The Last Witch Hunter (film review by Frank Ochieng).

There was a time when the movie gods were treating audiences to the omnipresence of zombies. One could not swing a dead cat without running into zombie-related cinema. It was all the rage at the box office that was experiencing a certain celluloid renaissance with overloading narratives within the ‘zombie zone’. Sure, zombies are still the norm in pop cultural media on both the big and small screen (anybody not heard of ‘The Walking Dead’?). However, another iconic horror-induced symbol, the witch, is making its way back into prominence in the cinema circles. Unfortunately, the ‘twitch of the witch’ is explored in an over-the-top, messy and misplaced CGI-coated production of the outlandish ‘The Last Witch Hunter’.

last_witch_hunterSo there are a number of reasons why the whimsical wasteland ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ might be considered high-tech jumbled junk. Nevertheless, the consensus is that sometimes high-tech jumbled junk is one enthusiast’s treasured and enjoyable guilty pleasure worth its mindlessness in gold. Well, ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ certainly will attract its share of followers as a gaudy and grainy fantasy adventure both big in scope and surreal absurdity. Still, this mythical monstrosity feels annoyingly strained and tries too hard to sell its outrageous, synthetic spryness.

‘The Last Witch Hunter’ is about larger-than-life throwaway silly thrills and cherishes its berserk-style entertainment with unapologetic relish. There is nothing inherently wrong with upping the ante in boisterous bounciness but ‘Hunter’ is unfocused and all over the map while never committing fully to being a distinctive, impish-minded vehicle. Instead, ‘Hunter’ is incoherent and erratically ridiculous as it shamefully incorporates bits and pieces from other better-made schlocky showcases.

The casting of the monotone and muscle-toned Vin Diesel seems inspired and logical for something as clumsily radical as ‘The Last Witch Hunter’. Diesel, the movie action star that made his notable mark in money-making film franchises that include ‘The Fast And The Furious’ and ‘Riddick’ entries, sinks his teeth into another so-called explosive characterization in ‘Hunter’s 800-year old immortal witch hunter Kaulder. Of course, Kaulder is a tortured soul and has made it his mission in hunting down naughty witches throughout his eternal existence. Kaulder needs to eradicate these magical misfits in his bid to deal with the tragic curse that has dominated his tattered psyche.

Kaulder may have an affinity for seeking and wreaking havoc on the notorious witches that threaten to corrupt the surroundings but he is partial to one witch in particular, the youngish Chloe (Rose Leslie from ‘Game Of Thrones’) whose assistance is invaluable to the brooding Kaulder. Also, Kaulder is joined by diminutive cleric sidekick Dolan 37 (Elijah Wood) as well in the quest to hunt down these wily witches.

The mysterious vibes pertaining to Kaulder is somewhat realised. For instance, we know that Kaulder works steadily for the organization known as Axe And Cross. Plus, we are introduced to Kaulder’s only close buddy Dolan 36 (Oscar-winning Michael Caine) and are given a vague backstory about Kaulder’s troubled past and histrionics. The no-nonsense Kaulder’s passion for witch hunting is the only straight-forward sign that we definitely have no doubt about one way or the other.

"Witch" way to go? Who knows but only one witch hunter can answer that in Vin Diesel's Kaulder from the flaccid fantasy THE LAST WITCH HUNTER
“Witch” way to go? Who knows but only one witch hunter can answer that in Vin Diesel’s Kaulder from the flaccid fantasy THE LAST WITCH HUNTER

In addition to highlighting Kaulder and company’s expectations to wipe away the ‘broomstick broads’, the plot starts to thicken as concerns are brewing involving the resurrection of the menacing creature in the Witch Queen (Julie Englebrecht). Naturally, the Witch Queen presents an immediate danger to the cautious Kaulder because of their nostalgic convoluted conflicts previously. Can the crazy-minded coven that looks to promote the Witch Queen succeed and overcome the slaying methods of Kaulder and his crew of crusaders?

Notoriously clichéd and cockeyed, ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ is a corrosive concept meshed together with all the creative comparison of a tangled ball of yarn. Similarly, director Breck Eisner’s toothless witch fantasy adventure ‘Hunter’ echoes the same kind of forgettable computer-generated gibberish that was evident in this year’s bombastic medieval miscue ‘The Seventh Son’ featuring the Academy Award-winning Jeff Bridges front and centre in another numbing sword-swinging, supernatural sideshow of sorts. The overall film project, plagued with Eisner’s scattershot direction and a tepid script by a trio of screenwriters in Cory Goodman, Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama (responsible for the disastrous ‘Priest’ and ‘Dracula Untold’), screams of a flavorless stew where many ingredients are mixed in but a natural taste for the concoction never comes into fruition. Relentlessly murky and misguided, ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ fails to trigger anything remotely intriguing beyond the furious flourishes of shocking, cartoonish imagery.  

The premise can be regarded as feeling woefully forced and choppy. The dank cinematography is indistinguishable and the visual special effects are an ambivalent hit-and-miss result depending on what frame of the movie’s indescribable spectacle that grabs your undivided attention at the moment. The storyline is hardly gripping or contemplative even from a campy standpoint. ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ is frivolously flaccid and never manages to capture any of its dizzy-oriented imagination no matter how wildly off-kilter it tries to achieve in its aimless execution.

Diesel fans may buy his high-wire act in ‘Hunter’ and go with the flow but the actor does not deviate away from the familiar characters he has revisited countless times over in his better known on-screen outings. For years, Diesel has reveled in preposterous volt-making vehicles for the most part has captured the curiosity of his targeted demographics in both excitable fanboys and hormonal female followers alike. The question remains: can they show some solid consideration in having the balding bad boy of action-packed capers toil among the foolish inclusion of wayward witches and sorcerers in an exposition that looks as if it was conceived with a Middle Ages crayon? The supporting players in ‘Hunter’ are as arbitrarily acknowledged as the saturated and over-indulgent whims of this far-fetched fable that seems uniquely colorless despite its chaotic grand package of black magic banality.

Somehow labeling Diesel’s Kaulder as the ‘last witch hunter’ feels deceptive because if the Hollywood sequel machine has its way their version of ‘last’ will undoubtedly be continuous into the next eye-rolling chapter. The real sinful hex at large that some unsuspecting moviegoers will ultimately suffer is succumbing to the laughable supernatural spell that ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ will cast in insufferable, confusing fashion.

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

Summit Entertainment

1 hr. 46 mins.

Starring: Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood, Rose Leslie, Michael Caine, Julie Engelbrecht, Olarfur Darri Olafsson and Rena Owen

Directed by: Breck Eisner

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Horror and Fantasy/Supernatural

Critic’s rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2015



Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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