Relatively new horror movie director Christopher Smith is definitely going to be someone to keep an eye on. His first feature-length, Creep, was a creepy flick set in a subway and starred Franka Potente (Run Lola Run). From there, he did the pretty damn great Severance (imagine Office Space meets Hostel), then his American debut, Triangle, featuring Melissa George in a “Twilight Zone”-ish tale of creepiness on the open seas.
Black Death is his first period piece, starring Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings) as the leader of a group of knights tasked with investigating the tales of a small town practicing necromancy, returning the dead back to life. They take a young monk with them as a guide.
mild spoilers follow…
If it sounds a lot like the recent Nic Cage-starrer Season of the Witch…that’s because it is. Except, where Witch relies on CGI effects and demons flying around, Black Death instead focuses on genuine tension and a heaping amount of gore. The film is relatively tense, but is more of a slow burn. The first half of its 97 minute running time is really spent understanding the different characters and getting to know them. There’s really no action at this point in the film – it’s entirely spent on character development, so that when (mild spoiler) they come across the town and sh*t starts to hit the fan, you really start to feel the loss.
Black Death is certainly not a feel good film. Characters are tortured and die violently and those that aren’t are changed, and not for the best. You’re certainly not likely to end the film ready to do much of anything fun – it’s kind of like that movie Martyrs, where you kind of feel drained after the hardships all of the characters go through. That’s not to say it’s bad … but I wouldn’t recommend watching it before a night out on the town.
Still, overall, a damn good film, and more than worth watching. Realistic portrayals of the time, genuinely interesting characters and a story you can’t help but be interested in. Black Death may not be the most fun film to watch, but with direction, acting, and storytelling this effective, more than seeking out. And if you’ve not seen any of Christopher Smith’s other flicks, check them out as well.
Black Death is available now on demand.