Season of the Witch

Nicolas Cage, cursed again.

The movies of Nicolas Cage are a crapshoot by now. Fans of this fine but wayward actor never know what to expect when they enter the theatre. A winner like Matchstick Men, The Weather Man, the Oscar-summoning Leaving Las Vegas? Or dire junk like Con Air, Bangkok Dangerous, or the extra-silly Ghost Rider? Cage’s determination to work a lot, plus his shaky taste in scripts and his heavy debt to the IRS, practically guarantee there’ll be more of the latter sort of picture than of the former.

His latest, a medieval sorcery exercise called Season of the Witch, falls somewhere between these two poles, although it inclines more toward the flaming-motorcyclists school of cinema than that of heartbroken alcoholics. It’s a good-looking film (much of it was shot in the Austrian Alps), but heavily derivative. The pestilential villages and grimy peasants on view have an unmistakably Pythonian cast, and there are resounding echoes of Ingmar Bergman, Mario Bava, The Name of the Rose, various Hammer horrors and even, in one big CGI monster bash, if you can imagine, Gremlins.

The time is the mid-14th century. A weary knight named Behman (Cage), having bailed out of the latest Crusade in disillusionment, is returning home from the Holy Land in the company of a fellow warrior named Felson (Ron Perlman). Arriving back in Europe, they are greeted by the scourge of the Black Death, at its ghastly peak. Soon they’re seized as deserters and tossed in a dungeon. Then a plague-ridden cardinal (Christopher Lee, unrecognizable behind a face full of bulging pustules) offers them freedom in exchange for undertaking a mission—transporting a young woman (Claire Foy) thought to be a witch to a faraway mountaintop abbey where the resident witch experts will render judgment as a pro-forma prelude to dispatching her in some appropriately hideous way.

Behman and Felson accept this deal, and set off with the alleged witch confined in a sort of cage-coach. They are accompanied on their journey by another sad knight (Ulrich Thomsen), a squirmy priest (Stephen Campbell Moore), a peasant guide (Stephen Graham), and an all-purpose valiant youth (Robert Sheehan). The caged girl is by turns sweetly appealing and weirdly malevolent. Could she really be a witch? The peasant guide thinks so: “Kill the bitch!” he suggests. Behman is having none of that, though, and the group proceeds on its way through snowy mountains and fog-choked forests. En route, they are attacked by flesh-rending wolves, possibly of the demonic variety. Finally they arrive at the remote abbey, only to find that nobody’s home. Nobody capable of offering a warm welcome, anyway.

The movie is plagued by an unrelenting mildness. The is-she-or-isn’t-she witch question generates minimal suspense, and the attempted supernatural thrills are subverted at every turn by witless anachronisms. Apart from the name of Perlman’s character (is “Felson” not a moniker more appropriate to a sitcom second banana than a fierce warrior?), there are lines of dialogue that land with a thud far short of amusement. “I’ve saved your ass a hundred times,” for example. Or, “We’re gonna need more holy water!” My favorite crops up in the middle of an early battle scene, when Felson turns to Behman and says, “I’m building up a powerful thirst,” and Behman replies, “You’re buying, my friend!”

The movie consists of little more than its elaborate production design. (The director, Dominic Sena, is a music-video veteran, and previously directed Cage in the lamentable Gone in 60 Seconds.) Cage is a pro, and he gives an actual performance, unfortunately to no avail. His character may be on a mission, but the picture—being released in the traditional January graveyard for doomed movies—is on its way to a funeral.

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York.

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  • ||

    I was SO expecting this to be a Michael Moore movie about Christine O'Donnell and the Tea Party.

  • ||

  • ||

    When was the last time Cage made a decent movie, anyway?

  • ||

    That's what I was thinking. I liked National Treasure, but he was the turd in the punchbowl. Next sucked a bag of donkey dicks. I wish Gone in 60 seconds really was only a minute long. And so forth.

  • Realist||

    "....sucked a bag of donkey dicks." That makes me laugh.

  • The Realist's Analyst||

    Why do you think is?

  • Realist||

    I have never thought is!

  • mr simple||

    That's just how Unfrozen Caveman Psychiatrist talks.

