Season of the Witch

Supernatural period horror. Behman and Felson start as Crusading knights fighting wars with Muslims (not mentioned as such in the movie) who appear to be more mercenaries than holy warriors. But when leaders start making them kill innocent women and children of conquered cities, they excommunicate themselves from the Crusades to result in being outlaws on the run. So when they come upon a town afflicted by the plague, they are commissioned to transport an accused witch to another city that hosts a holy monastery of priests with the ability to legally try the women to discover her innocence or guilt.

Because of their bad experience with the Crusades, Behman  and Felson are highly dubious of the woman’s guilt, but still maintain the hope of a fair trial by the church so they take on the task with hopes of being pardoned of their desertion.

The movie plays with the possibility of the woman’s innocence, but eventually we see that in fact, she is not a witch, but is possessed by a demon whose goal is to draw the men to the monastery, now destroyed, in order to capture the last book of exorcism ritual that they carry with them. If they can destroy that book, they can run amok in the world.

This movie is an interesting mixture of anti-institutional Christianity with a positive support for individual spirituality and the reality of the Christian vision of the supernatural. Okay, the “magic” book of exorcism is a fiction, but the movie uses the audience’s anti-Christian prejudice based on the Crusades to subvert that prejudice by depicting a world very supernatural where Christianity wins out. The monk who travels with the heroes is hinted at being a lecherous rapist (a common bigoted stereotype in the modern cinema) but alas turns out to be a good guy who is libeled by lies. Quite refreshing and original.

In contradiction to this subversion, there remains another modern libel against Christianity in the movie. It seems that the name of “Jesus Christ” is only mentioned in movies as a cuss word or in the mouth of an evil criminal and never as a positive expression of specific faith. So in this movie the only time “Jesus Christ” is mentioned is in the mouth of an evil Crusade Leader who yells to his soldiers to “kill all the infidels in the name of Jesus Christ!” (repeated later in the movie to make the poinkt) Interesting that they used a word that was not used by Christians, but Muslims. Christians used the word “heathen,” and the word “infidel” is commonly known to be connected to Islamic imperialism. So, maybe the filmmakers were trying to make a predictable moral equivalency of institutional Christianity and institutional Islam. In any case, Season of the Witch portrays a balanced world of false and true Christianity within a paradigm that affirms supernatural evil and supernatural good.