The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 95 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Claire Foy, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Robert Sheehan, Christopher Lee
Directed by: Dominic Sena
Music by: Atli Orvarsson
Written by: Bragi Schut
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 28, 2011
"Not all souls can be saved"
Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman star in this supernatural action adventure about a heroic Crusader, Knight Behmen (Cage) and his fellow soldier, Felson (Perlman) who must transport a woman accused of being a witch to a remote monastery. The arduous journey across perilous terrain tests their strength and courage as they discover the girl's secret and find themselves battling a terrifyingly powerful force that will determine the fate of the world.
Crusading knight, Behmen (Cage), and his faithful companion/fellow crusader Felson (Perlman), tired of the brutality of war and misguided direction of men hiding behind the church abandon their calling and return to Europe. Upon their arrival they discover that the Black Plague has decimated many. A beleaguered church, deeming witchcraft as the culprit of the plague, has arrested a young girl who is suspected as the source. A local cardinal seeks out the two knights and commands that they transport the accused witch to a remote abbey, where monks will perform a ritual in hopes of ending the pestilence. Behman accepts the assignment under the condition that young peasant girl receives a fair trial. They set out with a local guide, a priest and a third knight who is grieving the loss of his wife and daughter to the Black Plague. After a series of inexplicable mishaps they come to realize that their young captive is something more than she appears to be. When the embattled party arrives at the abbey, a horrific discovery jeopardizes the knight's pledge to ensure the girl receives fair treatment, and pits them against an inexplicably powerful and ancient destructive force.
I would like to tell you that Season of the witch is an engaging and edgy supernatural action thriller. I would LIKE to tell you that but unfortunately I can't. The premise is fine but the script gets mired down in attempts at epic proportions and needless drama that eats into its 90 minute runtime leaving little development for what is ostensibly the focal point of the narrative. The opening shows promise but the sequences that immediately follow present a back story on Behman and Felson that runs too long and too campy. It covers a twelve year time span during their crusading years and features cheap looking special effects, nonsensical buddy banter and uninspired drama that is both poorly written and played. Afterward things quickly shift to their presence in the plague infested lands where introductions are brief before they set out on their quest to transport the witch to the monks at the abbey. Along the way there are veiled attempts to build suspense while purposely playing up the potential guilt or innocence of the girl. It is made abundantly clear (too much so) that there is more to her than meets the eye which in my opinion is probably the only interesting aspect of the film. Later when things play out there are no surprises, effectively frightening moments or rewarding payoffs. It just comes away feeling hokey, melodramatic and almost laughable.
I remain a Nicholas Cage fan but seeing him running around on the battle field with that ridiculous helmet on his head I couldn't help but feel for him. The sword play/fight choreography was so obviously staged that it never felt legitimate. The dialogue didn't come close to coinciding with the time period depicted in the story. As for the cast, I like Ron Perlman but he isn't much of an actor and I didn't care for Stephen Graham in the role of Hagamar. Ulrich Thomsen is great but isn't onscreen long enough to be a factor, neither is Christopher Lee who I didn't even recognize. Thanks goodness for newcomer Claire Foy who plays the girl/witch and Stephen Campbell Moore as the priest. I thought she did a decent job and proved to be the film's most engaging character. There is an alternate ending included. It's a little different and doesn't change the outcome but I thought it was probably just as good as the theatrical ending. Luckily this film isn't long at 94 minutes or so. I think that had that time been spent differently this had the potential to be better. Unfortunately Season of the witch turned out to be rather dull, suffering from lackluster special effects, a mediocre script, and uninspired performances from leads Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman.
The rating is for thematic elements, violence and disturbing content.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Season of the witch comes to Blu-ray Disc from Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 36 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.7 Mbps.
This film's elements aren't lent to overly vibrant colors and high gloss video quality. Images tend to lean toward darker color schemes, and grittier textures that provide the look that the filmmakers strive for to drive the story's elements. This is done to good effect. Shadow delineation is quite good and revealing of subtle details within dark backgrounds and low lighting sequences which gave those scenes better visual depth. Stable contrast and black levels allow scenes containing mixed content to appear dynamic with punchy dark highlights. Detail is rendered quite well with crisp textures and definitive resolution that brings forth subtle nuance within images onscreen. Colors are limited to darker tones with occasional splashes of vivid hues which stand out nicely against the film's dark visual aesthetic.
The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack has good dynamic range, detail rich clarity and makes ample use of the entire surround platform to drive the film's elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room's acoustic environment is notable. I found that the audio seems to have been mixed at a lower volume which required me to raise it beyond my listening reference level. This compensated but there were still times where I felt that the front soundstage sounded a little compressed. Otherwise I was satisfied with the quality of what I heard. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the palpably rich bass and dynamic impact associated with the action based sequences. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction. I enjoyed this audio presentation but for an action based film there was little about it that left an indelible impression on me.
- (HD) 7 deleted scenes
- (HD) Becoming the demon - 8 minute production featurette
- (HD) On a crusade - 6 minute production featurette
- (HD) Alternate ending - 9 minutes
- Theatrical trailer
- Digital Copy Bonus Disc
Season of the witch takes a fairly decent premise and mires it down with a boring script, uninspired performances by Nicholas Cage/co-star Ron Perlman, and paper thin special effects. On a positive note its high definition presentation on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment proves more satisfying than the film which may make it worth a rental for genre fans.
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