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Black Death - Blu-ray Review

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Black Death - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

The objective voice when it comes to religion and morality in film is often the weakest heard.  By casting Christians and Pagans in shrouded light of grayish ambiguity, Christopher Smith’s Black Death, a European-made sword-and-shield epic, makes for interesting time marching through a bleak landscape torn apart by the bubonic plague.  It’s a world where demons and necromancers walk among humans and yet the film, thanks to the reality it never deters from, remains brilliantly grounded in its own fog.

Osmund, a young monk (Eddie Redmayne) caught in relationship with a young woman finds himself wanting to prove himself in the service of God outside of the monastery.  When a group of uber-violent Christian soldiers, led by Ulric (Sean Bean), arrive requesting a guide to a village who has yet to fall victim to the ravages of the disastrous plague, Osmund knows he must volunteer.  The soldiers believe the town has fallen under the spell of a necromancer and, as soldiers of God, must destroy the unholy agent that protects them from what harms all others.

When Osmund discovers his lover’s body in the very same town, his grief is consumed by a mysterious villager (Carice Van Houten) who explains to him just why some dark secrets should remain unspoken and upon the land.  There is a seemingly good provided by the very evil these Christians seek to destroy.  Violently gritty and unceremoniously bleak, Black Death is a horror film for those interested in sounding out the root of “evil” in medieval.

Written by Dario Poloni, the film is full of broken graveyards and empty tombs on the way to the peaceful village protected by the demon.  The spookiness of the script translates brilliantly on-screen via some awfully tasteful and brutal cinematography of Sebastian Edschmid.  Thankfully free of aerial shots of men walking across mountains and the like, Black Death reaches its audience by remaining grounded in the reality it opens with.  There is a bleakness that never lets up or gives in; an unmistakable and unshakeable air of darkness stretches across the film; beautiful and mysterious.

The grittiness reaches an epoch when the men are tortured and asked to renounce the God they’ve killed, maimed, and persecuted others for.  Each man is pitted against the other and their own faith, tormented by the “peaceful” villagers after a night of boozing with the locals.  The horror is real.  Or is it?  In the questioning comes the resurrected “fun” of this sinister film.

More than the sum of all its parts (action plus horror plus philosophy plus – gasp – religion), Black Death is a hellish carnival ride through the plagues of the past where questioning the reality of bitter surroundings will get you gutted.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Film Details}

Black Death - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence, and some language.
Director
: Christopher Smith
Writer
: Dario Poloni
Cast:
Sean Bean; Eddie Redmayne; David Warner; Carice van Houten
Genre: Adventure | Drama | Mystery
Tagline: In an age of darkness one man will face the ultimate battle against evil.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Yes, this village is without the pestilence... but it is also without God. For this, they will suffer. "
Distributor:
Magnet Releasing
Release Date:
No theatrical release
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 10, 2011

Synopsis: The year is 1348. Europe has fallen under the shadow of the Black Death. As the plague decimates all in its path, fear and superstition are rife. In this apocalyptic environment, the church is losing its grip on the people. There are rumors of a village, hidden in marshland that the plague cannot reach. There is even talk of a necromancer who leads the village and is able to bring the dead back to life. Ulric (Sean Bean), a fearsome knight, is charged by the church to investigate these rumors. He enlists the guidance of a novice monk, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) to lead him and his band of mercenary soldiers to the marshland, but Osmund has other motives for leaving his monastery. Their journey to the village and events that unfold take them into the heart of darkness and to horrors that will put Osmunds faith in himself and his love for God to the ultimate test.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Black Death - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 10, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (as download); BD-Live
Packaging: Slipcover in original pressing

Presented by Magnolia Home Entertainment, Black Death's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is artistically bleached of a lot of color and intentionally grainy in appearance.  The night scenes tend to suffer the most from the look of the film.  Not too terribly, though.  The rest of the film is perfectly replicated by the transfer.  Surrounded by a fantastically robust DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, the film really packs an audible thump that the neighbors will hear.  The clopping of horses and clashing of swords against shields and into necks ring with detail and brutality.  A very nice package overall.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Bursting with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, the supplemental material is to be expected.  Nothing of too much importance here, but the deleted scenes – four in all – are a nice touch as they add a bit more mystery and mayhem to the mix.

  • Deleted Scenes (4 min)
  • Bringing Black Death to Live (11 min)
  • Interviews with Cast and Crew (32 min)
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage (11 min)
  • HDNet: A Look at Black Death (4 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}

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