The plague (Black Death) is cutting a massive swath of death through Europe; it’s a horrific disease that shows no prejudice, striking down both the wealthy and affluent as well as clergy and commoners. At the command of the King, a small group of knights are sent to a local monastery to secure themselves the aid of a monk willing to lead them through a nearby swamp and to a village rumored to be free of plague. Their mission is to locate the town’s necromancer, for only witchcraft could possibly keep an entire village safe from the plague, and bring the devilish blasphemer to the King’s court to be tortured and executed.
As the band continues on in their journey it becomes clear that the monk has an ulterior motive for leading the expedition in the wild and there’s more at work in the village than meets the eye.
Black Death was a riveting medieval horror film but I will admit to feeling a bit conflicted as the story began unfolding as I found myself completely hating the main characters. I think director Smith’s intention was to show viewers that there were no true places of safety or heroes; only scared, desperate men and women living in ignorance and fear who depended on prejudice and extreme religious beliefs to keep them safe from day to day. Maybe. Or maybe he just wanted some Christian knights to throw down with Satanic Pagans in a bloody free-for-all! I’m betting on the former.
When it comes to this film’s production nothing negative can be said, it was immaculate from start to finish. The locations, cinematography, sets, costumes, score and even fight choreography were gorgeous. I have to say that the battle sequences in this were intense and bloody, you just don’t see this kind of face-biting, arm-chopping, head-splitting combat in cinema. Bravo to Smith’s crew for the brilliant production work.
While I really did enjoy the film and found all of the acting to be outstanding (especially from Bean), I wasn’t satisfied that Smith effectively conveyed enough of the Christian cruelty of that time period. What little violence was visited upon the Christians in this film seemed somehow “worse” than the horrors we all knew awaited the pagans at the hands of the “Holy Church.”
No matter, the finale is a body slam and those deserving of horrible, painful death sequences indeed receive them. If you’re a fan of films like The Wicker Man and Left Bank, I suspect you’ll probably dig this as well. I’m not quite sure whether I’ll be adding this to my collection yet but it is worthy of a rental.