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Black Death

Black Death

What He said:


The year is 1348 and merry old England is right smack dab in the middle of that pesky plague stuff. That shit is popping up everywhere, which is why a young monk named Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) informs his lover to get the hell out of dodge. Wait…..wait? Yes, I said monk and young lover in the same sentence. It seems that young Brother Osmund has got himself a little something on the side. He is in-love with a woman named Averill (Kimberley Nixon) who has taken sanctuary at the monastery. He has been contemplating leaving the Church to be with her, but is uncertain, because he’s still very religious. He actually prays to God begging for a sign on what route to take, because he’s so conflicted.

Whether it’s from the big man himself, or merely a coincidence, Osmund gets the sign he is looking for in the form of Sean Bean. Bean plays a knight named Ulric, who was sent by the regional bishop to investigate rumors of a town out the outskirts that has been unaffected by the plague….and rumored to be practicing witchcraft. Osmund sees this as his way out. Not long before departing, Averill says she will show up at an agreed meeting spot every day at dawn, for the next week. At this point, Osmund was not sure what he was going to do. He was very conflicted about leaving the Church. But once Ulric and his men show up, he thinks it is a sign from God that it is ok for him to be with the woman he loves. Osmund offers to be their guide.

Black Death

Ulfric and his men are a very rough bunch. Their methods could sometimes be considered questionable. Don’t get me wrong, if you happen to come across a witch, or some other equally nasty creature, by all means kill her and don’t feel bad about doing it. But these guys get physical long before it’s even remotely necessary. For example (minor spoiler), while they are on their way to this remote village, they come across another village that is about to burn a woman at the stake. As was the case in those days, many a woman was accused of being a witch and as a result she was sentenced to death by an irrational mob. Ulric appears to save her, only to stab her himself. He justifies it to Osmund, who is horrified, by saying he saved her from a slow and painful death. He proclaims that regardless of whether she was a witch or not, the mob would go after her when he and the rest of the knights aren’t there to protect her (God forbid they bring her along).

Along the way they set up camp in a forest that is believed to be…well a little off. They don’t say it’s haunted, but it’s implied some really bad things go on there. Regardless, they are forced to set up camp for the night. The next morning they are ruthlessly attacked by a group of men. Not everyone survives.

There are other obstacles along the way as well. Fear and paranoia is running rampant. All the men are scared of catching the plague and, make no mistake, if one of them does they will kill him without hesitation. Some of the men do not trust Osmund either. They believe he has his own motives for coming along; which he does. But the one guy in particular seems like he’s just waiting for an excuse to stab him in the back (I’m not talking figuratively either).

Black Death

Finally, the group comes across this rumored remote village. They walk into it and it seems like there is nobody there. Slowly people begin to emerge from their homes and they sort of just stare at Osmund and the knights. It’s a creepy stare too. They are eventually “welcomed” by a man named Hob (Tim McInnerny). They tell him they were attacked by bandits and are looking for a place to eat, rest, and heal. Hob welcomes them, but these people are creepy. They are then introduced to a woman named Langiva (Carice van Houten). It’s unclear which one of them is in charge or if they run the village together. They are invited to dinner with the rest of the town. Everyone is eerily friendly and that usually doesn’t end well.

It was right around Halloween and the She had to work that evening. I knew I had free reign over what was showing on TV that night. I wanted to watch another scary flick, but was in the mood for something different. I was browsing through Netflix or Amazon (can’t remember which one) and saw this. I remembered that I recently linked to a story on IGN about good horror flicks you might not have seen. This was on the list, so I decided to check it out.

Black Death

When you hear that this is about witches, you might think you’ll see powerful magic that can swat men away like flies. This isn’t that kind of fantasy flick. There are no magic wands, dragons, or green women with big noses. This movie is much more grounded in reality. It likes to keep you guessing as to whether these people are witches or charlatans. The spells are more along the lines of something you’d see in a Wiccan ceremony, rather than something out of a Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter movie. It works. The realism and ambiguity make this movie both intriguing and believable.

The movie also has some brutal action sequences. The fight scenes are graphic and violent. Think of Braveheart or Gladiator if that helps. This is not a swashbuckling adventure with fantastical, but fun, fight scenes. This movie is all about the believability factor. The only complaint I have about them is also the only complaint I have about the movie. There’s a couple times where the shaky cam is downright brutal. It was so bad at one point, it almost affected my opinion of the movie. I don’t know why filmmakers continue to use this technique. It’s annoying and more importantly, I’ve never seen anyone say a good thing about it.

Black Death

This is a solid action-centric horror movie. There aren’t overly obvious elements of horror or fantasy. I liked that stuff, but sometimes you want something grounded in reality and this is just that kind of movie. The story is intriguing, the acting is good, and the characters are interesting. Osmund is genuinely conflicted about what to do with his life. Ulfric and his men are fighting witches. There’s no doubt their intentions are good. But you’re not sure if you totally like them. You’re on their side, but there’s a few times where you teeter. The villagers at the remote village that is unaffected by the plague are creepy as hell, but intriguing. You honestly want to know what the hell is going on. Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean were good leads. One is the grizzled old soldier, the other is a peaceful, inexperienced monk, who is thrust into a violent world he could not have imagined in his worst nightmares. The supporting cast is good too. The knights were a rough bunch. Some likeable, others not so much. The actors playing the leaders of the village were creepy and unlikeable; as villains should be.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written on November 15, 2014.