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Black Death


Stars: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten, David Warner, Kimberley Walsh, Andy Nyman, Tim McInnerny, John Lynch

Director: Christopher Smith

With a few modern concessions to language and gore, this is like a throwback to horror films of the mid 1960s: think Witchfinder-General and you won't go far wrong. It's 1348 and, somewhere near Dunwich Forest, a group of hardened Christian mercenaries, led by Ulrich (Bean), visits the local abbey.

Plague has swept the land, and their task is to find a monk to lead them through swampland to a remote village that the pestilence has missed, there to exterminate any heretics or demons that may have helped keep the disease at bay.

Willing volunteer is Osmund (Redmayne), who has fled to the forest to escape infection. Setting out, the party of seven is soon reduced when one is revealed to have the plague and another is killed saving Osmund in a battle with forest thieves.

The village is sighted. 'Be on your guard,' warns Ulrich. 'God has slipped over the horizon.' Alas, Ulrich fails to heed his own warning, when the villagers, led by Langiva (van Houten), seem to offer hospitality.

Director Smith, who has shown promise with Creep and Triangle, works well from a largely intelligent script by Dario Poloni (OK, there's the odd giggle, but this is a horror film), and achieves some remarkable images (location shooting in Germany), despite some poor colour processing. Bean is as solid as you like as the gruff and ruthless Ulrich, while Redmayne's Osmund undergoes a splendidly realised transformation at the end. Tension is well maintained almost throughout.

David Quinlan

Germany/UK 2010. UK Distributor: Revolver. Colour.
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 08 Jun 2010