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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 42: Black Death

Black Death
None more black

More horror movies need to take place in Medieval times. The era was scary enough as it is and throwing in elements of horror would crank the fear factor to 11. There are no cell phones, no electricity, no guns, just swords, arrows and your wits. Even something simple like a slasher movie set in Medieval times could be great just because of the setting. A damsel in distress running through a castle while a man in an iron mask gives chase with a morning star. Please let me know if this has been done because I'd love to see it.

Black Death takes place in plague-ridden medieval England. People are dying in the streets across Europe and funeral fire's are lighting up the night. A young monk named Osmund (Eddie Redmayne, The Yellow Handkerchief) is having a crisis of faith and is considering leaving his monastery to join the lovely Averill. Osmund prays for God to give him a sign if he should leave. A group of soldiers arrive at the moastery seeking a guide through marshlands to reach a secluded village untouched by the plague. It is the believed that the village is being protected by a pagan necromancer. Osmund volunteers for the task and joins the knight Ulric (Sean Bean, Lord of the Rings), the leader Wolfstan (John Lynch, Sliding doors) and a crew of Christian soldiers. During their journey, Osmund discovers that Averill has been killed and his struggles with his faith worsen. When they finally arrive at the village, they are shocked to discover that it is in fact free from the Black Death and, apparently, God. Are things what they seem? Does the absence of God really protect this village, are the soldiers safe and will Osmund renounce his faith?

What Republicans think the Democratic Convention looks like

Black Death's horror comes not from a particular ghoul or demon, but from an unnameable fear. The fear of the plague, the fear of death, and the fear of the absence of God. Every actor does a fantastic job in this movie and really create a sense of dread when the action gets going. The background music is one of the unsung stars of the movie. Where some movies overpower with strings or jump at you when scenes are supposed to scare you, Black Death's music has a creepy undercurrent that washes over the viewer. Religion and God do play a large role in the movie, but it is thankfully not crammed down your throat with obviously imagery. There are some similarities to the Wicker Man, but not enough to make you feel like you've seen this movie before.

Sometimes you watch a horror movie and you know they were just going for a direct-to-DVD release. Black Death was clearly meant for the big screen and it's a shame that it never got the nation-wide release it deserved. The movie was filmed throughout Germany and is absolutely stunning. There are some very good action sequences with a good amount of blood and decapitations. Unfortunately these scenes suffer by using quick, shaky camerawork. You want to focus on and enjoy the action, but the camera moves around so much that it's really hard to focus on anything. I call it the Bourne Identity effect. The ending feels slightly rushed, but at over 100 minutes running time, I can understand wanting to wrap things up.

Collect the whole set

Black Death is a very good movie, not just a horror movie. Great acting and scenery, coupled with a good story and music make Black Death a scary and intense watch. It's not your typical monster or jump-at-you-from-the-dark horror movie, but the kind that creeps into your soul and makes you feel uneasy long after it is over. The action is solid enough to keep you excited with a good amount of blood to keep gore hounds interested. Black Death is definitely worth your time.


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