Saturday, February 5, 2011
Black Death (2010)
The first great horror film of 2011* is upon us folks and it is called Black Death. It's a period piece that's both dark and visceral (think Sauna). From Christopher Smith, the brilliant mind behind Triangle (it made my top 10 of '10), Black Death will leave you breathless with a swift punch to the gut that is administered by film's end.
Set to the backdrop of 1348 England during a bubonic plague, the film centers on a young monk who believes the plague is no act of God but instead the work of something far more sinister. A knight (Sean Bean) along with a band of mercenaries approach his abbot (played by genre vet David Warner), seeking a guide which will take them to a town by a marsh where it is rumored that a necromancer brings the dead back to life. The eager monk volunteers as he knows the area well and despite the dismay of his abbot, the knight chooses him to lead them.
They set out on their journey and along the way, come into contact with a group of people looking to take the life of an accused witch. The empathetic monk stops to urge the group to release the woman but his words fall deaf. The knight frees the woman but instead of surviving an unfair murder attempt, she instead falls victim to his knife. The monk, dumbfounded, is told by the knight that there is no time to stop for the dealings of others. A date with a far greater evil is forthcoming.
One morning, the monk wanders out into the woods while the knights are still sound asleep. He comes upon the dead body of his beloved, a woman whom he said goodbye to before he went out on his journey. She herself was looking to return to the village by the marsh, far away from the plague. After a moment of grieving, he notices that he is surrounded by heavily armed men. He races back to the encampment, the men in pursuit. A struggle then ensues in which our group of church commissioned investigators suffers a couple of casualties.
Beaten and wounded, our group finally makes their way to the village. From the get go, it's apparent that our villagers are under the influence of some force. With the appearance of a beautiful, enchanting, long haired blond woman, we instantly know what that force is. Our surviving group is welcomed by her into the village, invited to indulge in a feast that night and against their better judgment, they knock back a few. But instead of enjoying the nectar of the gods, they're made unconscious. The monk, having snuck away for a bit, makes his way out to a clearing in the marsh and comes face to face with the necromancer mid act.
Our group of truth seekers are chained and jailed in a contraption by the water front. One by one, they are asked to denounce their God in a test of faith. The necromancer strings up our noble knight, thinking it would get to our monk. If that wasn't enough, she's resurrected his lost love. Despite the temptations, our monk doesn't falter but our fearless knight meets his demise during the brutal act of being drawn and quartered.
The end of our film sees one of the mercenaries and the monk make it out of the town alive and back to church. Our monk takes up the task of hunting down our necromancer but you're left wondering, will he really find her? Has his faith and mission altered his perception of reality?
A haunting film, Black Death will remain with you long after the credits roll. I know it's early goings, but it's one of the best I've seen in 2011 thus far.
*The film was released in the UK in 2010 and is just now hitting stateside. It was made available to rent on VOD services on Feb. 4th. It will also see a limited theatrical release starting in March. Black Death is being distributed by Magnolia Pictures and at this time, DVD/Blu-Ray release info is not yet available. I will be sure to keep the masses posted when such news is ready!
Cortez the Killer