Review: Season of the Witch

Film review
Directed by Dominic Sena
Starring Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Robert Sheehan, Ulrich Thomsen, Stephen Graham, Christopher Lee

After absconding from the Crusades, knights Behman (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) are forced into escorting a girl accused of witchcraft (Foy) to a monastery for trial. Along the way, the pair begin to wonder if the girl really is a witch…

With a shaggy-haired Nic Cage in the lead and the bloke who made Gone in 60 Seconds in the director’s chair, Season of the Witch was never likely to be Witchfinder General for a new generation. Even so, this medieval chiller is a depressingly formulaic affair: from the tame opening ‘shock’ to the limp closing narration, the narrative feels like it’s been squeezed out by a sausage machine rather than created by humans.

These days, Nicolas Cage works better in movies that play on his inherent ridiculousness (see Kick-Ass and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), but Season of the Witch seems to want us to take his frowny knight seriously. Ron Perlman fares marginally better as his smirking pal, but neither are fleshed out enough to make us really care about their fate, not helped by the kind of silly, faux-portentous dialogue so loved by the Hollywood historical epic. At least Claire Foy is fun as the caged suspect; shy and innocent one minute, smirking and sinister the next, she looks a little like a less snivelly incarnation of Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan.

Director Dominic Sena and screenwriter Bragi F. Schut obviously haven’t set out to make a straight-up gritty horror, and they make an effort to mix clichés from the buddy-buddy and quest-fantasy genres in with the horror clichés. The plot is punctured by ably constructed but overly-familiar set-pieces – a wolf attack, the crossing of a rickety rope bridge, an effects-filled showdown – but the action is weakened by an over-reliance on dodgy CGI; you can perhaps forgive the unconvincing Crusades clash, but the computer-generated flames are just horrible.

Lacking the pulpy thrills of Solomon Kane or the believable grimness of The Name of the Rose and Blood on Satan’s Claw, Season of the Witch is instead an inoffensive, forgettable fantasy that’s too dull to even rank as a Hawk the Slayer-style hoot. Matt McAllister

A far from potent witches’ brew.


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