Director: Christopher Smith
Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice Van Houten
British cinema has enjoyed an outbreak of grittier, realistic filmmaking in the past decade. Beginning with the visceral terror of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, and continuing with Neil Marshall (The Descent), British horror has combined a gritty independent style with an intelligence that has made it marketable to an international audience. Now another leading light of this sub-genre, Christopher Smith (Creep), gets mediaeval with his new film Black Death.
With the majority of Britain gripped by plague, young monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) seeks out a group of mercenaries, led by the warrior knight Ulric (Sean Bean), who visit a village that has somehow escaped the outbreak. Things become further complicated when they learn the village is controlled by a mysterious witch (Carice Van Houten). Shot in a grim, grainy style, what could have been a rather cheap low-budget thriller manages to be more than a standard genre piece. Whereas a big studio production might have drowned out the dirt and violence of the action with over-polished computer effects, Black Death is brutally physical.
Smith's excellent, tension-building style is complemented by powerful performances from broadsword specialist Bean and Redmayne, who replaced Rupert Friend in the role. Not a masterpiece, and at times not for the faint-hearted, but an action thriller that keeps the audience engaged throughout.