  • Jen||

    Adaptation (2002) was a good one. Kick Ass (2010) was surprisingly good as well.

  • Ska||

    Before Adaptation there was Raising Arizona. That about covers it.

  • ||

    You seem to be forgetting Con Air.

  • ||

    It never ends with you, does it. Accept that you have the worst taste, and you will progress in life. You will move on to love other horrible movies, and you will be mocked, but you will fight, and it will give you purpose.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    And The Weather Man.

  • Jen||

    You're right, The Weather Man was very good. I forgot about that one.

  • juris imprudent||

    Try as I might, I still can't forget it.

  • kinnath||

    +1 for Kick Ass

  • Geotpf||

    This.

    Face/Off was good too.

    But, yeah, Cage's hit to miss ratio is below average.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Face Off was one of the more stupid movies I've ever wasted about 2 hours of my life watching.

    I actually like City of Angels.

    No homo.

  • ||

    You liked National Treasure?!? sage, buddy, have you been drinking? Do you need me to come over there? I can be on the ferry in a little while.

  • ||

    Sometimes I like a movie where I don't have to think. Sometimes.

  • Bill||

    National Treasure had a few good moments but got too ridiculous.

    How is it the 200 year old ropes had not rotted away in the damp caverns? Not sure why that bothered me so much but that was like the last straw.

  • ||

    The good parts of National Treasure: Any time when Sean Bean was on screen. The rest of it was hit or miss.

  • Cyto||

    There's no accounting for taste - people like what they like.

    That being said, Con-Air, Face/Off and National Treasure (1&2) are all horrific, popular opinion notwithstanding.

  • Nah, Too Easy||

    EPI: I can be on the ferry in a little while.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    He clearly wrote ferry, not fairy or even faerie.

  • LC||

    I thought Lord of War was pretty good.

  • kinnath||

    And another +1 for Lord of War

  • lurker||

    I dislike almost every Cage movie I've ever seen, but his performance in Lord of War was fantastic.

  • ||

    Hey, Raising Arizona.

  • ||

    He never gets credit for Vampire's Kiss, which is a shame, because that is one weird and crazy movie.

  • ||

    That is a really good movie. And he does deserve credit for it. Another really good vampire flick of that genera is Shadow of the Vampire with John Malkovich. That is the one where they are making Nosferatu and Max Schreck really is a vampire.

  • ||

    That is good, and isn't Willem Dafoe Max Schreck?

  • ||

    Yes. And he is brilliant in it.

  • ||

    Fine film.

  • zoltan||

    I agree with John. Shadow of the Vampire is fantastic. Willem Dafoe is unrecognizable as Max Schreck/Nosferatu.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Thanks for the recommendation. Just added Shadow of the Vampire to my Netflix queue.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    It's not decent, per se, but Cage's The Wicker Man is one of the most entertaining piles of shit ever piled up. Complete with poor/overacting, mysoginy in the form of women repeatedly being punched, kicked, and throttled by Cage, and the now infamous bees scene, The Wicker Man will delight anyone who loves train wrecks. I know I do.

  • lurker||

    I liked the original Wicker Man, with Christopher Lee. It completely freaked out my wife, however, so I have been forbidden to watch it again, at least when she is in the house. I assumed the Cage remake would suck, so I haven't seen it.

  • ||

    The original Wicker Man is the archetypical textbook example of Xanatos Roulette.

  • lurker||

    I'd never heard of Xanatos Roulette before, but after reading your link, I definitely agree. In addition, the original Wicker Man is as creepy as hell, which is probably why I liked it. The DVD I received from Netflix has an interview with Christopher Lee that is worth watching; he seems like a pretty interesting person.

  • ||

    I liked the naked girls jumping over the fire...cause I guess I like hot p*ssy

  • lurker||

    I believe that Frazer mentions, in The Golden Bough, that leaping naked through bonfires was part of the ancient European celebration of Saint John's Eve (June 23). Do you happen to remember if Wicker Man was set on or around June 23? If so, it would explain the naked girls.

  • ||

    Do you happen to remember if Wicker Man was set on or around June 23?
    No
    I do remember that the naked girls were bushy - it was the age of Aquarius and Hair, and the age of bald twats had not arrived.

