Season of the Witch (2011)

Season of the Witch
Director: Dominic Sena
Writer: Bragi F. Schut
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ron PerlmanStephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Claire Foy, Robert Sheehan, Christopher Lee

Instead of the usual review, this is going to be a blog-along. Because we all know this movie deserves it, and we should all bask in its glory.

We open on a mysterious book, monks in candlelight and it is not this film. Since the director obviously knows that any other film in that setting would probably be boring, we cut to screaming women straight away. Yea-hay.

Apparently we’re in the City of Villach. Can anything look any faker?

Anyway, we’re at witch “trial” and the witches get to repent to save their souls (and they obviously don’t get the difference between body and soul, since they’re completely surprised that they’re still hung after confessing. Only one of them has it right: “Priest, you’re going to burn in hell.” That’s probably true of more priests than you’d think.

Anyway, the witches are creatively hung by being thrown down a bridge with a noose around their neck, and then they’re drowned and the priest still wants to speak some magic words (from the mysterious book) to keep them from rising again, but a villager, sorry city-dweller tells him that hunged and drowned is dead enough for him. Oh, those pesky secular people, never superstitious enough. But we all know that we’re going to get Zombie!Witches in our close future, right?!

The priest takes a hands on approach and pulls the witches from the water himself. On his own. At night. Now that is obviously a bright idea. The first one is succesfully exorcised, the second was never possessed in the first place and the third one pulls him off the bridge and actually rises. Then she’s badly CGI animated, the mysterious book set on fire and the priest himself is hung. I would say he had that coming.

We change location to the Gulf of Edremit, a desert where you can hardly see that it was rendered by a computer. And we get Nic Cage and Ron Perlman as wise-cracking crusaders. “Whoever kills more guys pays! Ron Perlman is ugly! Battles are fun!”

Oh for crying out loud, could they really not afford to shoot in an actual desert? This is so bad! That might even be worse than Fake!Villach.

We cut from Battle to drinking and whoring to another battle and another battle. The soundtrack makes us want to believe that this is dramatic, but since Ron Perlman and Nic Cage make mincemeat of everyone and still have time for philsophical debates (“Do you ever get the feeling, God has too many enemies?” *stabandkill* “Being his friend isn’t too easy either!”), the tension won’t really rise.

We’re at Battle Number Five and Nic Cage just killed a woman. OH NOES! You know, killing men is all fine and dandy, but killing women is SLAUGHTER! And suddenly, battle isn’t fun anymore! Which leads to an immediate argument between Nic Cage and Ron Perlman on one side and crusade captain who hears the voice of god on the other side. Then NC and RP desert.

To turn up immediately at the Coast of Styria.

Excuse me, the freaking COAST of Styria? You know, there was a time when Austria actually went all the way to an ocean or two, but Styria really never did. So we’ll have to assume that we now have definitely reached the alternate universe where NC is cool.

They reach a strangely abandoned house. And just enter it. Because that’s what you do, right, when you’re coming to a new place and nobody’s home.

Anyway, NC heads straight to the bedroom and pulls the sheet from the bed, underneath which there are two bodies. Or what we at first assume to be bodies, until one of them moves and then dies. *SCARY* They look like they either suffered from the plague or have been hit by tracker jackers, so NC and RP set the house on fire and move on, philosophising on the way (“how does one deserve a death like that?”).

To reach a city over which a giant vortex of birds is swirling.

Which they apparently don’t notice or don’t care about since their worry is not “what is wrong with those freaking birds?!”, but that they might be recognized. You know, from the TV broadcast “THIS WEEK’S DESERTERS”. It’s very popular on the coast of Styria.

RP suggest to go around the city, but NC won’t have any of it. “These horses won’t carry us. They’re farm animals.” Uhm, excuse me, NC, but the horses that are not carrying you? Are carrying you right now.

Anyway, they apparently float over their horses and reach the city that way – a city full of begging people, people who self-flagelating and general weirdness. It’s the plague, as some random dude informs them.

