Director Christopher Smith (Severance, Triangle) takes us to 1398 where the black plague has cast a shadow over Europe. Paranoia is running rampant along with a disease killing people by the thousands. Many turn to the church for questions and reassurance – even the most gritty men.
The emissary of the bishop Ulric (Sean Bean) arrives in the monastery recruiting a religious man to guide his soldiers and him through the forest and the swamp to the village. It is said the village is free of the plague and the stench of death. Something so divine must have been spared by God. But is it religion or a darker spirit that lays within the village? Talks of witchcraft, cannibalism and raising the dead have been rumored and it is up to Ulric and his men to figure out what exactly is going on there. It just so happens that a monk by the name of Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) is familiar with the area since he grew up not far from where the village now sits. He is just the monk for the job – and so they are off on their journey to seek the truth.
Something the Osmund forgot to mention to the men is that he sent a woman, Averill (Kimberley Nixon) whom he is in love with to the same area to seek refuge from the plague. He told her he would meet her there within the next week. His motives are far greater than just a spiritual guide – but also one of love and lust. But if it takes a small group of men armed and dangerous to make it to the village, how on earth will one woman make it on her own?
After a long journey the men make it to the village they seek – but not without a few casualties on the way. It is serene with a cult like feel to it. Everything seems calm and blissful – the people of the village let the men clean up, eat and stay as their guest. This seems to good to be true. Could the claims of witchcraft, cannibalism and raising the dead be false acquisitions? Perhaps this really is the safe haven they have been looking for? Not so fast – things aren’t always what they seem. Either someone slipped some Jim Jones kool-aid into their spirits or these people are just fucking nuts. I’ll go with the ladder.
The crusade of Christians quickly find themselves in an uncompromising situation surrounded by a group of unholy mind washed heathen’s that have renounced God on every level imaginable. But somehow are living healthy while thousands die terrible deaths. Makes you wonder. So what is their dark secret? Have they made a deal with the devil? Perhaps when their people die from the plague they bring them back to life to live in a purgatory like state. I’ll let you pick sides and see how the story unfolds.
The fight scenes in this movie were phenomenal and very realistic. At certain times they do cut away to avoid complete gore but most of the time you get a quick glimpse of the devastation that does occur during each battle. I’ll spare you my favorite death so you can experience it for yourself but lets just say it involves two horses and tug of war. The acting overall was really solid as well.
Along their journey you never know who might come down with the plague – and that is part of the charm in the film. It’s a guessing game until the very end. Sorta like a mid-evil Oregon Trail. I didn’t have high hopes for this flick but it really impressed me and makes you think. Whom will survive the battle against man and disease?