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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
When Ulrich and party come across a group of villagers about to execute a suspected witch in the forest, she is tied to a ladder, which is consistent with witch executions in Germany, where the movie was filmed (the ladder would be tipped backward into a bonfire). In England, where the film is supposed to take place, a suspected witch would be tied to an upright stake and set aflame directly. 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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Set in 1348, during the time of the first outbreak of the bubonic plague in England, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne), a young monk, is tasked to accompany a determined knight named Ulric (Sean Bean) and a group of mercenary soldiers in learning the truth about reports of people being brought back to life in a small village, where the plague has not reached. While Osmund sees this as a mercy mission, Ulric believes necromancy is involved and is determined to bring this necromancer to justice. Their journey leads them into various obstacles and darker moments as secrets are unveiled.
Despite its grim mood and subject matter, this film is an entertaining and generally a thought-provoking, medieval horror/thriller. Even with the film's low budget, it is impressive to look at. The misty landscapes, the costumes, the filthy details, and the sets are impressive. Some of the makeup and soundtrack may seem a tad modern, but they are not distracting. While the film is considered a historical horror film, it is also a bit of an action flick, as it has some energetic, gritty swordplay, with some blood and limbs flying off.
The film takes place around the time of the Inquisition when there was much distrust from the Catholic church and the government toward pagans. Ulric is a zealous warrior driven by hatred. He believes he is serving God through the use of his sword against suspected necromancers. Osmund, the monk, on the other hand, believes that in order to love God, one must serve through mercy and love.
There are no characters here that are fully saintly. I felt Eddie Redmayne's performance as Osmund really made this film work. His performance feels genuine and he acts as I would imagine a monk would act and talk, and he is emotionally relatable. As the film progresses, one can appreciate his good range of emotions and acting ability. As for Sean Bean, one can't help but feel he is reprising his role as Boromir from Lord of the Rings. He has the same type of hair. He is wearing medieval armor. Again, he plays that proud, brash character who we know will do something brash. I would love to see him someday play a real calm, jovial, intellectual character. To the film's credit, Sean Bean gets to stretch a bit as Ulric is not completely two-dimensional and we do get to know more on how he became the type of character that he is. The rest of the cast, who have their own special look and quirk, do a laudable job and work together well.
The action scenes have a good amount of tension and intensity, but the shaky camera effect can be dizzying. There is about one major fight scene, which happens midway into the film. Once the main characters make it to the village, things get a little more surreal and one realizes that this is not necessarily an action film, at least in a conventional sense. I've noticed the characters in the village feel, talk, and look strangely modern. I'm guessing these villagers still farm for a living, but they seem quite clean and manicured.
The script is sharply written, with good detail in the dialogue. The film attempts to explore how extreme situations can turn people into hateful zealots, or a violent fundamentalist. There is a twist at the end, which is interesting, but somewhat hard to swallow. The film doesn't attempt to give any big answers, but it is an interesting exploration of man's dark nature, the cycle of vengeance, and how good people can turn cruel when evil is done on them.
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