NC buys horses, but the seller’s son drops NC’s swords, sees the crest and within minutes, they’re surrounded by knights. And the two guys who until recently blazed through battle felling 15 opponents at once, fight for about 30 seconds before giving up.

They get brought to the castle, where a monk checks the crest on the swords and then brings them to see His Eminence Christopher Lee, who is in bed, surrounded by weird guys in bird masks, the monk, the random dude from before and Robert Sheehan. Christopher Lee has the plague. Which has been brought on by the Black Witch.

And since NC and RP are legends, apparently, they get a quest! Woohoo! And Christopher Lee gets to infodump!

“The Witch must be taken to the Abbey of Severrack [or something like that, ed.] where the monks possess the last copy of an ancient book of rituals that will destroy the witch’s powers and end the plague.”

NC is a little slow and is apparenlty not hearing things with his appeal ear (<– if you’re wondering about this: Friedemann Schulz von Thun has irreperably changed my life), and wonders what any of that has got to do with him. Dude. You just got a quest from a dying holy man. Deal with it and stop protesting already.

NC, NC, NC… instead of leaving on your quest that very night, your protesting bought you a night in prison. And we all know that you’re going to leave anyway.

But there is another person in prison: A young woman that makes NC look like this:

Which is apparently a good thing? At least judging by the violins in the background, they are now absolutely and completely in love.

RP: Is that the witch?
NC: That’s not what I see.

RP tries to bring humor to the situation, but the only person (fake)laughing is NC.

Poor NC has a nightmare in prison. But at least that way he wakes up to hear the witch crying and see her bruises.

The next morning, NC has made a descision: He will bring the girl to Severrack, if she gets a fair trial. Which is a totally realistic demand since we all know that the witch trials were famous for being fair, unbiased and that they could even be won!

Anyway, we cut to later, where everybody is washed and dressed and armed again and ready to take the hobbits to Isengard witch to Severrack. The monk suggest a route, that NC immediately recognizes as being stupid: even though it’s direct, it leads through a forest, across a river and over a mountain. But the monk probably has never been out of doors himself, so he wouldn’t know that it might quite difficult to climb a mountain.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, the movie just made the point that the monk never travelled and therefore doesn’t know how to plan a route. *headdesk* And all to try and make NC look smart.

NC now requests a guide. There is apparently only one person in the entire village who has ever left it: Stephen Grahame, who is currently in the pillory for selling fake relics. Maybe RP can now be something other than the comic relief.

Anyway, our quest team is almost complete. The witch is sedated – or so they think. But she jumps up *SCARY* and chokes the Monk and Random Dude until NC knocks her unconscious. Ah, true love… *sniff*

In the meantime, Cardinal Christopher Lee has died and Robert Sheehan looks sad.

Our ragtag group of questers is out of town and Random Dude (who is this guy anyway?) asks about how they got the witch: apparently she was just out of town and talking in a strange language that nobody understood. And here we can see that the Austrian policies regarding unwanted immigrants hasn’t changed in the last 1000 years or so: she was immediately locked up and declared dangerous for society. And two weeks later there was the Plague. Case closed.

Random Dude dares to question this policy. Probably in vain.

In the meantime, RP and NC have this insightful dialogue.

RP: She’s stronger than she looks.
NC: Do you believe she’s a witch?
RP: You felt her strength. Would you say it was that of a girl?
NC: I’ve seen girls destroy men without lifting a finger.
RP: How many times do we have to go over this? It was in FRANCE!

Women! The root of all evil! But only in France.

RP mentions that they are being followed. Who might that be? Well, Robert Sheehan of course! He wants to become a knight, and it best D’Artagnan fashion, he immediately antagonizes the people he asks for a job and finds himself in a duel with RP,where he acquits himself well enough that NC hires him.

Night has fallen, a campfire is lit and NC tells stories of the church’s corruption. But since they’re funny, nobody minds.

NC, chivalrous as ever, even brings the witch some food. She tells him that he’s different than the others, kind, and then they talk about her future. She worries about the fairness of her trial – and with good reason, one might add – but NC promises her that it will be fair. And there are the violins again.

