Who's In It: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Claire Foy, Robert Sheehan, Christopher Lee
The Basics: Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman are careerist 14th century knights who quit the Crusades, disillusioned by the Church. Enlisted by a dying priest, the two are tasked with transporting a sexy witch (Claire Foy) accused of causing the Black Plague to a distant monastery. It's The Seventh Seal meets Get Him to the Greek meets Lord of the Rings as if filtered through Uwe Boll's hack-tastic brain, only a guy named Dominic Sena (Swordfish, Gone in 60 Seconds) made it. Don't worry, he included the crappy made-in-Hungary production value, bad CG, and Nicolas Cage-isms that you're expecting from this January release. And there are flying zombie monks! Uwe would be proud.
What's the Deal: As far as a crazy-on-paper Nicolas Cage movies go, Season of the Witch doesn't disappoint inasmuch as it pretty much meets our lowered expectations. This is the kind of movie where knights turn to each other mid-battle to ask, "Who's buying drinks?" during a 10-minute montage of best-of Crusades highlights. The kind of anachronistic, schlocky genre fare in which sexy nubile witches play mind games and metal riffs underscore CG wolf attacks and nobody asks Ron Perlman to attempt an accent even though everyone else is. More money, it would seem, went into the oozing face pustules budget than into the special effects. If the power of Nic Cage did not compel us as a people so strongly, you might have seen this go straight to DVD. But compel us he does. And though Cage doesn't crank that signature kookiness all the way to 11, Season of the Witch is still the first truly bizarre major film release of 2011, which should count for something among genre fans.
Notice I Didn't Say It's So Bad It's Good: There's nothing good about Season of the Witch, really. Except that it brought two awesome bad movie actors together in one film to swing swords and exchange quips in medieval Europe and basically do whatever the hell they wanted. Cage occasionally pours a little too much effort into the fusty period dialogue, but he and Perlman both revel in the comic moments as if acknowledging the ridiculousness of it all to us secretly, through the screen.
Most Awesome/Befuddling Instance of Movie Badness: It's a toss-up between the moment I realized that the actor buried beneath layers of grody plague-face make-up was screen legend Sir Christopher Lee… and when Ron Perlman head-butts the Devil. But the reveal of the witch's true nature ran close behind, along with the weirdly jive-talking voice that I swear came out of the Devil as he MMA-grapples with Nic Cage.
Keep An Eye On: 23-year-old Robert Sheehan (Red Riding, The Tudors, Cherrybomb), the young Irish actor with the beautiful face who plays an eager tag-along in Cage's witch-transporting party. Of all the actors in the cast, he seems to have been the one most under the impression that this would be a serious movie. A for effort, kid.