Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Unrelentingly grim, this movie follows a group of 14th Century soldiers as they seek out a remote village in the English countryside that is rumored to have been spared a visit by the bubonic plague. The world on display here is one that is dark, violent, cruel, and religiously superstitious. What the soldiers find when they reach the village is, of course, that Not Everything Is As It Seems. Instead, a tug of wills emerges between religious fundamentalism and isolationism where both sides engage in power and cruelty to support their worldview.
This film could have gone wrong in many different ways. The fact that it steers a steady middle course between a more traditional tale of witchcraft and a more idealized view of Dark Ages society is both a blessing and a curse.
On the plus side we have a fascinating concentration on the internal logic of the times where life was cheap and violence an accepted part of reality. On the minus side we have on display a variety of unsympathetic characters who will do anything to promote their survival at the expense of the lives of others. In summary, Black Death is engrossing, adult, tense, and frequently grisly.
But don’t expect anything positive to come of this; those who are tested, the movie seems to say, survive only by fleeing or by going over to the Dark Side.
Review copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald