Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play deserters from the Crusades, tired of all the killing in the name of the Church. Returning home they find plague run rampant, superstition among the peasants and the oppression of the Church bearing down on all. Captured, the pair are commissioned by an unrecognisably plague-stricken Chrstopher Lee to escort a suspected witch to a monastery for trial and purging.
‘So begins a terrifying journey across a hostile land, battling supernatural forces to reach a remote monastery where monks will perform an ancient ritual to rid the land of the witch’s curse. But Cage’s battle-traumatised knight knows the trial verdict is already fixed, will he give up an innocent girl to torture and death?’
Write your own tag-lines for the poster; Exorcist meets The Name of the Rose? Well, Old Horse-Face is back at his grumpiest…
It’s not that Season of the Witch is terrible, the script probably looked good on paper. It just doesn’t gel; much like Cage’s career. Described as a supernatural action adventure, there’s not enough of any ingredient to make it worthwhile. The badly CGI’d Kingdom of Heaven -slash- 300 opening lacks bite; the arrival back home in grim Eastern Europe is just dull and the escort detail is a mish-mash of Grimms fairy tales, Twilight and Hammer Horror circa 1968.
The biggest problem is Cage. Leaving Las Vegas won Nicolas Cage an Oscar for playing a depressed alcoholic. Aside from some highlights in the flashy thriller Snake Eyes, I struggle to remember the last decent thing Cage was in – not National Treasure, Knowing, Drive Angry, two Ghost Riders, the laughably bad Con Air or The Rock. In this, Cage merely starts grumpy and stays that way no matter what happens.
The rest of the cast try their best. Stephen Cambell-Moore tries to buoy up the sense of menace and fear as the priest, and rising star Robert Sheehan (Misfits) injects some much-needed energy to counter the crushing vaccuum that is Cage’s performance. Stephen Grahame is the under-used light relief in this grim assemblage. Ever-reliable Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade II, Sons of Anarchy) resorts to cruising in second gear in this tosh.
Clare Foy as the witch, underplaying the role so as not to reveal too much too soon, has a thankless task as she is set up as the villain whom Cage still wants to believe is innocent.
Season of the Witch wants to be a taught, dark (meaning torchlit) medieval horror, but somehow gets out of control with the CGI and the dubious McGuffin that saves the plot. It wants to be the Medieval Exorcist meets The Name of the Rose, but lacks the intelligence of either. There’s a Custer’s Last Stand against the supernatural which has no credibility at all featuring flying zombie monks and a CGI villain so powerful you wonder why it bothered to mess about with the first 80 minutes at all.
The resolution is a pat Deus ex Machina (there must be a prize for getting that in!) and an epilogue with the worst set of voiceover cliches in decades – possibly the worst ever.
Taxi for Mr Cage… RC
Season of the Witch
Director: Dominic Sena
Writer: Bragi F. Schut
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Runtime: 95 min
Cast: Claire Foy, Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell-Moore, Robert Sheehan