With a name like Black Death, Christopher Smith’s period
thriller was always going to be a grim affair. Little can prepare you
though, for what unfolds as a man is torn apart by horses, heads get
chopped off and women are burnt as witches. Fortunately, there’s
substance behind the gore thanks to a storyline exploring the power of
faith and dangers of superstition.
The year is 1348 and, with
the bubonic plague spreading throughout Europe, young friar Osmund
(Redmayne), volunteers to act as a guide to a group of bloodthirsty
crusaders led by Ulric (Bean). Their mission is to find a small village
that is free of disease, determine what sort of witchcraft is at work
and punish those responsible. Soon the group descends into the heart of
darkness as they trudge across a landscape littered with bodies to the
mysterious settlement where their faith will be tested.
Most of Black Death’s
power lies in its tense build-up and it’s impossible not to be
intrigued by what exactly is happening in the village that’s free from
When the denouement arrives it’s a bit of a letdown, but wholehearted performances by Bean and Redmayne will keep you hooked.
GOOD FOR: Those who like bleak thrillers.
Review: Pierre De Villiers