Black Death (2010)


“Journey into Hell”

Directed by Christopher Smith
Starring Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne and Carice van Houten

In the time of plague, a group of Christian soldiers ride to destroy a village which they believe to have turned from God, where they find a pagan cult who raise the dead and believe that the plague is a Christian pestilence sent by God for Christians alone.

Doubting novice Osmund (Redmayne) joins the band of soldiers to lead them to the village, which all reports say is without a sign of plague. Is the village, as it seems, a blessed haven, or is the Bishop’s Envoy Ulrich (Bean) right to question the villagers and their leader, Langivia (van Houten)? What power truly protects the village, and can it endure against the fury of the Christian sword?

What’s wrong with it?

Black Death is one of a slew of mediaeval action/horror movies that came out in a rush a few years back. It’s a lot like the Nicholas Cage film Season of the Witch, but not as much fun.

Lacking much in the special effects budget, Black Death relies on brutal and splattery violence for most of its horror, and on Eddie Redmayne’s ability to emote (which last is most of its failure.)

Carice van Houten basically plays the same role as in Game of Thrones, but in a blonde fright wig. I kept expecting her to set fire to things.

A slightly unnecessary epilogue shows at some length Osmund becoming a murderous witch hunter and drags the film out.

What’s right with it?

It has a certain grubby flair in its appearance, and doesn’t get lost in its own excesses.

How bad is it really?

It’s better than many, without actually being any good. It’s probably better than Solomon Crane or Season of the Witch, but perhaps less fun.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Tied between two horses, Ulrich laughs in triumph as he reveals he has carried the plague into the ‘protected’ village as a sort of human biological warhead, right before his arms pop off.

What’s up with…?

  • Eddie Redmayne? People keep giving him roles where he’s supposed to emote.
  • Carice van Houten? She seems to be locked into sexy evil priestess mode. Is it the accent?
  • The forest bandits? Who the fuck were those guys?


Production values – The costumes are, if not accurate, at least restrained and mostly consistent, and the location shooting is location shooting, and thus automatically better than studio. 6
Dialogue and performances –  Eddie Redmayne’s overacting aside, the players are solid pros, growling their way though a script of self-conscious profanity. 5
Plot and execution – The plot, such as it is, is straightforward, but with several digressions for the purpose of bloody violence. 9
Randomness – The actual necromancy is pretty random, since the rest of the film makes out that the village’s only protection was isolation. The witch then claims that the whole thing was an elaborate ruse. 12
Waste of potential – There are better films in the same vein, and worse. 10

Overall 42%


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