Season of the Witch: A Movie That Should Be Buried In A Ditch

7 01 2011

Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman star in Season of the Witch, yet another attempt to help Cage payback his excessive IRS debt. Here’s the breakdown:

Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) are brothers-in-arms, fighting valiantly in the Crusades. But when they become disillusioned with the motivations of the Church, the duo desert, quickly coming upon a plague-ridden land. The plague is attributed to the machinations of “The Black Witch,” and the local church authorities task Behmen and Felson with delivering the young girl to the monks of Severak to be put on trial. They are accompanied by a priest, a seasoned knight, a merchant and an altar boy – and each must battle the elements and the deceptions of the witch to survive the journey.

The Monkey: The movie opens with a truly compelling teaser. Three women are put on “trial” for witchcraft and brutally murdered, followed by a creepy scene that sets a wonderful tone for the movie, promising a ghoulishly good time.

Surprisingly, Cage and Perlman were palatable, neither bothering with feigned European accents (thank god). Perlman acted as the comic relief, and his asides were genuinely funny, if a bit anachronistic.

Relative newcomer Claire Foy played the titular witch with the perfect mix of mystery, sensuousness and evil. She brought an astonishing amount of depth to a character that could easily have been cliché and stereotypical. I really hope to see more of her in the future (despite her eerie likeness to wooden-actress-extraordinaire, Kristen Stewart).

The Weasel: You know going into a movie like this that the plot will be formulaic, the acting will be subpar and the ending will be predictable. Season of the Witch delivered on all these counts, but on an epic scale. After the movie’s promising opening scene, it all went downhill from there.

Audiences are “treated” to an endless montage of Behmen and Felson fighting countless battles in the Crusades, wearing ridiculous armour and clanging cheap prop broadswords in slow motion. This whole sequence was unnecessary and slowed the movie to a grinding halt within the first 20 minutes – and the movie never recovered.

Audiences are then introduced to the rag-tag team of witch bait, but care so little about any of them (Behmen and Felson included), that when they are summarily and predictably picked off one-by-one, the only emotion elicited is excitement that the credits are imminent. The deaths aren’t clever or gruesome enough to be memorable and the obstacles our team of heroes must overcome are so mundane and cliché, it’s mind-numbing. There were countless opportunities to turn seen-before moments on their head, in particular, the “we have to cross the rickety old bridge” scene (which appears in about every action movie where a rickety bridge might happen to be). But no – Season of the Witch doesn’t even bother adding anything new, delivering yet another anti-climactic “action” scene.

The movie continued to unravel, and by the time the zombie monks show up, it’s too little too late, and you’re actually rooting for the witch to slaughter everyone and end the movie. During the climactic battle scene, I was praying that Ron Perlman would transform into Hellboy, blow everyone to smithereens, smirk at the camera and say, “Hellboy 3, hitting theatres summer 2012.” No such luck. It’s too bad, because Season of the Witch had the potential to be a creepy, gruesome, medieval version of the modern slasher flick – but it just ended up being…awful.

A truly epic failure of a movie that belongs alongside the straight-to-DVD Uwe Boll drivel.

0.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Is Nicolas Cage taking on any role to help pay his back taxes? Can you even believe Christopher Lee had a cameo? Or, do you completely disagree – did you like the movie? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Paranormal Activity 2: A Brilliantly Conceived, Yet Safe, Horror Sequel

22 10 2010

The first Paranormal Activity was a phenomenon. Making $108 million at the U.S. box office on a $15,000 budget, it was the surprise success of 2009. Now, the demon is back for Paranormal Activity 2, and filmmakers promise it won’t fall into the “horrible horror sequel” trap. Regardless, Paranormal Activity 2 will definitely dominate the box office this weekend, and will likely give Saw 3D a run for its money during Halloween weekend. WARNING! This review DOES CONTAIN SMALL SPOILERS! Here’s the breakdown:

Kristi and Dan welcome their new son, Hunter, to their home in Carlsbad, California. Dan’s daughter from his deceased wife, Ali, also lives with the family, as well as loyal dog, Abby. After their home is trashed in an apparent home invasion, Dan has security cameras installed throughout the house. These cameras document a chilling series of events, as evil begins to manifest itself in the house.

The Monkey: Just like the first movie, Paranormal Activity 2 knows what it’s good at and runs with it: building suspense. No horror movie can make an audience jump at the slam of a door or the creak of a stair like these movies. Is it kinda cheesy, kinda a cheap scare? Yeah…but it works!

The addition of the security camera footage was an inspired idea by the filmmakers. It allows for a more plausible explanation of how all this footage was recorded, and cuts out a lot of the shaky camera work that can make audiences queasy.

But the best thing this “sequel” has going for it, is how it was tied to the first movie. I could be wrong, but I have to think this movie was written after the first movie became such a success. With that in mind, the way the writers managed to seamlessly integrate this story with the first installment is nothing short of brilliant. Paranormal Activity 2 is really more like Paranormal Activity 0.5 + Paranormal Activity 1.5…it’s a prequel AND a sequel. I’ll leave it at that; don’t want to give too much away. But suffice it to say, fans of the first will love how this second installment adds to the mythology and opens up a whole new can of worms.

The Weasel: Unfortunately, Paranormal Activity 2 really doesn’t stand alone. It’s more of an addition to the first movie. And while the filmmakers took what worked from the first (building suspense to a fever pitch) and applied it to the second, they left it at that. They didn’t build any further on the foundation of the first, but remained content within the safety of what they do best. I was hoping this movie would step out of its comfort zone, that it would deliver the next level of scary, the next level of nerve-fraying suspense…but Paranormal Activity 2 was pretty much, beat-for-beat, like its predecessor.

A great horror “sequel” that deserves its inevitable box office success. It’s just too bad the creativity of the story couldn’t have been applied some more creative scares.

3.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Was Paranormal Activity 2 as scary as Paranormal Activity? Do you think there will be a Paranormal Activity 3? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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