This Terrible Nicholas Cage Film Is Only Redeemed by a Gorgeous Hard-Boiled Egg
"Season of the Witch" (2011) is obvious anti-witch propaganda. The only good parts of it are CGI wolves, and one scene in which Nicolas Cage casually peels a hard-boiled egg but doesn't eat it.
Screenshots via "Season of the Witch"
Actually, It's Good is a new column in which we revisit movies that received less than a 15 percent critics' scores on Rotten Tomatoes, and re-rate them ourselves. This week, we revisit "Season of the Witch" (2011).
Critics' score: 11%
Broadly score: 6.5%
When we decided to review Season of the Witch, a 2011 film starring Nicholas Cage as a grizzled witch hunter, we were on a high from the last installment of our column: We had just watched The Covenant, a very sexy film about shirtless male witches who kiss at one point. Season of the Witch, at 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, had nine points of critical prestige over our beloved Covenant, and critically derided films about witches had been serving us well so far.
Season of the Witch was a rude awakening. This was a movie that was not even about witches (the title is very misleading). It is only about witches inasmuch as it disparages them, advocates for their public assassination, and promotes the triumph of Christianity over the occult. No one in it is even hot, nor are they ever shirtless. Everyone wears loose-fitting peasant garb at all times, and occasionally squat and vaguely phallic helmets. (To be fair, the loose-fitting peasant garb seems to predict Yeezy Season, and looked fashionable.) We were forced to ask ourselves if we could honestly review this cinematic work for our famed column "Actually, It's Good ," because it was objectively not good. But we prevailed nonetheless.
The 98-minute film opens with a man throwing three accused witches off of a bridge—a worrying start, to say the least. The fiendish witch-slayer then expresses his desire to pull the three witch corpses out of the river and set them aflame as part of some sadistic Christian ritual, but his companions don't heed his warnings. Later, he sneaks back under the cover of darkness to finish the deed. There it is heavily implied that the women weren't wrongly accused by the patriarchal, oppressive religion—at least not all of them—because a supernatural force erupts out of one of their decaying bodies and demolishes the priest.
From there, we are transported centuries into the future, to a weirdly cheerful Crusades montage. Here we behold Nicholas Cage, wearing a wig that would not look out of place atop the head of an actor playing a surfer bro in season 4 of The O.C., as he engages in banter with the actor who played Hellboy while they both lay waste to their foes. This is a discomfiting viewing experience, considering that the Crusades were a three-century-long bloodbath launched by the papacy against Muslims.
Nicolas Cage eventually comes to the realization that the Crusades might actually be bad, but only after he accidentally stabs a white lady. This realization spurs him to throw his vaguely phallic helmet to the ground, denounce the Christian cause, and storm off, bringing Hellboy with him. The pair wanders aimlessly for a bit, only to discover that a hideous plague has descended upon all the land; there are pustules as far as the eye can see. Upon entering a particularly plague-ridden town, Nicolas Cage and his companion are arrested as deserters and subsequently forced to transport an accused witch to a remote abbey, where a team of monks will destroy her powers after giving her a "fair trial." It is understood that the plague is her fault, even though everyone keeps touching each other's pustules in a very unhygienic manner.
Nicholas Cage and his friend assemble a crew of like three other guys: One is the priest who set them on their quest, the other two don't have anything remotely resembling a personality, and none are hot. Later, they spot a sixth person. "I think someone is following us," Hellboy intones; the camera cuts to a man on a horse standing completely exposed on a hill, not covered by anything at all, silhouetted in stark contrast against a pale sky, who is obviously following them.
(This scene illustrates a signature rhetorical device employed constantly throughout Season of the Witch: Everything that happens on screen is painstakingly explained in dialogue afterwards, because the target audience is literal idiots. At first we bristled at this tendency, but as the film wore on and we became increasingly incapable of processing complex thoughts, we came to depend on it and see it as an act of great generosity. In another particularly memorable scene, Hellboy's sword falls on the ground. The next shot is a zoom-in on the sword's hilt, which has a distinctive insignia on it, followed by a close-up of a spectator looking angry and perplexed; he is clearly in trouble. In the next scene, Hellboy says, more or less, "They saw the insignia on my sword from Christian army. We're in trouble." In the following scene, someone arrests him and Nicolas Cage, and says, basically, "Come to jail. I am arresting you because I saw your distinctive sword.")
For the rest of Season the Witch, we follow the crew of tunic-clad men as they lug the alleged witch around in a wagon. She vacillates between seeming like a victim and acting demonic as hell—she keeps using magic to kill people, but they probably deserve it, so it seems fine to any rational viewer. At one point, she summons a pack of CGI wolves to attack one of her escorts after he tries to end her life. (This part is extremely cool, even though contemporary reviews were wrongly disparaging of the noble computer-generated beasts.)
In these moments, it seems like the witch is coming into her power and exacting rightful revenge against her captors. At certain points, even her male escorts—Nicolas Cage especially—start to think that she is wrongfully accused. But it's all a trick: The "witch" turns out to be a regular woman who is possessed by a demon. This demon, we learn, had also possessed the accused witch who was tossed off the bridge centuries ago, and has been stalking the mortal coil ever since. The possession ends up justifying the alleged witch's rough treatment; also, despite the fact that there were no actual witches in this film, no one ever expresses remorse for hurling innocent women to their deaths or slandering the craft in general.
As devoted witch proponents, we spent the majority of the film blindly supporting the alleged witch, convinced that history would vindicate her and her army of wolves. The fact that Nicolas Cage was occasionally outraged by the Church's hypocrisy seemed to support our view. In the end, however, violent and dogmatic Christianity was portrayed as a noble thing, a tool with which demons can be vanquished for good. This message sucks and is blatantly anti-witch, and we do not endorse it.
With that said, there are scenes buried in Season of The Witch that redeem it. There's one inexplicably long scene in which everyone tries to push their wagon over a bridge, which was pretty OK. As we said earlier, there are CGI wolves. Towards the end, you realize that Nicolas Cage and Hellboy are both illiterate because neither can read the spell to vanquish the demon; this is the only part of the film that is not explained to the viewer several different times. And, most notably, the film finally gives hard-boiled eggs some much deserved screen time. One never sees a hero enjoying a freshly boiled egg. In Season of the Witch, however, the practical paleo food is given its full due: While sitting around a campfire with his fellow unappealing men, Nicolas Cage spends 11 precious seconds peeling the crisp shell of the egg from its buoyant white meat. The camera lingers for a moment on the egg, then the high-protein snack glimmers flirtatiously from the corner of the frame throughout the rest of the scene.
Rated separately from the rest of the film, the hard-boiled egg scene gets an 89.25% score. It would be higher if there had been a second full-frontal egg shot.