And as if the whole thing isn’t icky enough, with her in chains and completely at NC’s mercy, it’s made even creepier by her looking to be about 15. Ah, true love…

Back at the campfire, the Monk warns about the deceiving qualities of the witch and they all settle down for the night. Random Dude taking the first watch, until he’s joined by the Monk. They start talking about the deep things: about Random Dude’s dead daughter who would be the same age as the witch. The witch listens as Random Dude and the Monk talk about her non-existing chances of a fair trial, and she decides to flee, knocking Random Dude out and stealing the key from the monk.

The group heads to the next village, where they hope to find her. The village is pretty much empty, except for people throwing out plague bodies and closing doors into people’s faces, so they quickly have her trace again in some kind of cave/labyrinth/grave thingy where Random Dude starts to hear his dead daughter’s voice and see her running.

[Yeah, I would love ot know where you are, too.]

Dead Daughter turns out to be the magicked on Robert Sheehan and Random Dude runs into Sheehan’s sword. RIP, Random Dude.

They find the witch, who tells them that she had to run as she couldn’t let the Monk touch her again, but only after she throws Ron Perlman against a wall.

The next morning, the Monk tries to warn NC about the deceitful witch again, but he isn’t convinced. The witch notices and throws the Monk a creepy smile before they continue on their way.

While they ride on, the witch works on NC: she’s grateful to him, she has no reason to kill Random Dude through magic, then she offers to ease NC’s pain. NC, instead of taking the offer to use magic on him (for good) as the proof that there’s probably something behind the whole witch thing, further doubts the witchiness, though he is wary enough not to take her up on her offer.

Robert Sheehan feels guilty for killing Random Dude, though the Monk tells him it was the witch not him.

In the meantime Stephen Grahame, the guide who is so great they plucked him from the pillory, led them to a bridge that is crumbling apart. But while the others argue, NC takes his horse and starts to cross. Because he is a man of action. He arrives safely at the other end, though that seems more of a coincidence than anything else.

The last thing they try to get over the bridge is the wagon that transports the witch. Things go badly, and Robert Sheehan almost falls off the bridge. The witch saves his life by holding him up with one hand. There is no further comment made on this.

[It’s nothing, don’t mention it.]

As they try to get the wagon over the rest of the way, the witch pleads with them to let her out but NC refuses and they make it only in the nick of time, then the bridge falls completely apart.

On the other side, Robert Sheehan thanks the witch for saving his life, while NC tries to help the Monk who hurt his hands during the crossing. And now they’re in the forest. The foggy forest of doom, apparently.

Since Stephen Grahame (“I know the way, I just can’t see it”) isn’t really of much use, they camp for the night. NC goes to talk with the witch. He has heard from RS that she saved his life and she proofs to him that she’s a witch by extinguishing and lighting his torch. *SCARY* And the she says with her creepiest smile “you are not afraid of me, are you?”

Girl, that is not how you get people to not prosecute you. Just sayin’.

NC has yet another nightmare. Which again wakes him just in time. This time to see Stephen Grahame walk around with a crossbow and trying to kill the witch. NC and RP both stop him, then the witch howls like a wolf, attracting other wolves to their camp.

Apparently she can control the wolves (made apparent by bad CGI animation) and they start to viciously attack everyone. Our merry band of questers kill the entire pack – and then many other packs take up the call, so they flee. But then it’s only five wolves going after them, who are completely satisfied with killing Stephen Grahame, so I’m thinkig that they might should have stayed around, killing those five wolves as well and not losing SG?

Anyway they continue on until NC suddenly stops the wagon, loads the crossbow and would have shot the witch – if it wasn’t for the Monk who threw himself in the way. While the witch smiles creepily (again), NC and the Monk have a discussion about bloodshed for god, and how they need to continue on with her in order to stop the plague (sayeth the Monk) and how NC is a very angry atheist (because atheists are always angry that they lost their belief. DUH).

NC throws the Monk out of the way, only to find RP standing in his path who points out that Severrack is right there. So they continue on.

