Talk about historical revisionism! The movie Season of the Witch takes rewriting history into the realm of the supernatural.
Set in the fourteenth century, it questions whether the accused witch (played by Claire Foy) is indeed such—she was found wandering and muttering, and the plague known as the Black Death followed—or whether she was only another victim of the Church’s ignorance and superstition. That this may be a false dichotomy is foreshadowed by an early incident: In a secret nighttime exorcism following the execution of three witches (hanged and, for good measure drowned), the dredged-up women become reanimated, costing the lone exorcist his life.
Meanwhile, two errant Knights (Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman) gain our sympathy (in one of the movie’s redeeming parts) by abandoning the bloody Crusades, fed up with Church corruption and the slaughter of innocents. They are spared execution as deserters when they agree to transport the accused witch to a distant monastery, where a secret book’s ancient rituals can help determine her guilt or innocence.
Turns out, the monks are all dead, although—you guessed it—their corpses can be reanimated by the swarming demons who have taken over the place. The ensuing battle (which adds to the movie’s long list of credits for stunts) ends with the triumph of good over evil. One young Knight survives, along with the exorcised, beautiful, young former witch, and they ride off together into the proverbial sunset.
As a consequence, the plague ends, but while many will believe it merely passed, the girl promises to tell the truth about what really happened. Hey, the movie says, those witch killings were the fault of demons, not superstitious mania.
I am revealing too much—if, that is, you mistakenly wanted to see a film that could only be truly appreciated by juvenile fantasists or those whose minds have still not escaped their medieval confines. Fact is, a theater manager confided to me that Season of the Witch was doing so poorly at the box office that it was not expected to last much longer than the publication of this review. Oh, you’re welcome.
Rating: One and a half wooden nickels (out of four)