One fairly reliable way for a genre film to flounder is by sampling too many sub-genres. That's not to say it's an impossible task, but it probably requires more effort and creativity than Dominic Sena and Nicolas Cage could muster on the set of Season of the Witch. Those who are expecting a relatively "grown-up" historical action flick will no doubt be disappointed by the flick's disjointed nature,the frequently silly screenplay, and the general lack of originality found here. But those who walk into Season of the Witch hoping for an Uwe Boll-style chuckle-fest will most likely be the most disappointed.
It's the 1300s and our heroes are men with silly names played by Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman. After a particularly brutal raid on a "godless" castle, our holy warriors decide that enough is enough: they won't be slaughtering women and children in God's name anymore, gosh darn it! Then they wander into a town overwhelmed with the plague, and it's there our goofy heroes receive a quest: drag a caged witch to a distant abbey and all their crimes will be forgiven. Then we get a few allegedly colorful supporting characters to come along for the ride, and off we go...
...into a period-piece action-adventure occult thriller. And it pains me deeply to say that the flick's not nearly as amusing as that description makes it sound.
It's difficult to say why a team of producers would find this a premise worth backing, and I sincerely don't know who the flick was made for, but Season of the Witch is little more than a checklist of moments either slightly worthwhile, endlessly dreary, or (my favorite) occasionally goofball-tastic. For example, Cage and Perlman manage to exhibit some action pal chemistry, but the lines they're given to spit out are uninspired at best, ridiculous otherwise. The rest of the muck-coated crew is generic through and through: we get a nagging priest, an annoying thief, and a noble knight who's clearly kind of a wimp. Oh also a young teenager decides to join the quest at the last second, even though we have no idea who he is.
Action fans will lament the choppy cuts and simple tricks that were utilized to earn that PG-13 rating; horror fans will have to wait until Act III for anything even remotely novel in the "boo" department; plain old movie fans will wonder why they wandered into a Nicolas Cage film in the middle of January and bolt for the closest theater that's playing some sort of Oscar bait movie. It'd be tempting to assert that a rebuilt "director's cut" would fix a lot of the problems here, but the simple truth is that Season of the Witch is pretty darn dull -- which is the last thing a freakin' period-piece action-adventure occult thriller should be.
As a guy who grew up crazy about movies like The Sword and the Sorcerer, Krull, and (fine, a real film) Excalibur, I approached Season of the Witch with a decent amount of charity. As in: it wouldn't take that much for me to give the flick a break, seeing as how these types of adventure movies don't show up much anymore. But director Dominic Sena refuses to play along. His work here is bland and obvious, but never inept. The plot holes and the editorial lags are prevalent, but not overpowering. The leads sound silly with virtually every word that flings from their lips, but not nearly silly enough. A flick like this has to be damn good or hilariously bad. Frankly, outright ineptitude would have been a lot more fun.
Having said all that, Season of the Witch still doesn't rank among the ten worst Nicolas Cage films. The man works a LOT, and his batting average isn't exactly all-star caliber.