In the year 1348, the Bubonic Plague rampaged across Europe, sickening and wiping out thousands everyday. The mysterious death could weaken and kill a perfectly healthy man within a week; for anyone of lesser health, death would occur even swifter.
The symptoms were brutal. Sparing the gruesome details, one prominent symptom was the discoloration of the skin to a shade of dark gray, hence the nickname, “The Black Death.”
Those who were religious blamed God, and turned to their religious leaders for answers. Lacking the scientific knowledge to explain a viral outbreak such as the Bubonic Plague, the religious leaders either admitted their lack of divine knowledge, or turned around and blamed innocents for the ill fate of the suffering. Claiming that witches and necromancers were to blame, those seeking a solution to the plague condemned any and all they believed had the slightest relation to dark magic, true or not, leading to the un-timely death of many innocents. Groups of zealots were sent out to round-up and bring in those suspected of devilry.
Black Death follows one such envoy, a band of grim-faced Christians, tasked by the regional Bishop to bring a local witch to justice. The woman is suspected of being a witch for the sole reason that not one member of the settlement she lives in and is an outspoken and admired member of, has been stricken with the Plague. The Bishop instructs his herald, Ulric (Sean Bean,) and his band of not-so-merry-men to destroy the witch.
Stopping at the local monastery, Ulric asks the monks for a guide through the area and to lead them to the swamp village the witch is believed to reside within. Young monk, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne,) eagerly volunteers himself to go along with Ulric and his men. The group then sets out, torturing devices in-tow, knowing full well there is a good chance they will not live through the adventure ahead.
Black Death is a brutal, gloomy, and disturbing movie. It is the harsh realism that is the real horror of this movie. The fact that, for the most part, the events depicted quite possibly could have happened, adds a level of horror to the movie that not too many other horror movies achieve. From the forced-confessions via torture, to the methods of torture themselves, Black Death serves as a poignant reminder why a judicial system is so important in the first place, let alone the separation of church and state.
Overall the pacing of Black Death was flawless. There was no point in the movie I felt to be unnecessary or too much, nor was there a dull historical exposition that usually are forced in period pieces such as this movie. Black Death wastes none of your time.
Granted, if you are the least bit squeamish, Black Death will have you glancing away a handful of times. It is nothing too gory, a decapitation and few dismemberments were about as graphic as it gets, but there is a lot of off-camera doings that the sound editors did a great job with, to put it lightly.
There are many similarities between Black Death and the movie Silent Hill. Oddly enough, both films feature Sean Bean, but it is the fact that amidst a chaotic environment, a plague and monsters respectively, the most horrifying part of the movie are the religious fanatics, that link the two movies together. So if you liked Silent Hill, you will definitely like Black Death, and the other way around. Also fans of Silent Hill may recognize the possible origin of the “Pyramid Head” monster, within Black Death…pay attention to the river scene.
With a solid story, believable characters, disturbingly believable events, and straight-up good acting, Black Death is a movie I recommend to you all. Rating: Above Average 8.5/10