Today's movie is Season of the Witch, the fourth film of George Romero's career. I'm becoming increasingly interested in Romero, because it's like he's two separate people. There's the man who has spent his career returning again and again to his Living Dead series, but there's also the man who has made a number of quirky films that can't quite be called horror but can't quite be called anything else, either. Both men have their career highpoints and not-so-highpoints, but both men also have an interesting way of using their movies to address social issues. As much as I enjoy zombie movies, the last few years of Living Dead films have been pretty uneven, and the second Romero is actually becoming my favorite one.
Season of the Witch centers around Joan Mitchell, a 39 year-old housewife. Her husband is almost always on the road for work, and her 19 year-old daughter is distant and resentful. Joan is bored and unhappy, and is troubled by recurring dreams about having no control of her life. When a new woman moves to Joan's neighborhood, a rumor circulates that she is a witch. Joan visits her with a friend, and is intrigued by what she experiences. To fill her days, she begins practicing witchcraft, casting spells that she believes will influence different areas of her life. Just as she begins finding herself, though, a tragedy shakes her life. Is it the result of witchcraft? Has she actually improved her life, or is she at the same place where she started?
Laugh if you want to, but I'm putting this out there: with Season of the Witch, George Romero may have made one of the very first feminist films. The Joan who we see at the beginning of the movie is meek and trapped by routine. By the final scene, she's bold and engaging and incredibly sexy. Joan doesn't get a happy ending; it's an ambiguous ending at best. But she has a newfound sense of agency in her own life, and if she still isn't seen by others in the way that she wants, she's at least charting her own journey.
After watching both this and Martin, there's another thing that I'm really enjoying about Romero's non-zombie movies. He doesn't fill in all of the blanks for you. Is Martin really a vampire, or just a delusional boy? Is Joan truly influencing the world around her with spells, or is she just giving herself permission to do the things that she's always wanted to try? The movies don't answer those questions, and any interpretation you bring to them is just as valid as anybody else's. By leaving the stories open for multiple viewpoints, Romero makes them bigger than just horror movies - he lets you look at the world surrounding these stories, and how it drives the characters living in it.
Season of the Witch is low-budget and it shows, but I still really enjoyed it. I give it four Tarot decks out of five.