  • ||

    i like britt eckland's dance in the original. pretty sure it was here. either way, she was young and hawt

  • Shmenge||

    I remember reading somewhere that Britt Eklund didn't want to do the Wicker Man dance scene and they got a body double for it. Kind of a shame really, cause she was pretty hot back then. That blue bikini of hers in Man With the Golden Gun was rather, shall we say, inspiring.

  • DLM||

    Burning bush?

  • ||

    You truly suck the joy out of everything. The movie which Christoper Lee himself referred to as "the Citizen Kane of horror movies" is reduced by you to some retarded television trope (it's a movie, by the way, subgenius). Why do you even exist? It's like your entire purpose is to sap the life from others. Are you a vampire, Tulpa? An unsexy vampire?

  • ||

    Sexy vampires are a myth.

  • lurker||

    > Are you a vampire, Tulpa? An unsexy vampire?

    Wow, harsh words!

    I think an artistic work can exemplify Xanatos Roulette and still be great. Tulpa's link lists Brothers Karamazov and The Illiad as containing elements of Xanatos Roulette. I can even think of a few Borges short stories that fit the description (e.g. Death and the Compass). Surely if Dostoevsky, Homer and Borges can utilize Xanatos Roulette, so can the "Citizen Kane of horror movies"!

  • ||

    I love that site and the goofy names they come up with. My favorite is "Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?" which is slightly ahead of "Epileptic Trees".

  • ||

    Are you a vampire, Tulpa? An unsexy vampire?

    Friendly Neighborhood Vampire

  • nekoxgirl||

    Wicker Man is by far my favorite comedy that was not intended to be a comedy.

  • ||

    Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

  • ||

    +1

  • MNG||

    +1

  • SIV||

    I never saw that picture but based on director and cast it sounds watchable.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Haven't seen the movie (a friend has and he said it was pretty good) but that has got to take the cake for one of the worst titles ever.

  • marlok||

    +10

    I was surprised by how good it was. Cage brought the crazy in a good way.

  • ||

    Kick-Ass was just last year.

    The last good movie where he was the main character was Adaptation.

    And Con Air was awesome, of course.

  • Jen||

    I said almost the same thing above. Heh.

  • ||

    But I beat you by a minute, so TEH GLORY IS ALL MINE!!!!!1!!!

  • ||

    [INSERT STANDARD COMMENT ON CON AIR SUCKING DEEP, DEEP ASS]

  • ||

    It's like he's paid by Jerry Bruckheimer directly. He has to be.

  • ||

    What is it with you people and Con Air? It makes me wonder about your sanity.

  • ||

    Please. It was awful tripe. No, that's an insult to tripe. It was subtripe.

  • ||

    Never seen it. Perhaps I will keep it that way.

  • ||

    You would be wise to do so.

  • ||

    I was asking how in the hell you people can like it. It was horrible. Sorry for the confusion.

  • ||

    Oh, okay then.

  • ||

    You guys should like it for the extremely unsympathetic portrayal of DEA agents.

  • Brett L||

    Its a terrible day when Malkovic, Cusack, and Buscemi can't save a movie. In fact, only Cage can blow this much talent twice (The Rock) being the other.

  • ||

    Kick Ass was good, not Cage's acting. Wearing the Batman suit will not get him the next Batman part.

  • SIV||

    20 years ago
    Wild at Heart

  • ||

    Valley Girl

    Just kidding.

  • ||

    Valley Girl was a weird and kind of slow movie that broke genre.

    Was marketed as kind of teen sex comedy, but Young Nic Cage made that movie much more than it would have been otherwise.

    Kind of a "Mall angst Romeo and Juliet"

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    Well back in April, he was in a little gem called 'Kick Ass' . . .

  • ||

    Lost in Paradise was a classic.

    No?

  • ||

    Nicolas Cage. What are you supposed to make of this guy?

    He's given some amazing performances and is a talented actor. But his choices over the last 15 years of what movies to make are absolutley confounding. Does he want a big budget? A big paycheck? Or does he just want to see how much acting he can cram into an awful movie?

