Season of the Witch (2011)
Here's another chink in the increasingly tarnished reputation of the once-great Nicolas Cage. Season of the Witch is a great-looking but very empty horror-thriller that is a long, slow march to nowhere.
Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play a couple of medieval knights who have become disillusioned with all of the bloodshed and brutality of the crusades, all of the killing in the name of Christianity. Anyway, the black plague is sweeping through the land, claiming thousands and Cage and Perlman are given the task of transporting a prisoner, a woman accused of witchcraft and of starting the current pestilience. The real question is: Is she a witch?
This is an intriguing enough jumping off point for a great thriller, but Season of the Witch just doesn't deliver. The main reason is the slow realization that the entire film is going to be about the this transportation towards a particulary far away monastery. Cage, Perlman, and a band of squires and mercenaries spend the film's running time, pushing and pulling and tugging a wagon carrying the woman. There are many suspense-free scenes involving swordfights with enemies, plague ridden towns, attacks by wolves and a very dull suspension-bridge crossing.
As mentioned, the look of the film is pretty great; the forboding castles, the desolate moors, the dank forests. Along with the cinematography and set design, the makeup and constumes also give us a real sense of time and place but, unfortunately, it's all for nothing. It's as if all of the time and energy was put into making Season of the Witch look convincing instead of making its story compelling or logical. When the over-directed finale comes and we find out whether this chick is a witch or not (she isn't) and all is revealed, it makes less sense the more you think about it. The movie just devolves into a frenetic exercise in special effects with flying demons, reanimated corpses and so much sound and fury.
The acting by the cast is serviceable, if unremarkable. Cage does what he can, but he is so obviously ill at ease and out of place; he's just far too contemporary to convincingly sell us on this character from the dark ages.
Season of the Witch is just a forgettable thriller without thrills and will be suitably and deservably forgotten. Maybe Nicolas Cage can pull his career out of the death-spiral it's currently in (The Wicker Man, Bangkok Dangerous, Ghost Rider, Drive Angry, Trespass, The Sorcerer's Apprentice), but we'll just have to wait and see.