On the same day that Season of the Witch opened, it had a measly 1% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, just one tiny percent. To put that into perspective, know that Ed Wood’s masterpiece – the film oft quoted as the worst of all time, Plan 9 from Outer Space – is currently sitting pretty with a staggering 65%. Even the stomach turning Dana Carvey vehicle Master of Disguise has a 2%. Is this movie really that bad?
The answer is no, of course. So why the overwhelming disdain for this movie? I’ve mentioned the phenomenon before, but I honestly believe that it’s a large part of the resentment toward this film; that is, the tendency toward film buffs to hate on Nicolas Cage. Perhaps I have something of a persecution complex, being an self-professed super-fan of the actor (I’ve seen every movie he’s ever been in, if you’re just joining us). Still, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say that almost every internet personality is unafraid to talk about how much they loathe the man, how terrible an actor he is, and so on. Their proof lies mostly in The Wicker Man and Ghost Rider, conveniently forgetting the scores of classics he’s been a part of.
Nobody thinks of Season of the Witch as a Ron Perlman film, despite the fact that he shares top billing with Cage. So if the film fails, the blame rests on the star. Let me be clear, lest you get the wrong impression: I am not here to defend the film. It is not a good movie, and as some have pointed out before me, it’s not even so bad that it turns back around and becomes good again (ahem, can I mention The Wicker Man again here?). It’s just kind of lifeless. Even the moments when there is some big action going on, such as when a pack of wolves attack our heroes, there’s no artistry to the proceeding. I feel like the script might have just read: “Then a pack of wolves attacks them.” Period. Then the bridge starts breaking. Period.
I’ve had my reservations about the movie for some time. Despite being an acknowledged Cage apologist, I am not an idiot. The trailers gave the impression that he was sleep-walking through the role, hardly any cause for excitement when I know that the man is capable of some beautifully unhinged performances (e.g. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans). Sure enough, the star’s performance isn’t anything to write home about here. The one time it got weird enough to elicit a laugh from me was when Cage gives Perlman a puppy dog look and reminds him how many times he has “saved [Perlman’s] ass.”
But beyond that, eh. It’s an okay movie that doesn’t leave much of an impression. I was trying to imagine what it would be like to come across this movie in Cage’s back-catalogue if I had begun watching his films much further into the future. It seems similar to, say, Guarding Tess or It Could Happen to You; that is, not necessarily terrible but not anything worth returning to. Complaints about the false dialogue or the mid-grade CGI seem overly critical. I can understand why one wouldn’t like this film, but it feels like it would be hard to muster up the strength to actively hate it.
Season of the Witch does what it does and doesn’t even attempt to do anymore (no twisting epilogues here!). It will make a fine rental someday.