  • Blane||

    I think he was looking for the paycheck(s).

  • Blane||

    http://www.people.com/people/a.....50,00.html

  • Realist||

    You would think he would take counsel from his uncle.

  • ||

    I wouldn't listen to him, either. What's the last decent movie he's made?

  • Realist||

    Maybe it's a family thing.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    If it wasn't for the income tax and the IRS, and some poor decisions on Cage's part, he might not have become infamous for starring in such dreck. Once again folks, we can trace this failure of the market to the distortions caused by the Federal Government. God, life sucks. So did Face/Off.

  • -||

    Lots of actors manage their money and careers despite the existence of the IRS.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Hence, the "...poor decisions on Cage's part..." which probably included a young drug-fuelled Nic forgetting to pay his taxes on occasion. When you make millions of dollars that tends to add up, but then again, if you have millions and are easily recognizable you might be too busy doing coke off of some slutty starlet's ass to care. The point still stands that if an inherently immoral income tax was not imposed on the country, Cage would have no non-"artistic" reason to be looking for $ in every piece of shit script he reads as it seems he is doing now because of his debt to Uncle Rapetastic Sam. In the end, if you subtract the IRS we could determine if Cage is a dicerning businessman, or just a whore. Unfortunately, in our reality, we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • ||

    which probably included a young drug-fuelled Nic forgetting to pay his taxes on occasion

    Yeah, because I'm sure he wasn't given handlers who could take care of that for him.

  • -||

    You've convinced me, Drax. I'm blaming the IRS for every bad choice I've made regarding employment.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Well that wasn't my goal. My goal in that sudafed-fueled tirade was to point out that maybe, just maybe, the world would, possibly in some alternate reality, look at least microscopically different without things like the IRS. Is it really that hard to use your fucking imagination? Read a goddamned book.

    Regarding bad choices, narrowing your sphere of blame to the IRS as a simplification of my point is lazy at best. Besides, you have a whole government to blame for choices you have made regarding education, housing, healthcare, entertainment, etc.

  • Ezra Klein||

    "...the attempted supernatural thrills are subverted at every turn by witless anachronisms..."

    That's because it's supposed to take place over 100 years ago, and making it using period-specific dialogue would render the entire thing, like, unintelligible and stuff.

  • mr simple||

    "What do say we cut the chit chat, a-hole?"

    I could tell by Cage's line delivery in the previews that this movie would be full of disappoint.

    It also has the added effect of getting Donovan stuck in my head every time I hear the title.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It could be worse - had it been titled "Seasons in the Sun", you'd have Terry Jacks in your head every time you heard the title.

    And now I have to put my headphones on and listen to the Dandy Warhols, because I keep hearing Terry Jacks.

  • ||

    Check out Luna's version of the Donovan song. Good stuff.

  • Tim||

    Originally they were going to film it on Cape Cod. "Season of the Sand witch"

  • ||

    Mashed pees sandwiches.

  • ||

    Groan. You have a charlie horse coming.

  • ||

    No. Atomic wedgie for that one.

  • ||

    How about an Atomic Wedgie Horse?

  • ||

    Very good talented wasted, leads to major disappointment. At least that's what my 6th grade teacher Mrs. keller told me.

  • ||

    So ... no beating up women in bear suits? That's always a winner.

  • ||

    And monkeys with knives.

  • ||

    Nothing better!

  • Tim||

    He ain't so pretty now!

  • ||

    Nicolas Cage is the American Michael Caine.

  • M. Caine||

    Your baby is the miracle the whole world has been waiting for in my 1300th movie.

  • Max||

    These comments are exhibit 2876 showing how out of touch you libtards are.

    Only you douces want to watch gay ron paul porn all day.

    Pull the cocks out of your mouths, wipe the wad off your chin and get a fucking life. You Jackwads.

  • Jen||

    Good spoof. The poor spelling and syntax was a nice touch and gave it an air of authenticity.

  • ||

    F-

    It's ron pual you fool!

  • Warty||

  • Ska||

    Better than Christian Bale's "OH GOOOOD FOR YOOOOU!!!" ?

