Season of the Witch (1972)
Directed by George A. Romero
Cast: Jan White, Ray Laine, Bill Thunhurst, Joedida McClain, Virginia Greenwald.
1972 89 minutes
Rated: (for violence, profanity, sexual situations, and brief nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 27, 1998.
"Season of the Witch," which was director George A. Romero's first film after making the groundbreaking 1968 horror classic, "Night of the Living Dead," is a creepy and unusual experience. It has a sort of a story, but is intercut frequently with on-going dream sequences, which, paired with a loud, bizarre music score, are admittedly very disturbing.
Joan Mitchell (Jan White), an unhappy housewife and mother of a teenage daughter, has been suffering from a terrible recurring nightmare that features a person in a demon mask trying to break into her house. Her husband, Jack (Ray Laine), is always away on business trips, it seems, and so with a lot of time on her hands, she becomes intrigued with a practicing witch who lives near her. Trying out her spells to see if they work, she first manages to seduce her daughter's older boyfriend (Bill Thunhurst), and then begins to sway towards a potential murder.
"Season of the Witch," is no ordinary horror film, that's for sure. It is in no way a slasher film, nor is it about the living dead, which Romero has made quite a few films about. It is deliberately paced, with lots of exposition sequences, and then there are the frightening dream scenes. It is a skillful, respectable picture, and is extremely effective.
Unfortunately, "Season of the Witch," comes as a disappointment by the film's end for several reasons. The plotline and motives of the characters are very muddled, and we never really understand why Joan is so taken aback by witchcraft, except that it is interesting to her. The characters are also not very tightly written. In one scene, Joan's husband will be kind and caring, and in the next he will be physically abusive and distant. A subplot involving Joan's daughter is never resolved in any way, and she is not given enough screen time for us to care either way. The last scene is anticlimactic, leaving almost every story thread hanging loose, and there is no payoff.
Romero has proven himself to be a masterful director, and it is clearly evident in, "Season of the Witch," that he was onto something that potentially would be horrifying. Maybe the answer to these problems lies in the fact that, prior to its release, the film was cut from 130 minutes to a relatively short 89 minutes. By cutting 41 minutes of footage, almost half of the current running time, it seems that Romero edited out the elements that the film desperately needs more of, in order to be a satisfying experience, rather than an unfulfilling one.
© 1998 by Dustin Putman