This film is painful, even if the idea could have been a decent film in the hands of someone with any skill writing, directing or even editing.
Written and Directed by George Romero
Starring Jan White, Raymond Laine, Ann Muffly, Bill Thunhurst, Joedda McClain
The fact that Romero had to fight to get this story told the way he wanted to, even after the relative success of The Night of the Living Dead should amount to something They cut the budget and teased that he would get some back if he added more sex scenes. He would not. Then they marketed the film as Hungry Wives instead of Romero’s original title Jack’s Wife. The movie never caught on, partially due to that confusion. He took it in the shorts for this one.
As admirable his fortitude, Season of the Witch doesn’t amount to much, even to the director himself. It’s the one film he said he would like to have remade. There is an interesting premise, but not much more than that. The story is presented as a middle-aged Catholic house wife (White) descending into the darkness of witchcraft after years of blind obedience. It plays more like a bored housewife has a mid-life crisis, buys a bunch of trinkets, has an affair and has a series of nightmares that lead to her freedom, inadvertently.
The acting feels like bottom of the barrell local theatre. A bunch of weekend actors and actresses put on their best outfits and over emote while the center character, Joan, sits in a cone of silence.
Some could look at this as a film about liberation, but the whole thing feels like a blanket over the soul. Nothing in the film, even a passionate affair, feels like it’s taking place with humans.
The story as it is would be intriguing. The script as it is would be a disaster. Attempts at shock (husband berating his wife about their daughter being “balled” in the next room) fall flat on delivery. It feels like one’s dad searching for a word that might be cool at the time. Jane and her daughter being with the same man (Laine) doesn’t rate because the guy is supposed to be a “kid” and he looks as old as Jane. Laine was in his mid-30’s and White was in her early-40’s.
Worse than this, the supernatural element amounts to…bad dreams of a guy in a cheap mask. She does some spells, then conventionally makes them come true through her own work. The premise behind the spells, that a man might sleep with her, had no purpose because he already said he would.
Beyond White and her daughter Nikki (McClain), everyone else that occupies the screen feel like people you would not ever want to hear say anything. It’s Jersey Shore Housewives.
The editing is ridiculous. The imagery amounts to how can we make something spooky out of common household items…without adding anything to the house that they let us use for the production. The soundtrack is equally jarring, other than for one instance where they use Donovan’s song of the same title. That sequence is the one thing that works in the film.
This film is painful, even if the idea could have been a decent film in the hands of someone with any skill writing, directing or even editing. Take the average bad film of the early ’70’s (and there were a lot) and take it down a notch. Then you have this.
I am sure there has to be something about Romero’s talents as a director I don’t understand. The things I have seen worth crediting him for is being on the forefront of the zombie movement, and having one good line about consumerism in the second film. Beyond that, it’s debatable how he was great, exactly.
At least he always stuck to his convictions.
(* out of *****)