Whenever you have a film taking place back in the olden days with witches, demons, werewolves and the like I have to assume that the film is not going to be very good. Sure that is a general plot and so you can definitely surpass that if need be but what are the odds realistically right? I doubt they are very good at least with the track record and this one is no exception. Sure there are some interesting moments and plot lines scattered around the place but ultimately the movie could not capitalize on any of them and so it failed in the end.
The film starts off by showing us how skilled Felson and Behmen are. They utterly decimate opposing armies in every fight that they are in. We see a montage of them in countless fights and it’s definitely impressive how ahead of the curve they are in the battles. Nobody can really touch them or even come close. Well one day Behmen ends up murdering an innocent civilian and he becomes disillusioned with the whole thing. He now realizes that he was merely a soldier of battle and quite the army. Felson follows him but unfortunately they are quickly captured by the same army again. Their mission is to bring a suspected witch back into custody with them to face justice at a “fair” trial. Behmen doesn’t much like this but orders are orders and trying to escape the whole army again would be tricky. The girl’s name is Anna and she seems incredibly suspicious and crafty but that doesn’t automatically make her a witch. Behmen will have to handle this carefully.
I did find part of the intro funny in how quickly the two leads were captured though. These were the kingdom’s best warriors and yet they could be brought back in so easily? Have to admit that they lost a lot of hype there. I give some credit for wanting to leave the army in the first place of course but I really didn’t think that they would be brought back so quickly. As for the mission itself, well in a way they know that this won’t be a fair trial but they aren’t the justice system so what can be done? I think just running off for a second time would have been just fine to be honest but it is what it is.
Anna is unashamedly suspicious the whole time to the point where it can definitely be real amusing. She keeps on using magic and messing with the heroes so it seems obvious that she is a witch but they can’t prove it yet. She even goes out of her way to save someone who nearly plummeted to his doom by using her super strength. Even the characters can be confused sometimes on if she is sympathetic or not. It’s just really hard to get a read on her and that’s definitely by design. For what it’s worth she was a good antagonist for this reason. She really kept the heroes sharp and always on edge. Her abilities were solid too and versatile. She had flight, mind manipulation, animal summoning/transformation, super strength, etc. Yeah that’s a lot for any human to deal with and by the end her scenes get even better in hindsight.
Unfortunately you can probably guess how the animal summoning ended up being a net negative here. We have to sit through an extended scene of the heroes destroying a bunch of dogs that she transformed into werewolves. Definitely a scene that didn’t need to be here and it really drags down the experience. At this point they should have taken her down since this also directly murdered some members of the team. You don’t exactly need a trial when the villain openly murders people in front of you right? Well, unfortunately Debelzaq the priest says you do need that so there isn’t much the heroes can do about this. Behmen ultimately stands down but the body count only continues to rise.
These are guys who don’t have a no killing code or anything like that so in light of this it just doesn’t make sense to spare her. Anna will only continue to cause more death and destruction in her wake the longer they keep her alive. It’s always hard to defeat the supernatural and this is just another example of that. Behmen and the others are completely outmatched and only plot armor is enough to help them win. It’s why I say films always need to be careful not to make their villains end up being too powerful or there’s just no way to buy into the hero ever winning. When you create an unwinnable situation that’s exactly what happens.
Ultimately I did like Behmen as a character though. He wanted to do the right thing and protect everyone. His motivations were always good and he let his actions do the talking for him like when he left the army early on. He won’t be a part of anything that is unjust and has the strongest moral center of the group. His partner Felson is solid as well but that guy’s more relaxed and will just do whatever he feels like doing. He follows Behmen since they’re friends but it’s less about the morality of it and more because that’s just what he wants to do.
The film actually has a fairly large cast of characters accompanying the main two on the trip but you will forget most of them immediately because they don’t do anything. You’ve got a guy with a tragic past, the priest who is always ready to exorcise, the comic relief maps guy, etc. They’re all just here for the body count and you know it. There is never even an attempt to start liking these guys or making them a part of the main cast. It’s just not happening and so the film treats their characters rather half heartedly.
You’ve got your share of jump scares here but the film is more action than horror. The film just likes using some strong imagery so that you can see how threatening the villains are. We get lots of zoom ins on rather deformed faces on the witch side and while the film isn’t super violent, it does have some moments here and there. The imagery can be more gross than violent at times although I suppose it depends on the scene.
I think this film could have really shined by focusing on the main two guys as they look for a battle that is worth fighting. They stop just blindly listening to orders and look for a chance to really make a difference. Having them work for the army again was a really odd move and not the one I would have chosen. From there they are back to following orders even when they have doubts and that’s what doesn’t work as well about this film. It sort of goes against their whole character choice in the beginning to do that.
Overall, I liked one of the twists at the end of the film but this one didn’t live up to its full potential. After a while it felt like this film was even trying to be the next Exorcist although it still beats those easily. Witches can make for decent villains when you focus more on their magic and the cool fantasy battles we can have but outside of that they aren’t super interesting. So when you just have Anna locked up in the cage for most of the film it takes some of the bite out of the experience. A sequel could maybe do better but lets shift the time-frame to modern day. Trust me that setting works way better.