Season of the Witch (2011)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Christopher Lee, Claire Foy, Robert Sheehan, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen

Directed by: Dominic Sena

Rating: 1 2 3

Ron Perlman and Nicolas Cage in Season of the Witch

If pushed for time, I could review Season of the Witch in a tweet: Load of tosh, but worth it to see Ron Perlman headbutt a demon. And that about sums up the level of this Hammer-esque tale of witchcraft and  demonry in ye olde Mediaeval days™.

Strangely, witches aren't a common staple of horror fare: while vampires, zombies and werewolves abound, witches (as opposed to possessed kiddies) tend to hang out in comedies rather than horror flicks. Think Bewitched rather than Suspiria (but please not The Craft…)

Christopher Lee as Cardinal D'Ambroise in Season of the Witch

Anyway, back to the olden days, where Behmen (Nicolas Cage – yay!) and Felson (Ron Perlman –double yay!!) are fighting in the Crusades. Sickened by the senseless slaughter committed in God's name, they desert the crusading army to roam through some rugged scenery – which turns a lot less scenic when they stumble into an area afflicted by a really rather nasty plague. Apparently, according to bubo-infested Cardinal D'Ambroise (Christopher Lee – triple yay!!! – proving yet again that he really will do anything he's asked to, including don a face full of oozing puss) the plague has been caused by a witch (Claire Foy), who must be transported to a remote monastery to be exorcised.

Now, like the far, far superior Black Death, the film could have raised questions about good and evil, faith and superstition: is the mysterious girl really a witch, or a scapegoat? But given that the opening sequence depicts a snarly-faced demon throwing a priest off a bridge, there's not much scope left for ambiguity. But hey, who needs subtlety when you can have murderous zombie ninja monks crawling across a monastery ceiling and dropping onto people's heads? Woohoo!

Yes, it's the biggest load of rubbish ever, but there's still something strangely likeable about Season of the Witch. The dialogue is rubbish, the historical 'detail' makes Robin Hood (starring Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner or Russell Crowe) look like a documentary and the plot is woefully predictable. But Cage and Perlman carry the daftness lightly on their broad, chainmailed shoulders , their easygoing camaraderie and refusal to give anything less than a hundred per cent making the whole thing far more enjoyable than it deserves to be. And the plague make-up is pretty good too – ew!

If you're a fan of Hammer horror, you could definitely do a lot worse than check out this unashamedly old fashioned chapter of gothic nonsense. Witchfinder General it ain't (in fact to mention the two films in the same breath is to do Michael Reeves' classic chiller a disservice) but it's good fun all the same. And hey, don't forget: Ron Perlman headbutts a demon!

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