Eye of newt! Toe of frog! Here’s a hideous horror-lite concoction starring Vin Diesel which is right up there with the likes of the hapless Pixels as a solid gold contender for the title of Worst Movie of 2015. But where Pixels was just irredeemably, insultingly appalling, Witch Hunter is a bore pretty much from start to finish – and trust us, the finish takes a long time coming for a film which runs for just 100 minutes.
Lunkhead Vin plays Kaulder, a thirteenth century warrior gifted the curse of immortality after a final tumultuous battle with the evil Witch-Queen in her snowy Middle Ages domain. Flash-forward to the 21st century where Kaulder is fighting evil magic and witches and whizzy supernatural things with the help of the latest in a long line of wise old buffers called Dolans. This 36th incarnation is played by Michael Caine – presumably this was one of those pocket-money-for-the-holidays jobs - who is swiftly dispatched and replaced by Elijah Wood in a career move he’s sure to come to regret. There’s also a ‘dreamwalker’ witch mooching about – she’s played by Rose Leslie from Game of Thrones - and one of the baddies looks and sounds like Brian Blessed but is actually Olafur Darri Olafsson (which we bet is a bugger to say after a few pints of witches’ brew). Turns out that the Witch-Queen wasn’t finished off in Olden Days – her evil, beatin’ heart has survived and plans are afoot to revive her whereupon she’ll visit a new Black Death (she was responsible for the 14th century plague, apparently – who knew?) upon humanity in the 21st century. Gasp!
This is horribly bland, cartoonish stuff which bounces from one festival of CGI to another; if the pace drops and things get too talky, no problem – open up another hole in the ground or a portal to somewhere and hurl out a plague of insects of locusts or blazing white light. It’s soulless, bloodless and lifeless, absolutely unscary even for the tiniest child (we’d imagine) and it tries to compensate for its lack of interesting characters and incident by banging on about dream walkers and runes and plague trees but without even a pointy hat in sight to at least provide the odd laugh. There is some unintentional humour, though, from some fabulously deathless dialogue. At one point Vin is reminiscing about how he no longer kills witches but “took all the most powerful witches in the world and put them in one place” to which Michael Caine deadpans “The witch-prison.” You couldn’t make it up but apparently someone did and then wrote it down.
This is clearly designed to kick off an exciting new supernatural franchise. But you don’t have to cast a spell or even sacrifice a goat to realise that this one’s dead in the water and that we’ve almost certainly seen the last of The Last Witch Hunter.
THE LAST WITCH HUNTER / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: BRECK EISNER / SCREENPLAY: CORY GOODMAN, MATT SAZAMA, BURK SHARPLESS / STARRING: VIN DIESEL, ELIJAH WOOD, ROSE LESLIE, MICHAEL CAINE, JOSEPH GILGUN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10