Thursday, June 16, 2011

BLACK DEATH (Blu-ray)

A year or so ago, I reviewed director Christopher Smith's TRIANGLE, which I liked a great deal. It was one of those films that I not only enjoyed while I was watching, but continued to think about it for some time after it ended. Smith's follow-up, BLACK DEATH (2010) is completely different from TRIANGLE in setting, story and style, but it had a very similar effect on me.

It's 1348, and the bubonic plague has spread across every square foot of Europe, it seems, except for one, small, isolated English village. A sullen knight named Ulric (Sean Bean, GAME OF THRONES) is sent by the Church to investigate the village, as rumor has it that a necromancer lives there and is keeping the pestilence away. Backed by a squad of mercenaries and a young novice monk (Eddie Redmayne), Osric sets out on his holy mission, determined to  bring God's wrath down upon the rural community and the heretic they follow. Unfortunately, when they reach the village, they discover that all is not as it seems....

Best described as a cinematic hybrid of WITCHFINDER GENERAL and THE WICKER MAN (the 1973 Robin Hardy-directed original, not the 2006 remake), BLACK DEATH is a grim medieval horror film with a palpable, ever-present atmosphere of dread that is both disturbing and blood-chilling. With exquisite cinematography by Sebastian Edschmid and exceptional performances by Bean, Redmayne, David Warner (TIME BANDITS), and Carice van Houten (REPO MEN) as the suspected witch that rules the village, BLACK DEATH is an ultimately satisfying and thought-provoking chiller, well-directed by Smith.

The Blu-ray edition from Magnet sports a stunning 1080p 2.40:1 widescreen transfer and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The image quality is astounding, with exceptional detail and perfect contrast - some shots seem almost three-dimensional - and there is a pleasant, film-like grain throughout. Extra features include four deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, a HDNet promo for the film, and the original theatrical trailer. A Digital Copy of the film is also included.

I very much enjoyed BLACK DEATH, and while I'm not sure I'd call it a great horror movie, it is a very good one, and well-worth checking out. I look forward to seeing what director Christopher Smith serves up next. Recommended.

BUY: Black Death + Digital Copy [Blu-ray]