Saw 'Black Death' last week: not quite as grim as I was expecting, pretty interesting on the whole. The director Christopher Smith was behind 'Creep' a horror film set on the London underground. Sean Bean was good as the warrior leader of a disparate bunch of soldiers supposedly directed by the Word of God to investigate a remote village strangely left unravaged by plague in 1348. The young monk who accompanies them is a rather mysterious character who was not sufficiently developed. After a series of encounters they finally arrive at an idyllic lake village, but is it too good to be true? I like the ambiguity that the 'necromancy' could have just been imagined and the 'witch' merely a skilled herbalist; in Hollywood I fear her gorgon gaze would have blasted the mercenaries while streams of light poured out of her hands.
Obvious debts are paid to previous genre highs including Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man; one of the godly group is a spitting image for Klaus Kinski in Aguirre Wrath of God, there's probably something from The Seventh Seal in there, although I haven't seen that film for many years, ah yes, the procession of flagellants. My main quibble lies around the whole premiss of the film that witches were being hunted and burned during this period: the period of persecution on this scale took place at least two centuries later than mid-14c in England and most witches were hanged not burned. A woodland fight with a band of thieves [villagers?] seemed gratuitously violent, which made me dread the inevitable torture scenes which were brief and much less gory; the soundtrack was also a bit too over-the-top and thunderous. Worth seeing though.
Author of Subterranean City, Beneath the Streets of London, London's Coffee Houses, Decadent London, The Folklore of London, Subterranean City (Revised and Expanded Edition), Netherwood, Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, Lord of Strange Deaths, the Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer; Secret Tunnels in England, Folklore and Fact