The simplest way to describe this miserable failure of a movie is that it is “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” without any jokes and worse special effects. The first week of the year is a great place to dump crap movies. “Season of the Witch” looks like it missed the cut the last two years. Now, like a 15-year-old eighth-grader, it’s being pushed out into the real world because nobody wants to take care of it anymore.
This is not the first weak Nic Cage script that’s skipped quality control and made it to the big screen. Sometimes it works, like in “Con Air,” which is why people just go to the theater to see Nic Cage star in just about anything. I don’t think he cares what he’s in as long as he’s working, and his agent must owe a lot of people at the track a lot of money. This movie is so badly written that there was no saving it, even by shooting five battle scenes on the same soundstage and using the same digital extras that they used in “The Two Towers.”
The movie is called “Season of the Witch.” It should be about witches, right? Well it is, for the first three-quarters of the film. Then we find out, as literally every line of dialogue foreshadows, that (spoiler alert… not really) witches aren’t real. But the Devil certainly is. And the Devil is laughably ugly and easy to defeat.
None of this makes any sense. People in the middle ages weren’t wrestling with burning witches as a feminist issue, they burned them after a careful weighing against a duck. You cannot make a whole movie questioning the power of religion and then make the whole plot turn on the infallibility of God’s word.
“Season of the Witch” doesn’t dance around these themes with subtlety or skill. Behmen (Nicholas Cage) delivers his lines like a caveman squashing an ugly bird with a club: “No one has spilled more blood in God’s name than I!” His dialogue is so bad there is even a scene where another character, Felson (Ron Perlman) makes fun of Behmen to his face for how corny he sounds. I can’t tell if that’s the director trying to make a funny or giving up.
The worst part is that the movie grasps so hard at quality that it never fully devolves into laughably bad territory. Most of the footage looks like B-roll from a “Lord of the Rings” second unit. But technical progress works against the movie. Though you can’t really find digital animation that looks awful, what people choose to use that technology for is still limited by their imaginations. Thankfully Dominic Sena imagined lots and lots of boils, scary witches and more digital wolves than Nic Cage can kill with a sword.
I think we’re going to start seeing more movies like “Season of the Witch.” Cheap digital cameras break down the barrier between who can and cannot make a movie that looks good enough to be played on a big screen. But that democratization may not pan out better for the consumer. For every “Little Miss Sunshine,” there’s going to be three “Skyline” and six “Season of the Witch” movies. Maybe the B-movie genre will actually develop along the lines of “Machete,” where the filmmaker produces garbage with a crooked smile. It’s when people take themselves too seriously and the producers don’t care about losing money that the truly horrible movies get made.