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.