Review: Season of the Witch (2011)

The consistent inconsistency of Nicolas Cage strikes again in this inept historical fantasy film. As an actor, Nic Cage divides audiences and critics alike. He’s a wild card, an actor who pours everything he has into a role no matter how ludicrous it may be. In movies like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Kick-Ass, his intense dedication and scenery chewing works excellently. In movies like Knowing and Bangkok Dangerous, it does not. Season of the Witch is a film of the latter kind. Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman star as Behman and Felson, two knights disillusioned with the Crusades who are tasked with transporting a witch to a remote monastery. The witch has supposedly cursed the lands with the plague and the monks at the monastery have the ability to remove the curse. It’s a simple plot where A connects to B with no embellishments, and yet the filmmakers find even such simplicity difficult to execute. It is rare for Hollywood to produce historical fantasies of this level of incompetency. Season of the Witch is riddled with plot holes, preposterous dialogue, hollow characters, idiotic motivations, bad special effects, shallow morality, and a laughable knowledge of historical fact. The main historical events that the film depicts – the Crusades, the plague, and trials of witchcraft – have no basis in reality. The film is set in the 14th century, a hundred years after the Crusades ended and three hundred years before witchcraft gripped the public consciousness. As well, the depiction of the plague is more similar to the Orcs in The Lord of the Rings than actual plague victims. Throughout the film, I was reminded of Colin Firth’s 2007 adventure dud, The Last Legion, but even that film had a sense of fun that Season of the Witch is without.

Perhaps the film's biggest flaw besides its incompetent story and bad acting is its lack of suspense. We know the girl is a witch from the first scene of the film – a fact that is obviously demonstrated throughout – yet the filmmakers play it like there’s a mysterious ambiguity to it all. This attempt to thrill us with mystery when the facts are right before our eyes is the shameless manipulation of an artistic hack and just plain bad filmmaking. One thing that can be learnt from this whole debacle is that Nicolas Cage needs a new agent, because to star in a film like Season of the Witch betrays an inability to recognize quality from crap or at least a desire for a paycheck that supersedes artistic integrity.

2 out of 10

Season of the Witch (2011)

Directed by Dominic Sena; written by Bragi Schut; starring Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, and Claire Foy.