When your back is against the wall I believe that people will show their true colors. Does your friend leave you behind for the zombies to chomp on your arm? Do you take advantage of the weak during a tumultuous time? These are all questions that humanity faces during a horrific event and Black Death does a wonderful job of depicting these moments.
The story revolves around a plague-ridden medieval England in the year 1348. The main protagonist, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne), is a young monk who dabbles in sin by having a romantic relationship with Averill (Kimberley Nixon). People are dying left and right and society as a whole is beginning to panic. Black Death is a wonderful period piece, meaning that everything seems accurate to the times and the viewer feels like they are in medieval England. Many people believe the plague is a rapture that is attempting to make humanity atone for its sins. Others believe that it is the product of witchcraft. No matter what, no one knows how it is spread or how to respond.
Osmund is sick of his monkhood and wants to experience the world with Averill. His wish is granted when a knight named Ulric (Sean Bean) shows up wanting a guide in order to find a village that has seemingly avoided the plague all together. The rumor is that this village is paganistic and demonic, which has resulted in its ability to avoid the disease. Ulric, a God fearing man, wants to rid this town of all witchcraft. The journey results in horrific torture. Enough to make the most seasoned horror fan cringe.
Black Death is brilliant at transforming the viewer to a scary time period, but it does have its faults. The pacing of the film is slow at times and boring. The ending is as exciting as it gets, but the viewer will have to withstand tedious moments in order to get there. Furthermore, the themes that are brought up may make some individuals feel uncomfortable. Religion and horror have always had a fragile relationship.
Black Death is good in many ways, but it is great in its ability to question major themes of humanity. Religion and faith is constantly questioned. By the end of the film, it is hard to determine who is good and who is evil. It is amazing to think that all of the extreme measures were taken because of a virus. When people are on the verge of death, they will do anything to survive, including exploiting the weak.
Horror fans that love to be taken on an adventure, while also having to think, will love this film. It isn’t perfect due to its slow pace and uncomfortable moments, but it excels in what it set out to do. When a plague strikes and humans become more dangerous than the disease itself, what decisions will we make? It’s an interesting question that makes this film great and worth watching.
If you liked Black Death, you might also like 28 Days Later.