RP would like to see the valley where he was born, when all this is over – which means that he’s probably going to die in the next 15 minutes.

Anyway, they’ve reached Severrack. Only to find that nobody opens the door. So RS breaks in and opens the door for them. The Abby is apparently completely empty. Seems like all the monks are dead from the plague. Maybe they were all Japanese monks as they all died at their work table and not in bed.

The Monk starts to pray and suddenly a second voice joins him – one of the monks is still alive. Or at least alive long enough to point at the mysterious book that lies on the center of the altar, right below a huge cross where they probably wouldn’t have found it otherwise.

Anyway, they take the book and start the “trial”. The witch rightly points out to NC that this is not exactly the fair trial he promised. The Monk tries to go ahead with the witch ritual,  but when she quotes NC’s old crusade captain to him, they realize that they are not dealing with a witch and they start an exorcism.

The witch/demon melts down the cage, attacks everyone and then turns into a bird and flies off (which makes me wonder why she didn’t do that before. Could have saved herself the trouble of the journey). The Monk comments with “We are going to need more holy water.” Yes. And a net to catch her and probably somebody competent enough to pull this exorcism off.

While NC and RP look for something – presumably the additional holy water, not a net – RP asks, “Tell me, are we doing this to defeat the demon or to save the girl?” To wich NC of course answers? “BOTH.”

RS brings holy water and NC fires him, as it’s too dangerous. But when RS insists that he would rather die than not honor his vows, NC knights him. Because that’s what you do with teenagers who are about to die.

To my infinite surprise, our band of heroes just asked the same question I already did: Why didn’t the witch/demon escape before when she so obviously could? Well, obviously she wanted to be in Severrack and she needed the ride? Because, you know, flying on your own to a place is just so damn exhausting – traveling in a cage is much more comfortable.

Finally they go to look for the demon and find a few monks who all died tied to their working desks, trying to copy the mysterious book. They conclude that the demon wanted the book, since it’s the last existing copy and the only thing with the exorcism stuff in it. Which still doesn’t explain why it would need to be brought there in a witch’s body in the company of knights. Because they weren’t secretive about their destination and the book itself wasn’t hidden either.

Anyway, while I’m busy asking questions, a bird thing slipped into one of the monks’ mouth, creating Zombie!Monk (so far still tied to his work desk) and the demon weighs in on the discussion and thanks the heroes for delivering it.

The demon, btw, looks basically like a winged minotaur. Made from bad CGI of course.

Anyway, within seconds, all the copies of the book are on fire and all the dead monks are gone – even though they were all tied to their desks before.

Anyway, the Monk tries to continue with the exorcism, while we get Zombie!Monk slaughter. According to RP, Zombie!Monks are like cockroaches, apparently.

And here we are, RP is stabbed in the backed by one of those cockroaches and he falls. I told you he would die within 15 minutes. It actually took them almost 16. Sorry about that – I was way off.

Anyway, since the Zombie!Monks are dying like flies, the demon comes himself and breaks the Monk’s neck to keep him from continuing with the exorcism. Which is incredibly bright thinking that I have to congratulate it on.

The demon tries to take the book, but NC tries to stop him, only to be thrown against a wall and saved by RP who got up once more and is promptly burned to death by the demon.

RS takes over the book, while NC nails the demon to a wall with two knives. RS goes about this whole exorcims in style, as you can plainly see:

While RS reads, the demon stabs NC over and over again, but NC is a hero and doesn’t let go.

And the exorcism is finished, the demon explodes and what remains is the witch (now only a girl, I guess) who mysteriously lost all her clothing.

RS bends over the dying NC and asks, “what can I do?” NC replies, “Keep her safe.” Because girls need protecting, as we all know.

The next day, RS and the girl bury the rest, take the book and ride off. The girl informs us in the voice over:

So the plague passed and life returned to the land. There are many who say that the plague was nothing but a pestilence that finally broke. Like the passing of a fever. They don’t know the darkness that almost was. The sacrifices made. The heros lost. I will tell their story. I was there. I know.

And with that final message of kitsch, we are done. We made it. All the way through.

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