  • ||

    I loved Cage in Vampires Kiss. If you haven't ever seen it, the scene where he eats a live cockroach has to be one of the creepiest of all time.

  • ||

    Yes, finally. You'd be stunned how few people have seen that movie. He really deserves credit for his performance in that.

  • MNG||

    Never heard of it until today, a trip to my Netflix page is in order...

  • ||

    He was exceptional in that movie. He is quite convincing in his portrayal of a slow descent into insanity.

  • waffles||

    I don't know, The Rock is pretty awesome. Beige Volvos and Nicholas Cage just makes sense to me. He always seems awkward as a tough guy manly man.

  • rts||

  • ||

    That clip was as hilarious as Friday Funnies.

  • rts||

    Low blow, man, low blow.

  • Jen||

    I thought it was hysterical...the video, not Friday Funnies.

  • MNG||

    I liked Knowing. Am I the only one?

  • rts||

    Yes.

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    Yeah, I'd say that's pretty much guaranteed.

  • MNG||

    Red Rock West wasn't bad. Neither was 8mm.

  • ||

    I will never, ever, get tired of hurting you

    Yeah, he was pretty good in 8mm.

  • ||

    +Wild at Heart.

  • ||

    Oh, forgot about that one. Yep, he is good in that, too.

  • Tim||

    If Thams the Tank Engine ever makes it to the big screen, Cage will headline it.

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    It already did, back in 2000. Your leading man in that fine production was none other than Alec Baldwin.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0205461/

  • ||

    I was watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail last night and this article immediately reminded me of the witch-trial scene which is alway very funny.

  • Geotpf||

    It's a popcorn movie release in the first week of January (with no NYC/LA Christmas day opening to qualify for the Oscars), so the studio itself knows it's terrible and is dumping it during the worst week of the year. Few people go to the movies in early January, and it's far away from the Oscars-so early January is a movie dumping ground where you release your shit to burn it off.

  • Geotpf||

    Ooooooo, I was so right. Currently it has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 2%, with 1 positive review and 53 negative ones.

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/.....the_witch/

  • ||

    Yeah, everyone knows this, so I have no idea why Reason decided to review it.

  • -||

    Reason didn't review it. Loder did.

  • ||

    I recently say 'The Black Death', some kind of low-budget made for TV exercise from Britain.

    But it turned out to be surprisingly great, and morally complex.
    You have a monk, questioning his faith whi signs up with a group of knights, who say they are on a quest to track down some devil worshippers that are causing the plague. So the monk decides maybe his calling is to be a crusader instead, and goes along.

    The 'witches' of course turn out to be normal people who just happen to prictice proper hygiene and medicine ... or that's what you think.

  • ||

    People give way too much credit to actors. They're responsible for their own performance, that's all. If they were responsible for anything else, they would be directors.

    Asking "why are so many of his movies crappy when some of them weren't crappy." is like asking "why was it sunny part of the time they were shooting but cloudy at other times."

    A better question, "Why has he been in so many movies, period."
    The answer: nepotism.

  • ||

    Actually, it's overreaching even to give all the credit for an actor's performance to himself. The few good movies he was in had good directors or writers or both.

  • Cliche||

    Movie-making is a collaborative art.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    My mother was a witch; she was burned alive.

  • Fat Crack Ho||

    If you were one of the statist assholes that pops up here from time to time, my answer to that would've been, "apparently not in time." But you're not, so it isn't.

    (sorry, I had to get it out somehow)

  • ||

    My mother was a car. She got cancelled.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Thankless little bitch; for the tears I cried

  • DLM||

    ...more toward the flaming-motorcyclists school of cinema than that of heartbroken alcoholics...

    I find flaming motorcyclists much more entertaining that heartbroken alcoholics, but that's just me.

  • Meanwhile...||

    Gwyneth Paltro goes country. Discuss.

  • ||

    De gustibus non est disputandum

  • French Knickers||

    I'll probably end up in my pyjamas watching this at some point with a hot chocolate, so I really hope it can be an enjoyable movie, at least for me!

    ~ Jennie

  • ||

    Is this article about free minds or free markets? Or is its purpose to use key words from pop culture to get more google hits?

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