I: Season of the Witch is poor. That's the word I'm looking for: "poor". It never even manages to be offensively bad or anything, but instead is so relentlessly lacking in worth and quality that it barely even resembles a professional product. The scariest thing about this horror movie is that it isn't generally regarded as the low point of the Halloween film series. I'm feeling the fear.
Plausibility ain't good. The hero throws a rubber mask across the room to cover the lens of a video camera on his first attempt, while strapped to a chair. The villain inexplicably doesn't kill him (unlike everyone else who might be even slightly threatening) but instead gives him a guided tour of his secrets. The cute young girl goes to bed with the chunky middle-aged hero, um, I guess because they're in a movie. (There's not even any nudity, unless you count man-bottom and/or seeing her through frosted glass. The latter is at the 36 minute mark, for all you perverts out there, but I swear it's not worth seeking out.) The poor excuse for a Terminator-a-like ending makes you wonder why she didn't do something earlier, like "before the hero killed everyone".
Oh, and there's also the small matter of what the hell was going on. The film presents a number of options, but never actually chooses between them. I was joking to myself that maybe the bad guys were aliens from Doctor Who, but honestly and truly this remains a live option.
To be fair, I should list the stuff I liked.
1. The final scene. Throughout the film, it's been possible to detect a little characterisation in our hero. He's a flirt and a liar who's split up with his wife, but must still stay in close contact because of the children. She shouts at him. She never believes him. In the beginning she's right not to, but at the end he's on the phone and trying to explain something of awful importance... but he's in the position of the boy who cried wolf. A better film would have made more of this, but it's still a memorable note to end on.
2. "Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace". I always like "written and directed by" credits... except that this time they're lying. The real writer, Nigel "Quatermass" Kneale, sued the producers to take his name off the movie after seeing how violent it was. Huh? Whassat? Hadn't he known his script was being used for a third instalment in the Halloween series? In fact the gore is pretty tame and what little we do get comprises the film's most memorable moments, with a good chunky surprise halfway through and a driller-killer bit that sadly keeps the money shot offcamera.
4. There's some atmosphere when we're first exploring the town of Santa Mira and the film detours into Stephen King "Creepy American Small Town" territory, with Santa Mira incidentally also being the setting of Invasion of the Body Snatchers
5. For once a film's producers used a genuinely dangerous snake for a scary scene, instead of another sodding Columbian Red-Tailed Boa.
The actors never come close to raising the material, except for the fun villain who'd go on to play the Old Man in RoboCops 1 and 2
. One aspect of the film is startlingly dated, in that it would be hard to present this kind of "I can't contact the outside world" situation in these days of the internet and mobile phones. I'm also not in a hurry to hear the music from that TV commercial again, although it bears up better than you'd think given that they repeat it about 10000000000 times. Amusingly the film's novelization became a bestseller, despite the commercial failure of the film itself, and was even reissued two years later. Frustratingly, this is a bad film that never even reaches the heights of "so bad it's good". It's simply lame. Avoid.