Clare Foy is a terrific British actress who deserves great things as her career starts to stretch towards Hollywood – but you have to say she doesn’t look too happy here. Nicholas Cage is an Oscar winning actor. Ron Perlman is a great genre actor, who brings no end of war worn personality to his roles. Dominic Sena is a director who has probably never bettered his Rhythm Nation video for Janet Jackson, but has a list of action movies on his CV which aren’t the worst of the worst (OK Whiteout was pretty ropey, but I have a soft spot for Gone In Sixty Seconds). There is not enough here to say that this film would necessarily be bad. Or even tip its hand in the opening two minutes as to quite how bad it will be.
There are three big problems with Season Of The Witch, only one of which is that the Donovan track the film is named after does not turn up in the film. Nic Cage, in phoning it in mode, is a real problem in the film. As a world weary knight, who has seen it all, returning disillusioned from the crusades, there was a real chance for more crazy Nic to turn up. In particular, the trauma of killing no end of innocent people would leave any knight cynical, prone to a quip and also a fervent non-believer in all things biblical and supernatural. Ron Perlman, as his sidekick, gets the tone just right. Cage just plays it dour as he transports a suspected witch across country to try to solve a curse. Clare Foy plays the witch, locked in her little travelling cage, and plays the ambiguity well. Except…
The main problem with Season Of The Witch is the pre-credit sequence where a witch is tested, classic style, with a good dunking. The standard dead body is them examined later, at which point the corpse comes to life, beats up the clergyman and proves firmly that in the medieval world of the film, witchcraft is definitely real. Its a nice way to start the film, a good jolt to the system. But then removes what is the basic conceit of the film -is Clare Foy a witch or not? We know she is a witch because if the film has already established that witchcraft is real, why would she not be? It makes no sense to the film to establish the reality of witchcraft to not use it. Thus stripping the film of its central tension. Is this young girl being needlessly tortured? Well no, because she really is a witch.
Season Of The Witch should be a schlocky bit of fun, but a combination of Cage not getting in to it, and this stupid lack of suspense leaves it as one of the dullest films of last year. Cheapish CGI, and a real lack of any driving suspense don’t help. Nothing highlights how poor this film is than the twenty minute sequence where the party has to cross a shoddy rope bridge. Bernard LEvin present Now Get Out Of That did this king of thing in a much more exciting way. There is no suspense, no cinematic magic, it whole films ends up feeling considerably longer than a season.
Oh and Nic Cage fans – note that the other possibility for this list Drive Angry – survives due to an excellent bad guy, a nice turn from Amber Heard and proper use of exploitation 3D (stuff is thrown at the screen). Nic himself is pretty poor in it.