Klavan On The Culture

DVD: Season of the Witch

Well, it’s screener season when we in the movie business receive DVD’s of all the movies we didn’t bother to see during the year. And I’ve been watching some very serious and well-reviewed and impressive films. So why am I blogging about Season of the Witch? After all, this thing went absolutely septic at the box office, and only received a 4% rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes where they said it “failed even as unintentional comedy.”

But actually, that’s the reason I’m blogging about it. Because it was more of a surprise than the other movies I’ve watched. I won’t say it was good exactly, but late at night with the wife asleep and a glass of wine in hand, I found it entertaining, different and sort of suspenseful. I can explain why by giving away the opening scene. So here’s a small spoiler:

It’s the middle ages, about three in the afternoon.  A sobbing woman is brought before a grim priest. He denounces her as a witch. She begs pitifully for mercy. Merciless, the priest has her hanged and drowned in a river. Oh, those God people! They’re the worst, aren’t they? That night, the rotten priest comes back to the scene of the execution and pulls the woman’s body out of the water to say some church mumbo-jumbo over her. You know how these faith-based morons are. And what happens? The poor pitiful dead innocent woman…  comes back to life and murders him. Because she’s evil! The priest was right all along!

Well, I don’t think I ever saw that before. Where the church is grim and terrible…  and turns out to be right!  Usually, these medieval pictures depict the church as a hotbed of superstition and slaughter. But this movie keeps twisting and turning against those expectations. In fact, if the screenwriter or director had had any idea what the film was saying, they would have made the dialogue and themes and issues much smarter and sharper and the whole thing might have been a slam-bang actioner complete with things to think about. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen and by the last scene, the picture has gone pretty much blooey.

Still, it’s fun for most of its viewing time and Ron Perlman’s very good and Nicholas Cage isn’t horrible and Claire Foy’s adorable. So if you like these sword and sorcery things, this one’s a little different and worth a look.