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Season of the Witch: Frank’s take

01/02/2011. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Season of the Witch in the USA - or Buy Season of the Witch in the UK

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Remember the good old days when the resiliently talented Academy Award-winning Nicholas Cage starred in movies that were actually halfway decent in content, conviction and creativity? Well, the last few years have not been very kind to Mr. Cage based on the numbing and nonsensical escapist fare he has been methodically cranking out.

If this precarious pattern of starring in supernatural sludge such as Season of the Witch (not to mention the previous punishing ditties that ominously clutter his checkered cinematic resume’) keeps up then someone may suggest revoking Cage’s Oscar statuette just on the legal grounds of “nonchalantly partaking in monotonous moviemaking practices unfit for an artist or the movie-going masses for that matter”.

In director Dominic Sena’s medieval misfire Season of the Witch, Cage embarrassingly parades around as a 14th century moronic and marauding European knight embroiled in aimlessly cartoonish chaotic battles and senseless slaughtering until some synthetic-style redemption redirects his terrorising tendencies.

Wasteful and wacky, Sena oversees this charmless armor-clashing and woefully flaccid fantasy with all the subtlety of an underarm pit stain plastered on a white evening gown. Ridiculously conceived and conventionally overwrought, Witch’s horrific hex will be realised based on the toothless goofy and ham-fisted performances, dense and dim-witted dialogue, lacklustre energy and mundane medieval-related references to an assortment of Neanderthal knights, witches and devils.

Theoretically, Season of the Witch has all the entertaining euphoria of the Black Plague outbreak. Baseless and needlessly bleak, screenwriter Bragi F. Schut must have conceived this flat fire-and-brimstone fable after eating some disagreeable mushrooms from an unattended garden. Hapless and hackneyed, the intentioned hilarity is stiff and cold and the unintentional chuckles spill over convincingly like a cranky baby knocking its bottle on the floor.

The set designs are cheesy and dank. Overall, this witless witchcraft actioner is pulsating in its pointlessness and never quite distinguishes itself completely from a carefree campy B-movie satire to that of an overindulgent costume saga expressing some big-budgeted whimsy. Either way, this bewitching banality has all the compelling urgency of an unpleasant burp after a trip to the all-you-can-eat-buffet.

Knighted hooligans Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman, “Hellboy” movie series) strut their way through the treacherous crusades as they kill and conquer at will—a historical hedonistic habit for blood-thirsty kicks one can imagine. After a while, the Terrible Twosome grow somewhat of a consciousness and question the manufactured mayhem that they have created within these boisterous battles…particularly at the expense of women and children that are always the casual victims of circumstances. Is beheading an opponent the right thing to do in the name of religion and honour? Just what can Behem and Felson do to redeem their murderous past and present?

Feeling remorseful as only two massacre-loving menaces can do in the aftermath of their wrath Behem and Felson decide to desert the army entirely. However, they are not totally excused or exonerated after the bloodied workings of their misguided war-related actions. After their brief imprisonment, the tandem is called upon to “earn” their freedom credentials. The mission: they must escort a suspicious young woman (Claire Foy) to an abbey for trial as she may be suspected of some wayward witchcraft rituals that supposedly…get this…may have been instrumental in causing what we know as the dreaded Black Plague.

Naturally, the paranoia sets in for Behem and Felson as they determine what the “real deal” is concerning this mysterious maiden as they try to transport her to the authorities without incident. As the duo (and a small group that joins them in the quest to fulfil the delivery of the alleged “Black Witch”) undergo their travels somehow freaky and unexplained occurrences start to emerge.

This begs the obvious question: is the young woman the cause of these mystical moments? Could the unpredictable woman ACTUALLY be the witch in question? Or better yet is she simply a victim of circumstances despite the haunting happenings that exist en route to the awaiting trial that will determine her fate?

Although Season of the Witch wants to enthral its viewers with all sorts of excitable standby stimulation by peppering the proceedings with countless sword fights, attacking wolves and flashy witchcraft elements the movie still manages to be stillborn as a so-called manoeuvring medieval thriller. The fight scenes are poorly executed and murky-looking so one cannot fully enjoy the excitement based on this very same reasoning.

The transparent story is so problematic because Sena’s cardboard direction and Schut’s scattershot script condenses this rancid, ribald romp into a laughable display of the doldrums. Everything here feels lifeless, laboured and pretentiously packaged. Cage, sporting indescribable stringy blonde locks, looks like a life-size Round Table ragdoll that King Arthur would probably give to his daughter as a play toy. The forced cheeky repartee between Cage’s Behem and Pearlmen’s Felson has all the noted durability of a generic roll of toilet paper. Granted the special effects are visually arousing in spurts but that’s not saying too much in the complimentary department.

In conclusion, Season of the Witch is indeed this year’s jousting joke complete with lambasted German auteur Uwe Boll-oriented leanings. Anaemically stilted and meaningless, this relentlessly arid adventure piece will undoubtedly contribute to the continued downward spiral of Cage’s big screen credibility…and the cynicism towards hokey-made Hollywood fodder that seem to spread like mould on a slice of stale bread.

This is a soured cinematic Season where Cage and his other cohorts should not be mistaken as random knights in shining armour pertaining to this detestable Dark Ages dud.

Season of the Witch (2011) Relatively Media
1 hr. 35 mins.
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Graham, Stephen Campbell Moore, Claire Foy, Ulrich Tomsen, Robert Sheehan, Christopher Lee
Directed by: Dominic Sena
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Critic’s Rating: * star (out of 4 stars)

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