Season of the Witch
June 27, 2011
Season of the Witch (2011) saw Nicolas Cage reunited with director Dominic Sena who he had previous collaborated with on the commercial hit, Gone in 60 Seconds (2000). Both men were hoping lightning would strike twice with this period action fantasy film but it didn’t happen as the film crashed and burned both at the box office and with critics. As a result, Season of the Witch has been relegated to the pile of failed projects littering Cage’s career.
It is 1332 A.D. and the Crusades have been raging for years. Behmen of Bleiruck (Cage) and his friend Felson (Perlman) are Teutonic knights who fight together through a series of battles. They become disillusioned with the cause after killing women and children during a siege on a city. They end up deserting their army and strike out their own, witnessing the Black Plague that has gripped Europe. However, their past catches up with them and they are soon arrested. The Cardinal D’Ambroise (Lee) offers them a job: take a young girl (Foy) accused of being a witch, and whom they claim brought on the Black Plague, to monks that can lift the curse. They agree and enlist the help of a disgraced merchant (Graham) to guide them to the abbey.
Behmen initially feels sympathy for the girl and doubts that she is actually a witch but during the course of their journey, she does things, like cloud their minds, exhibit superhuman strength and summon a pack of wolves that certainly supports the belief she’s a witch. The perilous journey they make, including a white-knuckle crossing across a decrepit old wooden bridge, evokes a medieval version of The Wages of Fear (1953).
Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play well off each other and their relationship is easily the best thing about Season of the Witch. Cage is the noble hero while Perlman is his sarcastic sidekick. Both play battle-hardened veteran knights burnt out from seeing too much death and killing. The two actors do an excellent job of conveying two men who have fought together for many years, which results in a believable shorthand between them.
Dominic Sena does a nice job of creating a grim, foreboding atmosphere with help from a grungy production design that vividly recreates the time period of the Crusades. He helps raise Season of the Witch a notch above a SyFy movie of the week. It is by no means a train wreck of a film but there is nothing about it that is all that extraordinary either.
There are six deleted scenes and the unrated prologue. One scene adds voiceover narration to give more backstory. There is more footage of a virtually unrecognizable Christopher Lee as the plague-disfigured Cardinal. This footage explains too much or adds little to the film and was rightly cut. The unrated prologue is a little more graphic and was toned down for a PG-13 rating.
“Becoming the Demon” examines the climactic sequence and how it was achieved through CGI thanks to Tippett Studio who came up with two looks for the demon.
“On A Crusade” takes a look at how they shot the epic battles during the Crusades montage. The great Vic Armstrong was brought in to stage the fights.
There is an alternate ending which is less reliant on demonic monster imagery, which I actually prefer over the one in the final cut.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.