Joan Mitchell, a bored suburban housewife gets together with her bored suburban housewife friends and together they lament their failed (often abusive) marriages and lack of life skills. Joan is also plagued by nightmares of masked intruders breaking into her boring suburban home and trying to attack her. With the help of her daughter and “turned on” hippie professor boyfriend, Joan discovers that she is indeed a bored suburban housewife and gets involved with witchcraft when introduced to it through an acquaintance. This of course leads to all manner of banal housewifian debauchery as Joan descends into extramarital sex and lighting candles/drawing arcane symbols. And there’s an unexplained cat.
I’m trying to think of something positive to say about this one. Uhh… there are some boobs and a fairly grisly killing near the end. Oh and a naked butt. If you want to slog through over an hour of women chatting about their vapid useless lives peppered with feminist undertones to get to that, this is definitely the film to watch. Joan isn’t even remotely attractive so it’s unfortunate that she is providing the aforementioned nude scenes (in fact she really reminds me of Grizelda the Witch from The Hilarious House of Frightenstein). Her slutty daughter is ok looking, but adds little to the film and doesn’t show any skin whatsoever. Incidentally there are no shoes in this film either. I mean I’m sure the ladies aren’t trudging around barefoot or anything but there are no hot shoes or long lingering foot shots at all (wtf…. don’t these people know how to make movies?). So other than the disenfranchised talking and blathering on about nothing, a bizarre encounter with a fake joint, and more lamenting/nightmares nothing really happens in the film until the last 20 minutes or so.
Season of the Witch (I prefer Hungry Wives – what a fucking awesome title) seems lazily and hastily shot, with little or no consideration for location or set design which is in fact quite uncharacteristic for a Romero movie (to be fair they did run out of money while filming and the main set is the house of one of the crew members’ parents). Coupled with poor acting and very weak leads, the end result is a dull and uninteresting film that is quite a chore to sit through. The aforementioned end segments are admittedly somewhat interesting provided you can make it that far. I really think there’s a solid premise here, the story just takes far too long to get to the point. The film would have benefited from less of the same conversations and more character development as it’s quite clear early on that the characters are unhappy and devoid of meaning. Hammering that point home only serves to pad out the already too long run time and up the tedium factor. I would love to see an author like Bret Easton Ellis rewrite the script for Season of the Witch – all the characters would be coked up and fucking everything that moves while still able to get their lament on ad nauseum.
It’s important to note that following The Night of the Living Dead in 1968 Romero quickly churned out two films in an effort to try and avoid being “typecast” as a horror director, namely this and There’s Always Vanilla. Looks like that didn’t pan out so well. Romero has been quoted as saying that he is unhappy with Season of the Witch and it is the only film in his repertoire that he would like to redo. For those interested, There’s Always Vanilla is available on the Anchor Bay release DVD of Season of the Witch as a bonus feature. I think I will let it sit on the shelf for a few more years before tackling that one…
As with most (all?) Romero opuses, there is a pretty strong underlying theme here: that of course being feminism and the rise in popularity of occult practices in the late 60s/early 70s. Joan is certainly repressed and feels trapped, unable to relate to the people she’s forced to associate with in her little accepted social circle. Couple that with a physically abusive and emotionally absent husband and you have a recipe for disaster. She clearly feels that witchcraft is empowering in some way, possibly even freeing her from the emotional bonds of her current situation. It’s interesting to note the alternate title for the UK release, “Jack’s Wife” as an attempt to further point out the character’s lack of individuality, painting her as a belonging instead. Personally, I’d have advised Joan to stab her husband in the neck while he was sleeping – it just seems so much less work than banging her daughter’s self-righteous boyfriend and reciting incantations with mixed (read: no) results.
Also of note – the Donovan song of the same name is used at one point in the middle of the film and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get stuck in my head for days. I’ve heard it once before, years ago when I first saw Season of the Witch and as soon as I heard it again with this second viewing it popped back in there. I think Donovan was the real witch here. Don’t get me started about Hurdy Gurdy Man.
Albeit mundane and a test of even the most stoic of viewers’ patience, Season of the Witch is far from subtle in its message and theme. Completists will feel compelled to seek it out, despite it being Romero’s weakest film. As a possible cure for insomnia it may be worth a viddy also.
Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.