Summer of Netflix: Black Death (movies to watch when you’re sick)

A few days ago I had dinner with Matt and he explained how he had just gotten over being pretty sick. Being a moron I cursed myself by saying “I haven’t been sick since PAX:POX back in March” and just like that some vile bug jumped into my body and kicked my ass. Within the next 24 hours I was weak, had a crazy fever, and a pounding headache (hence my lack of site updates for a few days). Unlike the poor bastards in Black Death, I’m starting to feel a bit better…

The poster for the film should have a SPOILER warning

The Story – When the bubonic plague hit in 1348 it was pretty bad time to be a Catholic. Monks and Nuns were infected just as much as the beggars and peasants, and the one man everyone looked to for guidance, the Pope, packed his bags and ran away to Babylon. Back then, most people believed that the Black Death was in fact one of God’s biblical plagues, and that God was very very pissed off. Acting out of desperation, men committed unspeakable acts in the name of God in order to shield themselves from his wrath. This is a story of those men. Black Death follows a group of men on a mission from the church locate a strange village accused of necromancy (bringing people back to life.. not humping them, that’s something else). Once at the village  it’ll be their job to help them “find God” (or kill them trying).

Sean Bean about to stabby stab

Sean Bean With a Sword: Black Death never had a proper theatrical release here in the United States despite its high production value and stellar cast. After watching the film, it’s pretty apparent that conservative ‘mericans wouldn’t really appreciate how the church is depicted in the film, despite the depiction being 100% historically accurate. Sean Bean once again straps on his blade and leads a group of holy-inquisitors on mission. In all honesty I believe that the sword wielding character Sean Bean plays in so many roles, is actually just Sean Bean… so we’ll just call him Sean Bean. The men arrive at a monastery looking for a guide to “mysterious village of necromancy” but sadly the only guide they could get is a wimpy monk by the name of Osmund. Osmund is struggling with his faith due to his love of a beautiful woman (which the Church does not allow due to Benedictine Law).   I found Osmund, played by a skeletal Eddie Redmayne, to be annoyingly doe-eyed and un-charismatic. He was so annoyingly skeletal that I longed for him to catch the Black Death so Sean Bean could get more screen time.

Carice Van Houten in the necro-bog

Swords and Ladies: The action sequences, although few and far between, are brutal and well choreographed. Limbs are hacked, eyes are stabbed, and heads do roll. The sword play is ultra-violent and made me never, ever want to get into a sword fight with Sean Bean. Sadly however, the bulk of the film is spent traveling through the plague infected wasteland and not fighting with swords. When the men (with their numbers already diminished) finally do arrive in the village of necromancy they are greeted by an eerily stepford-esque society that are all incredibly happy and untouched by the Black Death. The village leader is also a woman (something that was very rare in this period) named Langiva (mix up the letters to spell….),played by the incredible Carice Van Houten from films such as Valkyrie and Black Book. Langiva has ulterior motives that I won’t reveal in case you decide to check this one out. Once the men arrive in necro-town the movie gets strange and sort of falls apart.

Opinion: Black Death needed to be another hour long. It wasn’t a bad film at all, but its strange pacing and structure were its undoing. Just when you’re starting to get a feel for the atmosphere and characters, the movie is over. Was the film meant to take a stab at the idiocy of the Catholic church during the time of the black death, or was it simply trying to paint an accurate picture of the period? Black Death is not worth a purchase by any means, but is totally worth checking out on Netflix as it is currently on instant watch. Also, you can’t really go wrong with Sean Bean and Carice Van Houten.