Sunday, January 9, 2011
Day 9: Season of the Witch (2010)
PG-13, 1 hr. 38 min. Directed by: Dominic Sena. Release Date: January 7, 2011.
Finally. Finally we find a role for Nicholas Cage in which his stilted, semi-retarded recitation of what's flashing on the teleprompters (usually to screen right… at least, that's generally the direction in which he's listlessly staring) isn't a heinous drawback to the entire film project. I won't say I liked his performance, but I didn't hate him in this, either. It is; however, a bad thing when Nicholas Cage's acting abilities make him the star of a film in more than just name.
Despite horrific acting from nearly all comers, this isn't the worst supernatural thriller I've ever seen. It's nothing all that original, which I say because I've seen elements of this film repeated frequently in my three decades of life. But, I do give the story writers credit for creating a stable, familiar mythology from which the audience can derive its emotional response. Most Americans and Europeans associate certain things with the presence of evil: bats, check. Wolves, check. Crows, check. Approaching dark-clouded storms, check. Many of us (who should know better) still believe that even plague or illness is the sign of something bad afoot. We even all vaguely accept the shenanigans that went along with the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the much later Salem Witch Trials as a really sad time in our history at the global level. These guys spoon-fed us material from our comfort zone, and I think it helped make this movie more effective as a thriller.
But this movie had a lot of problems. The initial scenes are filled with locations that (mostly) no longer exist. Since my medieval geography of the Middle East is pretty… rough, I'm thinking more information would have been helpful. I'd have liked a map. I'd have also liked to know how they managed to make it from Styria (not Syria, Styria) to a place with names like Severnac (which sound French to me, even though they kept implying they weren't in France). The other major issue came from the introduction of concepts that were premature by several centuries. Generously, the "fair trial" escaped Western civ until at least the 19th century and the line "do you ever get the feeling God's made too many enemies?" is a critique on holy war man has yet to embrace… or really consider.
All that aside, if you're looking for a couple of cheap thrills with pre-Industrial tech, this could be for you.