Reviewed Apr 10, 2012
After the fantastic Triangle, I had high hopes for this medieval thriller. A young monk who looks for guidance finds it in the guise of Sean Bean's band of 'God's killers'. With the land ravaged with plague, word come down of a village that remained untouched. The journey to the village itself is steeped in trouble and an ominous nature becomes heavier as they approach the seemingly peaceful place. I had time for Severance, I thought it was a nasty little horror film, and the aforementioned Triangle was excellent. Black Death almost works. Where the film succeeds is creating an atmosphere, the group hear warnings, get attacked and lose members on their quest. Eddie Redmayne adds some humanity as the troubled monk-guide and while Sean Bean is a bit too Boromir, he still handles the role fine. Only once they reach the village do things become somewhat undone. The last 30 minutes seems languid and yet rushed at the same time. We all know something isn't quite right but it comes to a head too quickly, yet we've spent over 45 minutes getting there. A tighter opening might have given some breathing room to the last 30 minutes.
Furthermore, while Carice van Houten is ravishing as the head of the village, she also seems out of place. It's 1345, yet she seems incredibly contemporary in both her words and looks. Sadly, I found myself taken further out the film by Tim McInnerny's arrival on the scene, but that's nothing do with his role in the film but roles he's played in the past. There's violence, including a couple of painful to watch moments, but it works within the context of the film. The look of the film is great, with some interesting locations used to create atmosphere. I found myself enjoying it but an epilogue felt incredibly tacked on and unnecessary - the same goes for a minor twist about 20 minutes from the end (which basically paves the way for the epilogue). The village isn't given much of a backstory but one is hinted at, leading me to think that the film was edited down from a much longer running time. The ominous nature makes up for a lot of shortcomings and I found myself wondering where it could go, and being eager to see how it would play out.
An enjoyable film, but a step down from Triangle.