One of George A. Romero’s more obscure films, HUNGRY WIVES aka SEASON OF THE WITCH may not be as good as his DEAD films, but it still contains a lot of what made the man the horror master he is today. SEASON OF THE WITCH was made when Romero was still pretty fresh and inventive behind the lens. Though bored suburban housewives may not tingle the spine like hordes of living dead do, he still finds ways to make this film pretty creepy.
The film starts out with a trippy dream sequence as our central bored, repressed housewife Joan (played by Jan White) is following a suited man in the woods. In the distance someone is laughing and the whole sequence, as tree branches slap the damsel in the face leaving bloody lashes, proves to be disquieting to say the least. By the time church bells are ringing and the man is leading Joan around by a pink leash, you can probably tell by the not-so-subtle imagery this is a tale of the horrors of domestic subservitude.
To call this film slow would be a compliment. But I believe Romero’s snail’s pacing of SEASON OF THE WITCH was intentional to highlight the monotony of Joan’s existence and give her reason to turn to the world of witchcraft. I remember watching this film as a kid and being bored to tears by it, so if you’re the type of horror fan who likes a jump scare or a kill in every other moment, this isn’t the film for you. But SEASON OF THE WITCH does succeed in passing on feelings of unease. Because of the slow pace, Romero really lets you slip into Joan’s skin feeling the dread that she does. She has lived her life and now must stay at home, growing older, watching the same TV shows, having the same conversations with her husband, talking the same talk with other housewives sharing her same dilemma. It’s no zombie at your door. It’s a more real horror.
Romero’s dream sequences are really great here. It’s almost Lynchian in that the people walk around in a dream-like state and the barrier between dream and reality is always unsure. Romero keeps the camera tight, which could be intentional to give a claustrophobic feel or could be just due to budgetary limitations. SEASON OF THE WITCH is not the most exciting film, but it is one of those movies that uses metaphor in a pretty powerful manner and is further proof that Romero was at one point one of the most talented masters of horror out there. Watch this for the freaky dream sequences. They’re worth it, but you may want to push the fast forward button a few times.