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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Season of the Witch - Updated with Blu-ray Review

June 26th, 2011

Season of the Witch - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Nicolas Cage's career has been erratic for the past several years. He's made some great movies, like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Kick Ass, but he's also made some horrendous choices in projects. Of his weaker selection of films, Season of the Witch earned some of the worst reviews of his career and struggled to make any noise during its theatrical release. Is it really this bad? Or does it have enough redeeming qualities to make it worth checking out on the home market?

The Movie

The film stars Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman as two Crusaders, Behmen and Felson, who fought alongside each other in numerous battles against the "infidels." After years of battle, the pair have become disillusioned with the endless fighting. Then after the massacre of civilians at the siege of Smyrna, the two can take it no more and desert the army to return home.

When they arrive home, they find the place in the grips of the bubonic plague. Despite their efforts, they are found out to be deserters and arrested. However, Cardinal D'Ambroise asks them to go on one last mission. They are to take a girl who is accused of witchcraft and thought to be the source of the black plague to an abbey where she can be cleansed. Behmen and Felson agree to travel with Eckhart, the Cardinal's best knight, and Debelzaq, the priest who obtained the girl's confession. They will be guided by Hagamar, a petty criminal who knows there way, while a wannabe knight, Kay, rounds out the group. Behmen and Felson have only two conditions, the girl will get a fair trail when they get there, and their desertion will be erased from their records.

It takes about half-an-hour until the journey gets underway, and for the rest of the film we get a little character development and the occasional action scene to eliminate one of the extraneous characters. The end result is rather predictable, a little repetitive, and quite frankly it's dull. It's the last complaint that surprised me the most. I was expecting a goofy fantasy adventure with Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman doing the energetic best. However, while Ron Perlman is easily the best part of the movie, I thought Nicolas Cage was too restrained. He could have used a little more John Milton in his performance, or perhaps even some Bad Lieutenant. I don't think this film was ever going to be a good movie, but it could have at least been entertaining in a B-movie way.

When the climactic battle does eventually take place, it's a letdown. The film cost $40 million to make, which is not an insignificant amount of money, but it is low for a CG-heavy film. The final battle between our heroes and the CG demon just didn't look good.

When a film's Tomatometer Score is in the single-digit range, you obviously go in with lowered expectations. You are no longer looking for a traditionally good movie, but more entertainingly bad. This is not the case with Season of the Witch, which takes itself far too seriously for its own good. I guess if you are in the mood for this type of film, it's not a total waste, but there are far better options out there. Hell, the Sword & Sorcerer genre was big in the mid-1980s, so go with a Krull / Dragonslayer double-shot instead.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with some deleted / alternate scenes, including an alternate ending. There are also two making-of featurettes, the first on the demon transformation scene and the other on the early Crusader scenes. There are 26 minutes in extras in total, which is pretty low.

Update: The Blu-ray arrived, but I'm not sure it was worth the wait. Firstly, there are no exclusive extras, and there were not a lot of extras on the DVD to begin with. As for the technical presentation, while some have complained that the special effects in the film were cheap, myself included, others have argued that the film's effects are more stylized than realistic and should be judged accordingly. That argument may have some validity. The video transfer is a little grittier than I would like and the colors lack range, but those were both stylistic choices. The blacks are deep without losing details, when required the clarity is strong, and there's no compression issues to worry about. The audio is very good with the surround sound speakers getting a real workout (especially in the opening battle montage). There's not a lot of bass present, but the clang of the swords is omnipresent. The dialogue is clear throughout.

As for the price, the Blu-ray's list price is 33% more than the DVD's list price, which is acceptable. However,'s discount on the DVD is deeper than it is on the Blu-ray, and the final price is 44% more. That's more than I would be willing to pay.

The Verdict

Season of the Witch commits the worst sin a movie like this can commit. It is dull. It needed a lot more energy and a lot more humor to be entertaining in a B-movie fashion. As it is, there are simply too many alternatives out there that are better choices. Even if you are a fan of the genre, neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray are worth picking up. I can't even recommend renting, unless you are a hardcore fan of the genre.

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Filed under: Video Review, Season of the Witch, Drive Angry