Dave White
Black Death Review

Dave's Rating:


Say it in your best Cookie Monster voice.

Who's In It: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice Van Houten, Kimberly Nixon, John Lynch, Andy Nyman, David Warner

The Basics: A young, lovesick monk (Redmayne) joins a band of extremely violent Christian holy warriors led by Sean Bean as they search for what is rumored to be an idyllic country village immune from the Black Plague that's covering everyone in crazy pus-filled boils before disintegrating their flesh. They arrive at the happy, disease-free place (a free-love-minded hamlet, as well, full of young ladies who want to make out with total strangers) and, instead of immediately asking the locals how to avoid the Plague themselves, they decide that the reason they're all immune is because they're necromancers consorting with Satan. Makes perfect sense.

What's The Deal: In the unofficial contest of "Most Metal Movie of 2011," the only other entry to date has been the hootingly funny, Nic Cage-goes-mano-a-mano-with-the-Devil-himself film Season of the Witch. But there's a new champion. For starters, there's that title; you don't buy a ticket to a movie called Black Death unless you already own some albums by Gorgoroth or Cannibal Corpse. And unlike the Cage movie, which propped up mainstream audience expectations with a typical good-triumphs-over-evil resolution, this film bathes in bloody, brutal ambiguity, intelligently casting both Christians and pagans as murderous creeps in a way that looks back objectively at 14th century ignorance while shining an ugly, knowing light on contemporary religious arrogance, too. Message: Everybody sucks. Always.

Coolest Performance: Sean Bean carries the movie as the true believer man-of-holy-war, but Carice Van Houten (the underappreciated Dutch star of the incredibly cool Paul Verhoeven movie Black Book) steals all her scenes as the village's pagan priestess, a woman whose kindness and hospitality mask unknown motivations and allegiances. At first. She's the kind of actor you often don't recognize from movie to movie but who always seems to be about to reveal something steely and cruel about herself. Call this one typecasting, then.

Who'll Love It: Aforementioned fans of grim, frostbitten music as well as theologians with strong stomachs, goths, violence junkies, fans of movies where it seems like no one bathes or brushes their teeth, Lord of the Rings diehards who simply want to watch Sean Bean fight something with a sword, and most atheists.


Comments (4)

Chris - 3-13-2011 9:25 AM
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Glad to see this has potential, I teach about this subject and I am curious to see a film about it. As for the religious hysteria you point out, given they jump to the idea that its this necromancer keeping them plague free and not their isolation coincides with what they really did believe. If you research the times or the event you find that they blamed the Jews, beat themselves for forgiveness and all other sorts. The idea of them thinking a man consorting with Satan is keeping them free is exactly what you would expect from people back then.

Blake - 3-23-2011 4:36 PM
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Please educate your counterpart, Grae Drake. The only problem with your review of the movie are that they did not arrive and just decide that the people there must have been demon worshipers, but that word had traveled that necromancy and demon worship was being practiced there. They were sent to investigate it, and to take those who had strayed from the Christian way back with them for confession, trial, and execution. Good review.

Incisive - 5-09-2011 1:10 PM
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You are correct about contemporary religious arrogance, but I don't think enough Islamics will see it, and if they did, they wouldn't realize that it was applicable to them

alex - 5-21-2011 7:20 PM
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The middle ages is not for the faint hearted. Most people at the time lived in fear of what they did not know. So the idea of a group of "holy worriers" forcing false confessions from inocinent people is very likely for lack of better term. To the people who think that the middle ages were full of knights in shiney armor they are blissfully ignoragnt. you were considerd lucky to live past the age of 3,wars were rampant and atrocities were commited in the name of god and what ever casuse they thlought of or for no cause at all. desises killed uncountable amounts of people. those desises and other unfortunate events were blamed on minorities such as jews,pagans,gypsys,disabled people, and other peoples that atracted the ire of people tha

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