Writes Duncan Bowles in Den of Geek: 2010 can now firmly be named ‘The Year of the Sword', as my craving for period-based quest movies continues to be satiated with Christopher Smith's Black Death. So far this year, I've reviewed Solomon Kane, Centurion, Clash Of The Titans and even the more contemporary-based (but still sword-centric) Ninja Assassin.
So where does Black Death fit in with all the others? Well, if you're intending to watch it as part of a movie session, then you'll definitely want to watch it first as, if you're anything like me, you'll be in need of a swift pick-me-up afterwards. Don't get me wrong, Black Death is a great film, but utterly harrowing and so well put together that it left me wandering the streets of London afterwards, feeling slightly crushed under a weight of existential angst.
Such are its themes of religious zeal, faith, the influence of love and the notions of right and wrong, that it's almost impossible not be affected by any one of them. One thing I would strongly advise is to avoid watching any more than the first half of the film's trailer - the start will give you a good indication of how the film looks and feels, but the end will ruin any of the mystery of the journey itself.
The main thrust of the story is centred on a group of unsavoury characters, led by Sean Bean's imposing Ulric, who are on a mission to find a village unaffected by the pestilence (rumoured to be ruled over by a necromancer) and bring the village leader to justice. The justice they speak of involves an iron maiden-esque contraption, with an axe poised at the top, which can slice a man from ‘his apple to his arse'.
The main purpose of seeking out the village isn't to use it as a sanctuary for those who have yet to be struck down by disease, but to put an end to people questioning the Christian hold that the church has over them, with the commonly held belief being that God is punishing everyone to the point of breaking their faith. Using a young monk as a guide, who himself is in a vulnerable position of not knowing if a human or a divine love is more important, they set off on a bleak and shocking quest.
That Black Death is such a challenging and original watch is completely to its credit, as there are so few films made now that defy easy categorisation. The rag-tag ‘men on a mission' aspect is familiar, but rarely have they been so complicated to root for and portrayed in such an exposed state, being threatened by more than just hostile surroundings and foes, with the disease itself being ever present.
The Complete Review Here.