Season Of The Witch

Season Of The Witch

*

Reviewed by: Val Kermode

I do apologise if you're wearing the T-shirt, but I have to say this: this film is not just rubbish, it's predictable, clichéd, badly directed rubbish. And the script is dire. Here's the plot, if you care. In the 14th century two crusaders, Behmen (Nicholas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) travel around Europe murdering infidels. Until one day they realise they've killed a lot of women and children, so they desert. They are captured and persuaded to escort a prisoner to trial. The prisoner is a young girl (who may or may not be a witch) who is thought to be causing the spread of the Black Plague.

Here's an idea. When the entire plot hinges on whether or not this girl is innocent, don't show her a third of the way through the film performing a supernatural act. Not all of the characters saw this, but we did. Just a little suspense would have helped. It's typical of the sloppy attitude which throws in every known cliché and doesn't know what to do with the characters. You can't blame the actors, they are given nothing to work with, and Cage has wisely decided not to squander more than one facial expression. He wears a look of mild concern throughout. Perhaps he has seen the script.

Copy picture

The dialogue runs along the lines of: “We have been walking all day and seen no one,” and “We are travellers and know nothing of this”. Sometimes it's more profound: “People believe what they want to believe.”

Claire Foy plays the part of the girl, which gives her little more to do than crouch in a wagon looking alternately innocent and guilty. A lovable scoundrel (Stephen Graham) is taken on as a guide, but his role is never developed. There are half-hearted attempts to create a buddy relationship between the two leads, who look as if they have arrived in a time machine with their unblemished skin and Hollywood teeth. Someone has obviously spent hours making up the pustulated corpses of the plague victims, but no one had time to put even a smudge of dirt on the living.

For a short while I thought this might be an entertainingly bad film. It isn't. I had to resort to playing guess what comes next, but that wasn't difficult. You won't be surprised to hear there is a broken bridge to be crossed and a dark, spooky forest. And I won't spoil the final scenes if I mention demons, incantations and spontaneous combustion.

Possibly the worst thing about this film is that not only does it steal from many others, but these unoriginal scenes are repeated. The heroes arrive somewhere apparently deserted, then discover dead people, then one of them isn't dead. I counted three instances of this, so not much element of surprise there. Strangely, whenever they find victims of the plague rotting away, flies swarming, they hang around chatting while the camera lingers on close ups. No. Run away!

Towards the end, in the compulsory quiet spot before things really start exploding, Perlman has to make that speech required of all who are about to become toast: “When this is over, I will return to the valley where I was born…” If you don't trust this reviewer, this is where you will be thinking “When this is over, I shall get my life back...”

You have been warned.

Reviewed on: 05 Jan 2011
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Two men escort a prisoner who may or may not be a witch on a perilous journey through a land ravaged by the black death.
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If you like this, try:

Black Death
The Last Exorcism