Set during the time of the first outbreak of bubonic plague in England, a young monk is tasked with learning the truth about reports of people being brought back to life, a mission that pulls him toward a village ruler who has made a dark pact with evil forces. Written by
Two veterans of "Game of Thrones" appear in this film: Sean Bean (who played Ned Stark) and Carice van Houten (who played Melisandre). See more »
The film shows the existence of plague doctors with beak masks, in the monastery. The movie is set in the year 1348, but beak masks (holding smelling herbs or sponges) weren't used until the 1600s. See more »
The fumes of the dead are in the air like poison. The plague, more cruel and more pitiless than war, descended upon us. A pestilence, that would leave half of our kingdom dead. Where did it come from? What carried its germ. The priests told us it was God's punishment. For what sin? What commandment must we break that could earn this? No, we knew the truth. This was not God's work, but devilry. Or witchcraft. But our task, to hunt down a demon, was God's cure.
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"We journey into Hell... But God travels with us."
Set during the period of English history when the Bubonic plague spreads death across the land, a troubled young monk named Osmund is recruited by a band of soldiers to investigate a village that remains untouched. What they find there will change them forever.
Having enjoyed Christopher Smith's previous movies ("Creep", "Severance" and "Triangle"), I had high hopes for "Black Death" and was not disappointed. Although the gore of his previous movies is still evident during the battle scenes in which arms are severed by swords and heads crushed by maces, it's largely underplayed here with the script placing greater emphasis on the story's themes of faith, religion, superstition and love. It is this emphasis, along with the various twists in the plot, which make the choices faced by the characters in the third act of the movie so very interesting.
I was repeatedly reminded of the original "Wicker Man" whilst watching "Black Death", not only because of the central theme of a devout Christian confronting something terrible which attempts to challenge and undermine his own beliefs, but also because of the cold, bleak cinematography reminiscent of a seventies horror movie. The entire production is nicely directed and Smith utilises his horror knowledge to keep a constant and oppressive threat running throughout the film, regardless of the scene, to maximum effect. The visual effects, whether for the symptoms of the plague itself or for the various wounds suffered by the characters, are also excellent.
The cast are universally fantastic, although Sean Bean's towering performance portraying the leader of the soldiers and a man "more dangerous than pestilence" steals the movie. Eddie Redmayne does well in the central role of Osmund and manages to make his character's personal journey both interesting and believable, whilst Carice van Houten is also memorable in an important role during the second half of the movie.
I was very impressed by "Black Death" and would recommend it to those who enjoy atmospheric horror movies such as the aforementioned "The Wicker Man" or "Don't Look Now", as well as those who seek out movies set in or around this period of Britain such as "In The Name Of The Rose" and "The Reckoning". Although parts are grim and even upsetting, it's never dull and is definitely a movie worthy of your time and support.
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