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Movie Review

The world can sometimes feel black and foreboding. Especially if you've ever found yourself lost at night on a strange city street: flinching at every clattering sound or faint hiss emanating from dirty, shadowed alleyways. As you clutch your coat and pick up the pace, your mind can't help but imagine what might be hidden in those dark places.

The man named Kaulder doesn't need to imagine it. He knows what's hidden there. He's had 800 years to find out. Eight centuries to watch cities form, grow, wither and decay.

This solemn figure knows the wickedness of men's hearts. And he knows the hearts of those in the shadows who are not men, too. Those unnatural enemies with magic in their blood.

Kaulder is a witch hunter. The last of his kind.

His evil-battling quest began long, long ago when he was but a wee mortal soul. Then he was just an unnerved man, clutching a sword and climbing with his compatriots into the den of the Witch Queen. They swore to fall as one if that's what it took to stem her wickedness.

Like the others in his group, Kaulder had already lost beloved family members to this magical scourge called witchcraft. He sees his dead wife and child nearly every time he closes his eyes. So he's determined not to waver. He's locked in his desire to kill or die.

Kaulder did not die that night. In fact, as he drove his flaming blade into the witch's chest, he was actually given life. More of it than he'd ever wanted. With her last rancid breath, the wretched witch cursed Kaulder with eternal life. While everyone else would succumb to time's passage, Kaulder would live on. Alone.

All these centuries later, the lonely warrior still follows his calling. He's served by a Dolan, a priest in the Order of the Axe + Cross, who chronicles his work and cares for his needs. Truthfully, though, Kaulder is now less fevered than he was in the past. He's more concerned with keeping a fragile peace between the worlds of men and witches than he is determined to wage war against the darkness.

But war is certainly coming.

When Kaulder's 36th Dolan is attacked by dark magic—powerful spells that the witch hunter hasn't seen used in eons—he knows that something truly evil is again raising its hoary head. Something this powerful hasn't been seen since … well, since the days of the Witch Queen.

Again, even for Kaulder, the world feels black and foreboding.

Positive Elements

Kaulder puts himself in the line of fire to protect mankind from a rising genocidal apocalypse. And a young witch named Chloe helps him, even though she would seem to be working against her own kind.

Kaulder's elderly Dolan 36th points out the emptiness of maintaining shallow and temporary relationships, telling his immortal charge, "You're missing out on the best part of our brief stay in this life, the part where we share it."

Spiritual Content

In this alternate version of existence, witches are nonhuman creatures who maintain a human visage but have magic in their blood, "passed down from an ancient race." They need not be evil. But we see many examples of evil as some of these beings wreak havoc with various burning and transforming spells—cast through group chanting, ancient runes and other magical substances. Thus, the film presents its blended version of witchcraft as a tantalizing means to power. Kaulder even tells a young teen witch, "You witches have no idea the power you've got."

We see a variety of spiritual symbols, including several pentagrams, that have been drawn on the floor, walls, windows and other objects. A witch reads Tarot cards.

The Order of the Axe + Cross is presented as something like a group of Christian Templars that works under cover of the Catholic church. Dolan 36th carries a Bible-like book with him that's appointed with cross-like symbols. But the lines read from the book are not Scripture. An Axe + Cross warrior carries a staff topped with a cross.

Sexual Content

It's implied that Kaulder has sex with a young flight attendant. (We see her walking away from his apartment afterwards.) A number of female witches in a bar, and later in a fashion club, wear sexually provocative outfits that hug curves and bare cleavage, midriffs and legs.

Violent Content

Fiery magic blasts. Swarming flies. Sword-blade hack-and-slash. That's the stuff swirling around the last witch hunter. We see men and women burned to piles of smoldering embers. Men are crushed by an abundance of rapidly growing vines and choked by swarms of insects. One is cursed with "plague flies" that crawl around under his skin and squeeze their way through his pores. Kaulder is smashed about by a huge creature composed of magically adhered wood, rocks and chunks of bone.

Heads and torsos are impaled and slashed with huge blades, sharp metal spikes and stakes. People have blades (some of them flaming) jammed through their limbs, and one man gets hit in the throat with a thrown knife. To escape his bonds, Kaulder crushes the bones in his own hand. A witch thrusts her hand into a man's abdomen and rakes his face with claw-like nails. A guy gets punched in the crotch. A bar is torched by spell-cast flames.

Crude or Profane Language

One s-word joins one or two uses each of "h---," "d--n," "b--ch," "p---" and "balls." God's name is misused.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Chloe drinks absinthe. Kaulder pours drinks for himself and Dolan 36th. He also gives that older man a drink after resuscitating him from a coma-like spell. A witch puffs on a hookah. Witches in a "witch bar" drink glowing and bubbling potions. Kaulder takes a potion to revive a memory and has a needle filled with some drug or potion jammed into his neck. A toxic substance is blown into the witch hunter's face, sending him into a drugged stupor.

Other Negative Elements

We learn of foul betrayal perpetrated by members of the Axe + Cross to keep the order's power in place.

Conclusion

Sometimes a film can start rather blandly but then get better, lifted by a plot twist or a compelling bit of acting. But The Last Witch Hunter never quite even makes it to bland.

It was clearly designed to be star Vin Diesel's newest action franchise. But, frankly, there's little here that's either fast or furious. Sure, there's action aplenty, with some leap-into-a-fire-and-bellow scenes. There's even an interesting swirling-snow, shape-shifting-wood-and-bone, fire-glinting-off-steel production design. You know, the stuff that would indicate quite a lot of money was pumped into the budget.

But very little of it grabs your imagination.

What does wash through your mind is a derivative mishmash story of bleak-to-the-point-of-blackness spirituality. Faithless priests. Chanting witches. Bubbling potions. Burning spells. Impaling blades. And something that's supposed to represent apocalyptic doom.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Vin Diesel as Kaulder; Rose Leslie as Chloe; Elijah Wood as Dolan 37th; Michael Caine as Dolan 36th; Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as Belial; Julie Engelbrecht as Witch Queen

Director

Breck Eisner ( The CraziesSahara)

Distributor

Lionsgate/Summit

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

October 23, 2015

On Video

February 2, 2016

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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