Season of the Witch DVD

Monday, 27 October 2008 11:34

Best known for his zombie movies, George Romero has also been responsible for some far less conventional films, including "Martin", "Knightriders" and "Monkey Shines". He followed up his début, "Night of the Living Dead", with some interesting career choices, and "Season of the Witch" (aka "Hungry Wives"/"Jack's Wife") is one of them.

Jan White stars as Joan Mitchell, a neglected and disillusioned wife whose husband spends many days away on business and barely notices her even when he is at home, and whose daughter seems keen to get her out of the house so she can spend some time with her lover. Joan worries constantly about her age and the directionless nature of her life. After an encounter with a tarot reader, she becomes fascinated with witchcraft, initially just benignly reading chapters of a primer on the subject, but soon moving to buying ingredients and equipment to cast some spells.

 

Season of the Witch on DVDHer powerlessness in her regular life leads to her craving power and influence through witchcraft. Her secret, extra-curricular activities don't end there either, as she's soon getting involved in an affair with a tutor many years her junior. As any movie buff will tell you, this downward cycle of depravity can only end badly!

"Season of the Witch" is at times quite subtle in its ability to disturb and unsettle its audience. The opening title sequence alone features a strange cacophony of familiar sound effects and electronic bleeps, accompanying a dreamy scene of Joan as almost a literal slave to her emotionally distant husband.

They drift through a forest with Joan trailing behind, all the time being lashed by tree branches as she struggles to keep up. Throughout the film, Joan suffers from nightmares featuring a threatening male figure, dressed from head to toe in black and sporting a bizarre mask that is part Green Man, part gargoyle. This mask probably represents both the pagan and sinister aspects of her witchcraft.

The nightmares are very effective in shaking up both the protagonist and the viewer, partly through the use of more strange sounds and music, off-kilter camera angles, and also claustrophobic, tightly-shot scenes as the masked figure invades Joan's one remaining defence - her home.

The viewer is never put at ease, as even when Joan is amongst her so-called friends, they’re always playing games of social one-upmanship, verbally stabbing each other in the back, or frequently to each other's faces! They prey on their individual weaknesses, and think nothing of picking on the most vulnerable people in the group for their own amusement. They seek the acceptance of the group whilst undermining those around them. All in all, they’re not a nice bunch of people!

The movie was shot in 1972, and in a fashion and decor sense, it really shows its age! Hideous wallpaper frames every shot, and garish dresses and scary hairdos abound. Unfortunately, whilst the picture quality has obviously been remastered to some degree, the soundtrack is sometimes lacking in clarity, and echoing dialogue occasionally makes following the film a little difficult. Sometimes this enhances the atmosphere, though, as it makes Joan’s nightmares all the more unnerving.

All told, it’s an interesting if old-fashioned horror film. It does succeed in making you think about how people interact, their impact on each other's sometimes fragile demeanours, and definitely gets under your skin!

The DVD includes an insightful featurette about George Romero’s take on his numerous films, along with an interview with Jan White, alternate opening titles, and a trailer. Not bad for a relatively low-profile film.

The DVD is out now on the Anchor Bay Entertainment label, priced £12.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

 

Season of the Witch (1972, cert 15). Director: George A Romero

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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