CULT CORNER: ‘Season of the Witch’ is an interesting departure for horror icon George Romero
Director George A. Romero’s name will forever be attached to zombie lore. He singlehandedly changed the horror movie industry by creating the modern zombie and its “rules,” and fans will forever be grateful. However, Romero has done a number of films that are outside the “Living Dead” canon and even outside the horror genre.
One such film is “Season of the Witch.” While the title and some of the content may help classify the film as “horror,” it is decidedly more dramatic. It was released in 1973, five years after “Night of the Living Dead” and five years before “Dawn of the Dead.” Romero was attached to zombies, but not in the way he would further become in the years that followed.
Many forget that Romero’s follow-up to “Night of the Living Dead” was actually a romantic comedy called “There’s Always Vanilla.” As a director, he seemed to not want to be pegged to one genre, but as he career continued, it became apparent that horror was where he belonged.
So when “Season of the Witch” was released, with “The Crazies” coming out that same year, many thought he was returning to horror yet again. However, this film had much more of a feminist statement on society, with the occult acting as a backstory. This, along with production problems and other issues, led to a poor box office take and a movie that seemed relegated to back study shelves for years to come.
The story follows bored suburban housewife Joan Mitchell and her husband Jack Mitchell. Joan has grown tired of the homemaker life and her dominating, abusive husband. She soon meets the new woman in their Pittsburgh neighborhood, Marion, who practices witchcraft. Joan becomes intrigued and is led down a dark path.
While this sounds ominous, what plays out on screen is more dramatic than horrific. “Season of the Witch” was originally set to be titled” Jack’s Wife” and also received a cut from distributors to market it as “softcore pornography,” retitling it “Hungry Wives.”
While this is far from Romero’s greatest film, it still has substance and a solid story. In fact, he said in interviews that it is the only film of his that he wished to remake. Sadly, with his death last year, that will never happen but, thankfully, this film is receiving some deserved limelight, along with other films in his filmography.
Arrow Video released a Blu-ray box set entitled “Between Night and Dawn” in 2017 with three of Romero’s aforementioned films: “There’s Always Vanilla,” “The Crazies,” and “Season of the Witch.” The releases are impeccable, with beautiful transfers and wonderful extra features, including a great conversation between recent Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and George Romero on the “Season of the Witch” Blu-ray. Thankfully, Arrow Films also released these films individually in 2018.
Is it worth seeing? “Season of the Witch” is not a film for casual moviegoers. It is not even a film for all horror fanatics. It’s one of Romero’s most difficult films to classify, as it walks the line between drama and thriller without fully committing to any one genre. However, it is a very good movie that has finally received the release that it deserves.
If you are a fan of Romero’s work outside of the “Living Dead” franchise, “Season of the Witch” is most likely already on your radar, so give it a chance. This is a film for those who don’t mind a lot of dialogue or a slow burn, just not in the traditional horror sense.