Season of the Witch ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

One of the best overlooked George Romero films. Dismissed by some as slow and pretentious, it was stupidly marketed as a routine horror-occult film and re-released in 1982 as Season of the Witch (its video title). Consider it a feminist parable, and it’s much more biting and disturbing than The Stepford Wives. The striking Jan White is Joan (Joanie) Mitchell, a bored, dissatisfied housewife. Her husband Jack, an insensitive businessman, thinks of her as little more than a pet (when he thinks of her at all). Joan is drawn to a modern witch who teaches her “the tools of the trade.” She has a fling with her daughter’s boyfriend and has nightmares of domination, violation, humiliation. Some of this is as spooky and provocative as Repulsion. Romero expertly pulls the themes together: Women who are truly free are free from men; sexual freedom is just another form of bondage (an unusual stance in 1972). And these free women, defined for centuries as witches, define themselves as witches, too, taking back the name in an empowering way. The coven is a dark and welcoming place where women hold sway. And yet....At the end, Joan, having rejected her husband, submits to the coven — naked and wearing a leash. She seems to trade one form of subjugation for another. If you thought Martin was pessimistic, try this one on for size. Surprisingly powerful, it’s further proof of Romero’s true identity as a social satirist using horror as his vehicle.