A 14th century Crusader returns to a homeland devastated by the Black Plague. A beleaguered church, deeming sorcery the culprit of the plague, commands the two knights to transport an accused witch to a remote abbey, where monks will perform a ritual in hopes of ending the pestilence. A priest, a grieving knight, a disgraced itinerant and a headstrong youth who can only dream of becoming a knight join a mission troubled by mythically hostile wilderness and fierce contention over the fate of the girl. When the embattled party arrives at the abbey, a horrific discovery jeopardises the knight's pledge to ensure the girl fair treatment, and pits them against an inexplicably powerful and destructive force. Written by
Plopping out in early January, time honoured dumping ground of inferior product and draped in mediocre to poor reviews, Season of the Witch had quite a lot stacked against it. But for all this it ended up being one of the better films I've taken in on a whim, albeit far from any kind of classic or even especially good. Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play disillusioned crusaders against witchcraft who get caught trying to escape their service and are recruited for a particularly tricky witch escorting mission. So we get an arduous mission through harsh medieval lands, trekking interspersed with action and capped with a nice blazing finale, and it should be a blast, should be a lot more entertaining than it is, but owing to lack of budget or balls (or some combination of both), it ends up being rather forgettable. The first noticeable problem is studied downplaying from Cage and Perlman, they have some measure of chemistry and a small smattering of good lines, but there's no fire. Both have potential for greatness, and both have a facility for the fantastical but for some reason neither of them chew too much scenery or puff with much in the way of rage so the film constantly feels like its missing its opportunities as well. The ethereal Claire Foy suffers similarly as the witch, she has a sweetly otherworldly way to her and lights up the screen, so its a shame she doesn't have more to do. As for Christopher Lee, well he's barely in it and just about anybody else would have been a worthy substitute. These problems aside Season of the Witch manages to be quite good fun for enough of the time that I overall enjoyed the experience. Its well enough shot to conjure an effectively macabre and misty mood at times, while Dominic Sena handles his directing duties with fair adeptitude, making for some exciting and sporadically stylish action. The pacing is a bit off but never truly dull and one or two low key spooks (the highlight being a rather neat opening) keep things interesting in between the few action set pieces, while the ending is very daft and rather good fun. If only it gelled together better, if only it realised whether it wanted to be a rousing medieval fantasy or a creepy horror and got a better handle on its tone, heck if only it wasn't aimed at a younger audience with its PG13 certificate so it could get away with a few actual shocks. Bah, it could have been a lot worse, 5/10 from me.
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