8 out of 10
Release Date: 22nd of June 2010
Director: Christopher Smith: (Get Santa / Triangle / Severance / Creep)
Cast: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice Van Houten, John Lynch, Kimberley Nixon, Tim McInnerny, Emun Elliott, Andy Nyman, Johnny Harris, Jamie Ballard and David Warner
Writer: Dario Poloni
Trailer: BLACK DEATH
Of all the plague and pestilence movies that came out a few years ago, Black Death is my favourite. It rarely loses its footing and conviction to all things evil and fetid. The year is 1348, a year of Christian fundamentalism and plague. A religious crusader Ulrich (SEAN BEAN – SILENT HILL) leads a mission to a village rumoured to be unaffected by disease, where a legendary witch rules. Accompanying him is a monk of unsure faith (EDDIE REDMAYNE – LES MISERABLES) who is searching for his secret love, Averill (KIMBERLEY NIXON – HUNKY DORY). Deadlier than the plague himself, devout Ulrich and his crew of hardened zealots (ANDY NYMAN, JOHN LYNCH, JOHNNY HARRIS and one or two others) encounter deadly marauders and witch burners on their journey, indicating that there will be little light in this story.
Black Death succeeds in it’s utter committal to the material. It is director Christopher Smith’s most serious horror to date and he knows this genre well. The production design is stunning. Cold monasteries, ragged and black woods, mist and wonderfully dirty and smelly clothing all bolster a script laden with deadly portent. “God has slipped over the horizon” warns Ulrich. These are indeed dark times. There is a weak point, which is sad, but it does little to tip the picture as a whole into anything less than one of the decades best UK horrors thus far. It’s the casting of Carice Van Houten (VALKYRIE). Her delivery is unsure and she’s just not chilling enough. It’s so crucial to get the big bad right, but here she appears to be ‘high’ on her own supply. It’s a good job we have Tim McInnery (BLACKADDER 3) as her devoted assistant. In a twist on his usual awkwardness, he is utterly chilling as the unreadable Hob. The plot outcome is unknowable and those anticipating a Wicker Man-like outcome may be disappointed because this has about three unique twists of its own.
Christopher Smith has quietly been carving a brilliant body of work from his debut Creep, that saw a laboratory experiment killing people on the London Underground, and Danny Dyer‘s best ever film Severance, perhaps the funniest gore comedy from the UK I can recall. Then we have his Australian seabound slasher Triangle which is still fiendishly baffling. How he tops all three is beyond me, but his refusal to make the same film twice keeps his films exciting.
They say it’s the journey not the destination. But this is a rare case in which the opposite is true. It has a thoroughly devastating and f*cked up ending. Whilst, not quite on the same level as Aguirre- Wrath Of God or The Wicker Man, time ought to preserve this as one of the few to return to. Its certainly better than Solomon Kane, Season Of The Witch or Ironclad, that’s for sure
8 out of 10 – An unreserved recommendation only let down by a bizarre performance by Carice Van Houten. Best ‘Sean Bean on horse movie’ in decades.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?
- Sean Bean: The Martian, Pixels, Jupiter Ascending, Percy Jackson 2, Silent Hill 2, Mirror Mirror, Cleanskin, Game Of Thrones (TV), The Age Of Heroes, Deathrace 2, Percy Jackson, Far North, Outlaw, The Hitcher (2007), Silent Hill, Flight Plan, North Country, The Island, The Dark, National Treasure, Troy, Lord Of The Rings- Fellowship Of The Ring, Equilibrium, Essex Boys, Don’t Say a Word, Ronin, Anna Karenina (1997), When Saturday Comes, James Bond- Goldeneye, Black Beauty (1994), Shopping, Sharpe (TV), Patriot Games, The Field, War Requiem, Stormy Monday, Caravaggio
- Eddie Redmayne: The Danish Girl, Jupiter Ascending, The Theory of Everything, Les Miserables (2013), My Week With Marilyn, Glorious 39, The Other Boleyn Girl, Elizabeth – The Golden Age, Like Minds, The Good Shepherd
- Carice Van Houten: Intruders, Repo Men, Valkyrie, Games Of The Thrones (TV), Black Book
- John Lynch: Scintilla, Private Peaceful, The Hot Potato, Ghosted, The Tournament, Isolation, 13HRs, Sliding Doors, The Secret Of Roan Inish, Best, Angel Baby, This Is The Sea, Some Mother’s Son, Moll Flanders (1996), Nothing Personal, Princess Caraboo, The Secret Garden (1993), In The Name Of The Father, Edward II, Hardware, Cal
- Kimberley Nixon: Hunky Dory, Offender, Elfie Hopkins, Cherrybomb, Resistance, Wild Child, Easy Virtue
- Tim McInnery: Automata, Spooks – The Greater Good, New Tricks (TV), Johnny English 2, Dr Who (TV), Spooks (TV), Severance, Casanova, 102 Dalmatians, Rogue Trader, Notting Hill, 101 Dalmatians, Richard III (1995), Erik The Viking, Blackadder (TV)
- Emun Elliott: Filth, Prometheus, Strawberry Fields, Game Of Thrones (TV)
- Andy Nyman: Bone In The Throat, The ABCs of Death 2, Shaun The Sheep Movie (voice), Kick Ass 2, The Tournament, Death At a Funeral (2007), Dead Set (TV), The Brothers Bloom, Severance
- Johnny Harris: Fortitude (TV), Monsters 2, Last Days On Mars, Welcome To The Punch, Snow White & The Huntsman, Huge, This Is England 86 (TV), This Is England 88 (TV), Dorian Gray
- David Warner: The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, Ladies In Lavender, Planet Of The Apes (2001), Scream 2, Titanic, Money Talks, The Leading Man, In The Mouth Of Madness, Star Trek 6 – The Undiscovered Country, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, Twin Peaks (TV), Star Trek 5 – The Final Frontier, Tron, The Omen (1976), Time Bandits, Little Malcolm, Straw Dogs (1971)