Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Horror Film Review

Season of the Witch (2011):  I didn't expect to be writing a review of this movie.  Why?  I thought it was about medieval swordplay and witch hunts.  Turns out, I was mistaken.  I'm glad I was.  So what makes it horror?  Well, the huge demon, mostly.  Oh, yeah...And the bubonic plague-infected zombie monks.  Nope, that's not a misprint.

During the Crusades in the 14th century, Behman (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are top soldiers in the Catholic church's army, which is sweeping across the world kicking infidel ass.  When they storm a castle and kill women and children, the guys find their consciences and quit.  Wandering the countryside, they come across a plague-infested town that believes it's the victim of a witch's curse.  Said witch (Claire Foy) was captured and locked up.  Behman and Felson are recognized by a priest and tossed in the dungeon for desertion.  The local cardinal (Christopher Lee), who's infected with plague, asks them to take the witch to a nearby monastery so the monks can cast judgment.  The witch is a pretty young woman who Behman thinks might be innocent, so he agrees.  What could possibly go wrong, right?

Excluding the woman, they leave the town with six in their party and make it to the monastery with four.  Not too bad, really.  Oh...they ran into evil wolves possessed by the witch.  Sort of.  Anyway, it's not a spoiler to tell you that the witch is not some innocent girl wrongly accused.  They want us to believe she is, but you figure it out right away.  At the monastery, they find the monks dead, victims of plague.  Then we learn the witch wanted to come to the monastery all along to destroy a book of spells and rituals that could strip away her power.  All hell breaks loose at this point.  The witch morphs into a giant winged demon, dead monks reanimate to become blood-thirsty zombies, and our heroes' swords become a blur of furious motion.  It's quite exciting and a lot of fun.  Of course, there have to be sacrifices in order for good to triumph, but at least not all of the good guys die.  The movie is PG-13 after all. 

So Hellboy and Ghost Rider in the same movie, swinging swords and battling demons...  Nice.  Perlman as Felson gets all the funny lines as you'd expect.  This is a paycheck film for Cage, but he manages to put some believability into his performance (more so than in Ghost Rider, I think).  One complaint I do have is that there wasn't enough backstory on the demon.  One-dimensional evil lacks punch.  And the person who voiced the demon really shouldn't have.  It sounded like a constipated Mr. Magoo.

The Breakdown

Acting:  Efforts were made and the result is laudable.  Except for Foy.  Her performance bugged me in a way I can't figure out.  Christopher Lee's cardinal cameo is pretty cool.
Story:  The Black Death was really caused by a witch/demon?  Sure.  I buy it.  What I didn't buy so much was the fact two crusaders would desert the church after years of bloody service. 
Direction:  Nicely paced with no bogging down or unnecessary tangents. 
Production Values:  The film looks great.  Money was spent in all the right places. 
Gore/FX:  PG-13, remember?  No Braveheart reality here.  There's a little blood and some serious grossness involving plague victims.  The epic battle sequences in the beginning are CGI and very well done.
Scares:  One.  I knew it was coming but I still almost swallowed my tongue. 
The Ending:  What they call bittersweet.  And also what they might call corny and cliched.  I don't worked for me.

The Verdict:  Should you see Season of the Witch?  I say yes.  It's mindless fun for horror or medieval adventure fans.  Or for Cage fans.  Or Perlman fans.  Hell, watch it for the bubonic plague-infected zombie monks.  That's worth the price of admission right there.

My Rating:  3 out of 5 stars. 

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