay then.
They’re joined on their quest by a group of others, although none of the characters are worth mention, except to say that they all have inconsistent accents. At times, one of them sounded like he was from New York City, although at others, he sounded right at home in the 14th century in Europe — or, at least I could believe that he was from this time and place, instead of from present-day America. The witch also goes back and forth between accents, although I began to wonder if that was the point to her character.
See, we’re never supposed to be sure whether or not she’s a witch, something that they toy with in regards to Cage’s character. He treats her better than most others, although if that’s because he’s trying to repent for previous sins is something that also gets mentioned. The “witch” spends most of her time stuck in a cage acting as mysterious as possible, although this seemed to be more for our benefit than for any of the characters in the film.
The worst part of Season of the Witch is that it isn’t actually the light film that it starts out as. After Cage and Perlman leave the Church, the film becomes dark, both in terms of its lighting and its tone. We go through a ton of murky areas, which at least helps hide some of the poor CGI, but there’s also no scenes of levity after this point either. That is, with the exception of Ron Perlman, who (thankfully) doesn’t seem to be taking things too seriously.
However, this makes him feel out of place. Everyone else is stone-faced throughout, which leaves Perlman looking like a clown who’s laughing alone — and at his own jokes, no less. Cage, Foy, and the rest of the cast don’t so much as smile once for the majority of the film. But this material needed to be played more as a joke than as a serious venture. All of the scene would work almost perfectly as a parody of this genre, but it’s played dead-serious by almost everyone involved, and it’s here where we place the blame on director Dominic Sena, who didn’t seem to realize what type of premise he’d been given, and as such, directed it improperly.
The ending, which I think is supposed to have come as a revelation to both us and the characters, felt inconsequential to me. It involves a realization that makes little direct impact on the story, and then it turns into a CGI battle that made me frequently laugh. Then it ends, we get a scene to wrap things up, and then the film ends. It’s a letdown, although thankfully, the film did end, so that I could finally stop watching such a mundane piece of filmmaking.
For most of the film, we watch these people on a road, encountering random obstacles, and never once having a good time. I can certainly relate to the final sentiment, because I can’t remember a single moment where I was enjoying myself, at least, not after our heroes have been given their task. I’d expect a film titled “Season of the Witch” to actually include witchcraft frequently, but because whether or not Foy’s character actually is a witch ends up driving part of the film, we can’t have a bunch of magic because that would give it away (although when she manages to pick up a man in full costume with one hand, I would have thought that would give it away as well).
Season of the Witch is no fun. It takes itself far too seriously, it’s dark and dreary, the action scenes are lackluster, and witches don’t actually play much part. A better title would be “Nic Cage and Ron Perlman get to Dress in Medieval Armor and Travel,” because that’s what the film feels like. It doesn’t feel like an epic journey; instead, it’s like watching a play with only a few sets, so to differentiate them, the lighting is dimmed until you can barely tell what’s going on.