Wow, all these Medieval type films coming out, its great! Black Death comes from another horror director who has decided to go all old fashioned on us. First it was Neil Marshall, and now Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance, Triangle). Whereas Marshall’s Centurion was a simple chase film with LOTS of brutal battles, here Smith goes for the more drama approach with a few sword fights thrown in for good measure, and it really works. I was literally hooked on the story from start to finish.
A deadly plague is sweeping across ancient England, and people are dying left, right and centre. Witches, or supposedly witches, are being burned all over. A local Monastery is where one of our heroes lives. Osmund has made a pact with his girlfriend to leave this place of God, and meet her in the nearby woods to go off together and hopefully get away from all this death. Not wanting to turn his back on God, he asks Him for a sign. Low and behold, a sign comes, in the form of Sean Bean Christian soldier Ulric. News has spread of a village in the woods which seems to be immune to the plague. Rumours of witchcraft and a Necromancer able to raise the dead have got the Bishop spooked, and Ulric has been sent to find out just what the Hell is going on, but he needs a guide. Slightly bending the truth, Ulric asks a Monk to help guide them, and Osmund sees this as his sign from God and signs up. He soon finds out that Ulric is indeed Christian, however, he and his band of vile bullies have a fearsome reputation, like to fight, and torture people into following God, or just kill the fuckers.
Ulric himself is greatly feared, but will stop at nothing to do God’s work. Bean is perfect for the part and brings a real sense of realism, passion and almost desperation to the role. You will recognise most of his crew from other Brit films, and they all have a good tough guy history. One lives to fight, another had his tongue cut out by the French, they are all people you don’t want to meet on a dark night. And they are heading to this quiet little Pagan village to literally raise Hell! On route, we save a witch and then kill the poor witch, we have an almighty sword fight in the woods, until we finally arrive at the village…
As they enter they are looked upon, by the villagers, as guests and they welcome them in and give them food and shelter. The drink is drugged and then things take a more darker, almost satanic edge as they become captive to these non God worshipping people. I suppose there are hints of the Wicker Man here, as things really do go a bit weird. Since you have come to like Ulric and his gang, you will find yourself actually scared for them, and the poor, innocent Monk is in a right state after a horrific event has caused him to suffer terribly.
The whole set up is impressive, and doesn’t push things too far as to make them become silly. Some scenes are actually quite hard to watch, especially a torture scene involving someone being tied, by the arms, to two horses who stretch the poor chap! Smith has proved, after the brilliant Triangle, that he really is a director to keep an eye on. Black Death is a superb Medieval almost horror, full of mystery, horror, fights and leaves you with an incredible lingering question as to why not more people turned their back on God in such dark times. The setting is superb, the pacing is just right and never gets boring. Nothing really out stays its welcome, the characters, on both sides, are very impressive, reliable and intriguing. Sean Bean proves, once again, that he really is a national treasure, and its criminal how he doesn’t get more big roles.
I highly recommend this to everyone, and i like the way Smith has made a rather excellent Medieval drama and injected just the right amount of horror and religion to push it way above most films like this by actually giving it an interesting story, and also a questionable one.