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IN SHORT: A jumbo size popcorn movie. [Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content. 95 minutes]
Long-time readers of this site already know that yours Cranky is a Member of the Tribes (a cooler synonym for Jew) and, frankly, sometimes I wish that my religion had as much mystical junk to play with as Christianity does. We have just a wee bit, but nothing that can be expanded upon as it is in Season of the Witch, with action and thrills and plot twists and all that good stuff you go to the movies for.
Once there was a time when the Roman Church ruled the Western World, with total control over every aspect of life and the behaviors of the people living that life. Its rule was catholic (meaning "universal"). In the millenium followng the fall of Rome, circa 300ad, that world fell from relative civilization down to the barbaric, disease wracked hell of the Dark Ages. Season of the Witch begins with the witch hunts of the late 1300s, establishing for the purposes of this story that *just maybe* there are such things as "real" witches. It then scoots forward to a Holy Crusade, roughly around 1430. In the midst of one of holy battle we meet Crusaders Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman), knights Sworn to God and Church, battling from town to town, slaughtering infidels and heathen in the name of the Church. When the day came the that their bloodlust lifted, they found themselves to be Evil Ones, with the bodies of innocent women and children impaled upon their longswords. Disillusioned, Behmen and Felson abandon the Crusade and their pledge to the Church and turn towards home. But all the villages on their route home are empty and abandoned. The Plague has swept over the land.
Apparently, so the story is told, a "lone woman" (and most certainly a witch), was responsible for the death and disease and all the tribulations of the day. Indeed, such a "witch" (Claire Foy) was captured by the authority of the Church. Due to a lack of local authority to try the certainly guilty woman -- thanks to the fact that most everyone around her is dead -- it is decided that said witch be taken to a remote abbey, there to stand fair trial and be executed. A local priest (Stephen Campbell Moore) is put in charge of the journey, though he knows not the way through the evil Wyrmwood Forest. The only person in town that knows the path to the abbey is a trickster (Stephen Graham), locked in stocks in the public square and not to be trusted. Where, oh where, are there valiant knights; perhaps brave Crusaders, to protect this small caravan from the certain dangers of the forest and the possibility of betrayal by the criminal pressed into service to guide the journey???
Why they're sitting in a dungeon! Deserters of the Just Cause, caught foraging for food and transport, Behmen and Felsen are offered a deal by the dying, local Cardinal (Christopher Lee). Transport the accused, protect the priest and ensure that the Trickster doesn't pull any, uh, tricks during the journey and all charges against the pair will be dismissed. Behmen, who has come to [disbelieve] any pronouncement of the Church, insists the church hierarchy pledge that, indeed, the abey will conduct a fair trial. Behmen doesn't believe in witches.
Added to this band of brothers at the last minute are an additional knight (Ulrich Thomsen), who lost his family to the Plague, and an altar boy (Robert Sheehan), well into his teen years, who seeks "experience" through which he may earn knighthood.
And off into the wild, evil yonder they go. Your history lesson finished, 'tis time to sink your hand into one of those Godzilla sized buckets of popcorn and munch away, for the surprises and battles to be found in the Wyrmwood Forest and beyond are worth every salted, golden-slimed kernel you can pop into your mouth.
Whether or not the girl really is a witch is nothing compared to what the film has got hidden away for its ending. Season of the Witch may just be a disposable movie, which happens to be a good classification for most of the films Nicolas Cage is involved in, but it is a fun sit.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Season of the Witch, he would have paid . . .
Our audience applauded enthusiastically at the film's end. We don't hear that a lot. Truth.
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