by HELEN GEIB
Season of the Witch is the first Hollywood release of 2011. The movie year can only get better from here.
The heroes are a couple of burned-out knights who return to the Continent from the Crusades only to learn that the Black Death has been going strong for the last couple of years. The first town where they stop for provisions just happens to have a suspected witch in custody. Local clerics are convinced the lovely young lady has been spreading the plague and want her taken to a mountain-top monastery where an ancient secret rite can be performed to destroy the evil. Naturally, the knights are immediately pressed into service to lead the escort party, which is rounded out by a priest, a young man who wants to be a knight, and a peddler-guide.
I program an early matinee and lunch get-together every second Saturday for my movie club. Since Season of the Witch was the only new wide release, that’s what we saw. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) Our usual practice is to go around the table afterward and have everyone say one thing they liked and one thing they didn’t like about the movie.
Collectively the seven of us only came up with three nice things to say about Season of the Witch:
1) The Medieval-era costumes were pretty good.
2) The heroes ride through some scenic countryside.
3) The makeup department did a good job with the pestilence. The pustules were really realistic-looking and disgusting.
The direction was nothing to write home about, the effects were so-so, and the acting was lackluster at best. However, the heart of the matter was the writing.
The condensed version of our “didn’t likes” about the script:
1) Both prologues should have been cut. They don’t show anything that we don’t either learn about in dialogue later, or that would have been better revealed through dialogue.
2) The movie has no internal logic. Things keep happening that contradict what just happened, as if we don’t remember what we just saw twenty minutes ago.
3) They keep throwing in these mini-flashbacks as if we don’t remember what we just saw twenty minutes ago.
4) It’s never a good sign when you’re so disengaged that you start thinking about all the different ways the plot could go from here.
5) It’s really never a good sign when the movie you’re writing in your head is better than the movie on the screen. Don’t they realize we’re paying them to entertain us?
6) There’s no action to speak of until the last ten minutes. It’s mostly a lot of talking and moping around.
*I’m about to reveal the big twist. Stop reading here if you still want to preserve the surprise.*
7) What this movie really is is another lousy vampire movie. The big plot twist is that the “witchcraft” is all the work of a powerful demon, and actually there are no witches. The movie can call the thing a demon all it likes. Season of the Witch is another lousy vampire movie.
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Nicolas Cage looks almost exactly like he did in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (in the prologue, before his character got stuck in the jar, that is), except that in the Disney film he looked like he was having a grand old time, and in Season of the Witch, he looks like he’s waiting it out until it’s over.