Season of the Witch (Review)

To paraphrase the tagline: “Not all films can be saved.”

Here’s how I see it: Two years back a Hollywood powerhouse had a brainstorming session and some guy with a title like “Head of creative development” or similar said “Well we’ve done werewolves, vampires and zombies to death… killer animals are so 90s and serial killers can’t be touched for a few years until everyone gets the bad taste of Saw out of their mouths. What’s next? We’re not leaving until we have a go project.”

7 hours elapse. No-one says a word, they stare numbly at the blank paper in front of them and chew the end of their pens, but they also dare not reach for the phone to text a late excuse.

Finally, a timid guy at the back of the room says “Ahhhh… witches?”

The big-wig thinks for a minute,  then two, then… “Fuck it. It’s late, someone make a witch movie. Get Nicolas Cage in it, he never says no to anything.”

A collective sigh escapes into the cold night air as the staff trudge into the carpark. Someone asks why they didn’t say ‘witches’ sooner.

Two years pass…

The costumes are ready.

The sets built and the computer effects lovingly detailed.

The props are designed with care and constructed with unquestioned artistry.

Nicolas Cage shows up with his latest wig after spending absolutely zero time bothering to learn or come up with an accent.

Ron Perlman shows up on the day and demands a role as he needs money for hookers and drugs.

Various extras are hired and spend countless unpaid hours working on their backstories, accents and character motivation.

The production head looks around approvingly and gives an empassioned speech about how “This is the movie that will rock Hollywood and show those Twilight bozos how real movies are made”, and “This will be the highpoint of all of your careers, and something that will practically guarantee you get every future job you go for just because it’s on your CV”!

After this stirring speech the entire cast and crew are reminded that legends aren’t made quickly, and to expect long hours and hard work.

The director is introduced as being passionate and creative, a true auteur and an undeniable talent. Cage is introduced to polite applause and Perlman grunts loudly in the background and is thereafter acknowledged immediately.

Two years of blood, sweat and tears. Toil and inspiration in equal proportions. At last everyone is in lockstep and ready to revolutionise the industry – nay the world – with the 2011 release Season of the Witch.

The director grabs the loudspeaker and gives his first on-set instruction thus far:

One mississippi.

Two mississippi.

Three mississippi.

Everyone looks at each other, then stares down at their own shoelaces as if that will answer the problem… Apparently nothing was written there.

“How long until lunchtime?”

For about an hour of the woefully inadequate but mercifully short Season of the Witch I thought the highlight was to be a bridge crossing where the only suspense was to be found in the ropes holding up the bridge itself. There were no enemies, creatures and indeed witchery to be found of any note to that point.

What Season of the Witch did have was battle, vast CGI battles, more specifically vast CGI battles ripped straight out of the Lord of the Rings playbook – and at least they spread their battles over 9 hours of quality cinema and built a plot around them to make them mean something. The only variances to these fast moving bores were the weather and the outfits that the foes wore, and in case we were as dumb as the guys that made the film onscreen titles named the battle and showed that yes indeed time had elapsed since the last one.

Eventually Nic and Ron grew as tired of miming these pointless battles as we did watching them and they deserted. (I sorta understand this: If churchgoers think merely going to church each week is a bore, imagine risking life and limb for them constantly for weeks on end?)

After deserting they wander aimlessly spouting banal and typically faux macho dialogue that inexplicably finds them veering between Ye Olde English, standard speech patterns and modern slang, until they come across a lazy plot device – I mean town. A town stricken with a deadly plague apparently because of the presence of a young witch of the worst kind, an is it because I is black witch. For no real reason of note Ron and Nic are charged with taking the alleged witch-girl on a long and dangerous journey, at the end of witch which she will be “judged” and sentenced by some mysterious dudes who hold an equally mysterious book.

And off they go to cross a bridge and fight some doggies… for about 40 ass-chapping minutes. A couple of the road crew don’t make it, can’t remember the details and didn’t care when I did.

The Golden Child had equally effective SFX as the ones on display during the finale – which I might add has been made countless times – and The Golden Child was released in 1986.

I can understand Cage and Perlman slumming it, a period piece about witches hardly screamed “Hit” well before I knew anything about this steaming pile and Cage phoning one in is hardly new.

Season of the Witch isn’t awful because of the acting, sets or costume – even though none of them are worthy of praise either. Even the bare bones plot has potential to hang some action of adventure sequences off its slender frame. But at least try to make the characters do something besides trudging from A to B to C until a perfunctory copycat ending and allowing the credits start naming the guilty parties.

Final Rating – 5 / 10. All CGI battles, no action and precious little witchery makes Season of the Witch a dull film. No worse than that, makes Season of the Witch god-(less) awful.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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