Running Time: 102 mins
Reviewed by: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
Having previously watched the CGI-fest Season of the Witch starring Nicholas Cage, my enthusiasm for Christopher Smith’s film, The Black Death was as low as you can go. Yet Matt Wavish, our deranged but always reliable reviewer, championed this ripping yarn set in the plague-ridden land of medieval England.
A monk called Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) has fallen in love with a young woman (Kimberley Nixon) who has taken sanctuary in his monastery. Due to the plague sweeping the building, Osmund urges her to flee for the safety of her village. She reluctantly agrees to go but promises to wait for him at the same location in the forest at noon every day for a week. When two knights, led by Ulric (Sean Bean) arrive looking for a guide to aid them in their hunt for a necromancer hiding in a local village untouched by the plague, the young monk accepts. He believes it might offer him the chance to be again with his true love. Unfortunately the travelling group underestimate the danger that awaits them all as they struggle through the marshlands towards their goal. Their sanity and faith will be tested to the full.
The Black Death could have been another low budget stab at the Hawk the Slayer and Sword and the Sworceror hack and slash yarns that have been revisited of late by the fun, Solomon Kane and the dire, Season of the Witch. Christopher Smith’s film leans more towards some of the classic Hammer projects. There is a bleak and foreboding tone from the off with some truly horrific and impressive makeup and gore effects on display. How the Black Death managed to gain a 15 certificate is beyond me? One action scene involving Ulric’s knights versus a group of forest savages is as graphic as they come. There are also some torture scenes in the final act that had me wincing away from the small screen.
The acting is top drawer stuff with super turns from the young Eddie Redmayne, John Lynch, Sean Bean and Tim McInnerny. Special mention should also be given to Caprice Van Houten for her haunting performance as the head of the village.
The final quarter is dark and satisfying with one final wicked twist thrown in for good measure in the concluding moments. This movie should have been given a lot more exposure and attention than it received. Try getting your hands on a copy and you will not be disappointed.