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Black Death

A movie directed by Christopher Smith

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Entertaining and even intelligent religious horror flick with brutal bite.

  • Jun 26, 2011
*** out of ****

Not too long ago, I was in a World Studies classroom, studying the material covered in Christopher Smith's "Black Death". You could say that I was studying the Black Death/Black Plague itself, but then you would be wrong. We did not go in depth; we studied for only a few weeks, never quite touching the complex things. So this provoked me to dig around for my own; salvaging historical information regarding such a disastrous catastrophe. And let's just say that after I was done, I felt like watching a movie about this information. And I chose Smith's film over few.

Smith is a talented filmmaker; he's the same man who made the entertaining and quite funny horror-comedy-thriller "Severence". Now, he's made a film that isn't the slightest bit funny, yet still equally as entertaining and well-made. I admire Smith's work as a directorial genius rather than an expert story-teller. He has yet to make a truly great film, but as long as he can make genuinely good ones, I'm OK. "Black Death" is a good movie, in my image, because there's plenty to like about it. It is thrilling and even somewhat insightful. It gives us the impression that we are watching a medieval Gothic chiller and possibly more. That is because we are.

A knight (Sean Bean), a monk (Eddie Redmayne), and seven other fearless warriors (of some sort) accept a quest to find a small village where the plague has not spread, in the time of the plague. It is the year 1348, and populations are decreasing by day. As you can guess, this epidemic is none other than the infamous Black Plague, otherwise known as, The Black Death. When our heroes reach their destination, they learn that the people within the village are nothing more than nasty, violent pagans.

I saw an absolutely frightening film a while back called "The Wicker Man". It was about a policeman who ventures to a Scottish island called Summersisle, looking for a missing girl. And he finds her all right, as we slowly learn that the people of the isle are indeed, nasty, violent Pagans. So in a sense, "Black Death" is "The Wicker Man", except not as good, and not quite as deep.

But what I admire about Smith's film is that it is knowledgeable. It deals with the questioning of religion, and it understands how important it was in such a struggle. It wasn't JUST the plague that attacked the human race in those years; it was the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there was no God. The characters in the film ask themselves reasonable questions, such as "why would God be punishing us like this?" or "why don't we just off ourselves if we can't live a good life anymore?"

The film exists in a world where there are devils lurking around each corner. The hero characters brutally slaughter their enemies in whatever action scenes are present, although I understand why the violence was included, and the action is well-done, just like most everything else in "Black Death". It's strange how a film like this, which isn't really anything special, doesn't have particularly good acting present, and doesn't have the best screen-writing involved, can still be an entertaining and intelligent ride. There was a lot that this film had to do for me to like it, and "Black Death" is good at deliverance. The imagery fits the grim dehumanized feeling of the time period, the overall atmosphere is suitably grim, and "Black Death" does not just exist as cinematic entertainment. It allows us to think a little, which is always welcome. It succeeds rather well as both a "horror film from Christopher Smith" and a "historical thriller from Christopher Smith". It is many other things as well, but there's only a handful that we can really care about. But at least it wasn't plagued by the clichés; those always unwelcome things that make our films so genuinely boring.

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June 27, 2011
Your final paragraph sums up everything I felt about this movie. Nice work!
More Black Death reviews
review by . March 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
An Examination of Faith and How Contradictions are Present in Human Existence...
Sometime in January this year, I went to see the Hollywood medieval horror film “Season of the Witch” with very low expectations. I have eagerly awaited to see the movie that seemed to have inspired (to me)the idea that disappointing film had tried to portray with mainstream audiences in mind. I wanted to see a real movie about the period when the Black Death ran rampant throughout the land; I wanted to see a story beset in that period as to I could see the fear that such a horrible …
review by . February 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Black Death' Two Jews On Film Feel The Horror Of The Plague With This Historical Gem (Video)
' '   Black Death' directed by  Christopher Smith (Severance) takes place in Europe...The year is 1348...And things aren't going so great.  The Bubonic Plague has broken out and threatens to basically decimate everyone in its path.  Fear and superstition is at an all time high.  No one has figured out that the Plague comes from a rat bite.      The Church is starting to lose its grip on the people which of course makes the holy …
review by . March 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Black Death is not merely vile, sadistic, cruel, and ugly, it’s also deeply immoral. In the fourteenth century, as Bubonic Plague ravishes Europe, an isolated English village has managed to keep out the pestilence, first by renouncing God, second by torturing and murdering Christians who kill in God’s name. The fatal flaw of this premise is that it gives credence to reprehensible acts of violence on both sides of the religious spectrum. …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Set during the time of the first outbreak of bubonic plague in England, a young monk is tasked with learning the truth about reports of people being brought back to life in a small village.
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Director: Christopher Smith
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Horror, Mystery
Release Date: 11 June 2010 (UK)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Dario Poloni
Runtime: 97 min
Studio: Egoli Tossell Film, German Federal Film Board, Kulturelle Filmförderung, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
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