Film

An Unholy Mess

The Inane, Nonsensical Season of the Witch

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THERE'S A TRADEMARK Nicolas Cage spazz-out scene in Season of the Witch, one where he, for seemingly no reason, begins to shout and bark his dialogue like a rabid dog. We've seen him do this before in nearly every movie he's in; it's always best when the dialogue is truly ludicrous. Thankfully, just about everything in Season of the Witch is atrocious, including the script: I can't remember what Cage yells exactly, but in a movie about witches and swords and plagues and demons, set against a goth-horror medieval backdrop, it was about as ridiculous as dialogue comes. It was laugh-out-loud funny, and if you fully understand the pleasures of such terrible cinema, you are probably, like me, a huge Nic Cage fan.

Oh, Season of the Witch is awful. It really is. The Dominic Sena-directed (Swordfish) horror fantasy is a clunky, overwrought piece of trash set against the Crusades and the Black Plague. Cage and Ron Perlman (who, sadly, turns in some of his shittiest work in his relatively unimpeachable career) play characters named Behmen and Felson, respectively. When you put those names together, it sounds like a hokey comedy duo from the 1930s, but actually, Behmen and Felson are a couple knights—and BFFs!—during the Crusades, as demonstrated by the film's interminable opening sequence, in which we watch them dive into battle again, and again, and again, and again. (It looks like they just reused the same footage and simply changed the green-screen backdrop. Look, now they're fighting in snow! Now they're in the desert! Now they're fighting on the forest moon of Endor!)

Behmen accidentally inserts his sword into an innocent girl in one of these battles—oopsie!—and decides that killing in the name of god is kinda sucky. So he and Felson become deserters, and wander into a city where Christopher Lee has plague all over his face. There's a supposed witch there, and Lee commands them to take her to another city, where monks can give her a proper trial. Then Christopher Lee's face falls off, and Behmen and Felson form a ragtag crew to take the girl on the long journey.

Is the girl a witch, or isn't she? (Incidentally, the girl is referred to in the credits as "The Girl," and is played by Claire Foy, an Oxford-trained actress who, in one fell swoop, has sullied a centuries-old bastion of British higher education.) The Girl certainly behaves strangely enough—at one point it seems like she's offering to give Cage a handjob through the bars in her cage—but along the way, the ragtag crew have other problems to overcome: a pack of wolves! A rickety old bridge! Some fog! There's a point around the final third of the movie where everything snaps into place: The film's palette becomes a cartoonishly murky gray, Cage and Perlman snap lines of dialogue to each other like wet towels in a locker room, and the plot devolves into sheer idiocy. At that moment, Season of the Witch is witless and senseless fun; there's an Evil Dead II-esque battle with a troupe of zombie monks and a surprisingly chatty demon that tilts the movie into self-parody. The rest of the movie has its share of dry patches and elements that aren't-quite-terrible-enough-to-be-good, if that makes any sense, but Season of the Witch's lowest points are really something.

If any of this sounds appealing to you—you know who you are—then I suspect you'll get a kick out of Season of the Witch. I, for one, will happily revisit it in the future, especially if it ever makes the rounds on the brew 'n' view circuit. (It would be perfect playing alongside Krull and the first Conan.) In the meantime, it should be noted that the plot of Cage's next picture, Drive Angry—a 3D movie that opens in February—is described on Wikipedia thusly: "Milton (Nicolas Cage) has broken out of Hell to prevent the cult that murdered his daughter from sacrificing her baby, on the moon."

Related Film

Season of the Witch

Official Site: www.seasonofthewitchfilm.com

Director: Dominic Sena

Writer: Bragi F. Schut Jr.

Producer: Charles Roven and Alex Gartner

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Robert Sheehan, Claire Foy, Ulrich Thomsen, Stephen Graham and Christopher Lee

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