The F*ckin Black Sheep: Season of the Witch (2011)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Season of the Witch (2011)
Directed by Dominic Sena

“It stars Nic Cage as a medieval knight. What’s not to dig about that?”

Back in the day, the late great Leonard Nimoy had a hell of a show called “In Search Of.” If it was still around, they might do a segment on Nic Cage’s career, because…you know, it’s not as good as it was (yeah, that’s a lazy joke). Despite the fact that Cage has lost his box office clout, I still find the guy an entertaining fellow.

Sure, he pumps out a new movie on the third Thursday of the month, but fans can always count on him to deliver something interesting no matter the quality or genre. His last shot at the box office was 2011 in which the guy had three films hit theaters. All three bombed, of course, and I could write about each, but with THE WITCH casting a spell on theaters (another lazy one, sorry), it seems the proper time to revisit SEASON OF THE WITCH.

In case you missed this entry from the Cage canon, it takes us way back to the 14th century during Crusades where knights Behem (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) wage a lot of war and death. Eventually, they grow tired of killing for the church and bail, only to encounter the Black Plague back home. The church recruits them once again to escort a witch to a sacred Monk lair where they hope to perform some kind of religious thing to stop all the death. Or something like that.

Judging SEASON OF THE WITCH’s poster alone, this one seems to resemble his recent lackluster output, but the movie has more quality than expected. For one, it comes with a $40 million budget, which surprised me because the production looks a bit…cheap. A lot of obvious green screen and third rate CGI in the third act. But it’s not all bad as the sets reflect the dark, moody feel of the story and it does have style.

The film also comes with a decent director in Dominic Sena, who gave the world SWORDFISH, GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, and quite a few Janet Jackson videos. However, he seemed to have lost a bit of luster as this isn’t the most creative exercise in cinema with an overuse of Dutch shots that don’t really fit the period. Considering all the characters carry around a lot of swords, we only encounter action in the first and third acts, which happens to be what saves the movie. No one is going to claim SEASON OF THE WITCH was an inch away from being quality material, but the appeal of a modern Cage feature is to see what went wrong. Like why does he have an American accent? Or how does he have time to have frost tipped hair while waging war? It doesn’t make sense…but who cares. It still entertains on a B-movie level.

Aside from Cage, SEASON OF THE WITCH has a decent cast here with Perlman, Christopher Lee (who I didn’t even recognize), the underrated Stephen Graham, and even Sandor Clegane himself (Rory McCann) makes a welcome yet 10 second appearance. But the best hire comes from the witch Claire Foy, who does a nice job of showcasing a full range of acting skills. She’s frightening. She’s alluring. She’s mysterious. She’s deadly. Even though it’s a little silly that Cage and company keep falling for her “ah shucks” sweet girl act only to always have someone end up dead (or near dead), it remains effective.  

It is worth noting that fan favorite director Brett Ratner did some extensive reshoots and had his editor rework the movie. I’m not quite sure what the thing looked like before (or how much Ratner changed). Though the story is pretty silly and no one cares about monks and Bible verses, somehow it still holds some entertainment value. And it stars Nic Cage as a medieval knight. What’s not to dig about that?





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