Directed by Christopher Smith. Starring Lena Heady, Rupert Friend, Sean Bean and Andy Nyman. Historical thriller, Ger/UK, 97 minutes.

We’ve all watched Christopher Smith grow at FrightFest thanks to world premiering each of his movies since he started out on his directing career. Now he delivers spectacularly on the promise shown incrementally from CREEP to SEVERANCE to TRIANGLE.

Smith’s masterfully chilling BLACK DEATH blew me away because it was so not was I was expecting. For it’s a superior interpretation of medieval history and superstition as thought-provoking and compelling horror. Hard to describe in many ways without revealing too much information crucial to its transfixing final reel, but here goes: In 1348 rumours proliferate of a remote rural group of people untouched by the lethal plague decimating Europe. So knight Ulric (a splendidly stoic Sean Bean) and his mercenary band of merry torturers (including Andy Nyman, LONDON TO BRIGHTON’s Johnny Harris and Jon Lynch) are sent by the Church - Abbott David (THE OMEN) Warner - to investigate if necromancy is indeed holding the pestilence at bay. Their guide, plucked from a local monastery, is conflicted novice monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne giving a hugely affecting performance), whose forbidden love for a fair maiden means his faith will be put to the ultimate test. By playful sorceress Langiva (DOROTHY MILLS’ Carice van Houten) who not only holds the marshland community in some sort of pagan sway but seems to have the power to raise the dead. This route into the heart of absolute darkness can best be described as AGUIRRE, WRATH OF GOD meets THE DEER HUNTER and then WITCHFINDER GENERAL. Smith’s most personal and mature film is a frightening journey into the social fabric of evil, pathological cruelty and supernatural possibility. With analogies deftly drawn to contemporary issues (religious intolerance, Swine Flu-type global pandemics) and the tone kept purposely insidious, BLACK DEATH overflows with Smith’s signature trademarks (the witch-baiting sideshow, the torture wagon) and cinematic technique (a single shot crucifixion sequence). Some may find the climax rather disconcerting as Smith pulls the rug from under one’s feet. However, the greater percentage will thrill to the way the eerie and puzzling intensity builds up a compelling head of scream as the stark brand of WITCHFINDER GENERAL shock value rears its head in the most startling of codas.

This intelligent original represents a commendable break from the genre norm and is one of the most powerful films made about God, the godless and what the Devil truly represents.
Source of this article : Film4 Frightfest