Friday, January 14, 2011

“Season of the Witch” – Because she looks like one.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because the title of the film says so. January is typically not a great month for new movie releases. December movies, especially the ones released around Christmas, are still in theaters and trying to finish strong. It’s also the beginning of award season, so people tend to ignore any new films coming out. This is how actors and directors can make crappy movies with iffy titles and collect paychecks without much notice. Enter Nicholas Cage, Ron Perlman, and Dominic Sena (director) with a movie promising that they expect no such things as awards.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because the Crusades are happening and the Catholic Church is on a witch hunt. The film begins with three suspected witches being hung and drowned, followed by a priest reading a passage from a book to complete the process of ridding the bodies of witches. Do you think the Church ever realized the irony and hypocrisy of accusing people of witchcraft while priests used incantations from a special book to destroy witches? Anyway, one of the bodies comes back to life, morphs into some ugly thing – presumably a witch – kills the priest, and sets the book on fire. Meanwhile, Behman (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) are betting drinks on who will kill the most enemies in the upcoming battle. This is followed by several battle scenes, spanning deserts and ice fields, depicting our heroes slaughtering hundreds, if not thousands, of people. They finally stop when Behman runs his sword through a woman. OH NO! NOT A WOMAN! Apparently, they have no issues with killing people for sport and drinks, but one woman dies and they have a crisis of conscience. Between these two opening scenes, I knew this was going to be a long movie.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because the guy in front of me won’t shut his pie hole. I’m pretty sure this guy was drunk because he smelled like cheap whiskey and he was laughing every time a character died in the movie. About thirty minutes in, someone shushed the guy, to which he responded “Who there shushes me?” Seriously, those were his exact words. The first man responded by telling him to shut his mouth and the woman next to Jack Daniels finally quieted him down. Sadly, this was the most entertaining part of the film.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because she’s really quick and strong. Felson actually says this after he and Behman wrestle the suspected witch, Anna, (Claire Foy) off the priest, Debelzaq, who has imprisoned her. By that logic, Felson and Behman should also hang for being witches, but I don’t think the church allows men to be witches. Sorry ladies.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because Christopher Lee has the plague and it’s eating his face. In an unexplained bit of casting (read: paycheck), Lee appears for one scene as a cardinal who gives Felson and Behman a mission in which they must take the witch to an abbey in the mountains where she will be tried by monks. The monks have a copy of that book from the first scene and will use it to stop the plague that is spreading across the land which Anna is accused of starting. Lee oozes out a few more words and exits stage yuck.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because she can howl at wolves. The point of no return in this film, by which I mean there is no possible way this movie can redeem itself, is when Debelzaq pulls out a map and shows them the way to the abbey. The directions are “over the river and through the woods” and I wish I was making that up. Our, um…heroes (??), gather a couple more sacrifices, er…companions, for the trip. Along the way, they lose those companions to wolves and hallucinations, making them absolutely positive that Anna is, in fact, a dog.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because I can keep this up for several more paragraphs. They finally arrive at the abbey, sans companions, and they take a look around. Seriously, they wander around the abbey looking for monks so they can get out of there. They find a bunch of puddles that used to be monks, but, more importantly, they find the anti-witch witchcraft book. The priest starts reading at Anna and she sneers and gyrates and glares. Either this movie is about to turn into the worst porn ever or we’re nearing the – ahem – climax.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because she’s a demon from Brooklyn. Wait, now I’m really confused. The movie promised witches, in fact, an entire season of them. Anna morphs into a winged demon with a deep, male, Brooklyn accent taking our witch total to zero confirmed witches. The demon melts its cage, flies into the abbey, resurrects the monks, and reveals that the special effects were as bad as his accent. He also reveals that his plan was to trick them into bringing him to the abbey so he could destroy the last book that can destroy him. I think I’ve got it now…wait, nope…I don’t care.

How do you know she’s a witch? Because nobody even tried. I realize this was just a paycheck for everyone involved, but they could have at least pretended to give a damn. The only person even remotely trying was Perlman, who was given every comedic line in the movie, but eventually gave up by the time they got to the abbey. Even the demon seemed blasé about his mission, considering he could have just flown to the abbey but wanted to be chauffeured instead. Considering how bad the special effects were, the ridiculous plot, the in-and-out accents of most of the actors, and the sheer lack of enthusiasm portrayed by everyone involved, I was actively questioning if the director was even present during the filming. Even the audience stopped caring, acting as if it was the third quarter of a Denver Broncos game by leaving before time had expired. On the bright side, an old man yelled at Jack Daniels to grow up, to which he responded by turning him into a newt.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back and an I.O.U. for one witch.

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