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BLACK DEATH (director: Christopher Smith; screenwriter: Dario Poloni; cinematographer: Sebastian Edschmid; editor: Stuart Gazzard; music: Christian Henson; cast: Sean Bean (Ulric), Eddie Redmayne (Osmund), Carice van Houten (Langiva), Kimberley Nixon (Averill), John Lynch (Wolfstan), Tim McInnerny (Hob); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Robert Bernstein/Douglas Rae/Jens Meurer/Phil Robertson; Magnolia; 2010-UK/Germany)

What could be more cheerful than a graphic bubonic plague picture?

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

What could be more cheerful than a graphic bubonic plague picture? British cult director Christopher Smith (“Triangle”/”Creep/”Severance”)keepsit balanced by mocking both Christians and pagans. Writer Dario Poloni keeps it at least somewhat worthwhile sitting through such a spectacle of misery and ignorance by questioning blind faith, superstitious belief and mankind’s penchant for violence.

In England, in 1348, at the onset of the bubonic plague, when its origins were unknown: the priests said it was God’s punishment for sin and the confused people said it arose because of witchcraft. A conflicted young novice monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) volunteers to be a guide for a band of knights sent by the church to go to a remote village rumored to be spared from the plague. The soldiers believe a “necromancer” in that village can resuscitate the dead. He is someone the brooding devout God-fearing leader Ulric (Sean Bean) aims to kill. The untouched idyllic village is led by a charismatic woman, Langiva (Carice van Houten), rumored to be a witch. The soldiers’ journey to the village is rife with barbaric killings by the warriors of anyone suspected of causing the plague.

There’s a pause in its horror tale to have the monk question his belief in God, as he sent his beloved one to the village for safety not realizing it’s a pagan village. The pic also shows that there’s little difference between the educated and the ignorant, who are easily swayed by a strong leader to believe in superstition and approve acts of brutality to feed their ignorance. But the questions it raises are not interesting enough for me to feel it justifies watching such Dark Ages torturous material. That is, even if it’s crisply acted, did well by creating a creepy period atmosphere and is well-presented.

REVIEWED ON 11/18/2011 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”