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Black Death (Blu-ray Review)

Black Death is the latest film acquired by Magnolia Home Entertainment and its Magnet (genre pictures) releasing company.  I’m starting to be a really big fan of these offerings.  They’re usually shot overseas independently and then the domestic rights are bought up.  Cool!  Black Death had already been released in Europe on Blu-ray many months ago and why I didn’t grab it then is certainly a head scratcher now.  Well, all of that has been rectified with this domestic release.  Did I mention Sean Bean is in it, too?  Sean Bean is everywhere these days and that’s a good thing.  Sit back and relax and let us fill you in on what Black Death has to offer. 

Film 

Black Death is an obvious reference to the black plague that decimated half  the population of Europe between 1348-1350. Black Death takes place  during the start of it in 1348 in medieval England where rumor spreads of a village in the marshlands that is apparently immune to the bloody plague.  A group of Christian crusaders lead by Ulric (Bean) enter a monastery that is also reeling from the effects of the plague and ask for help.  They are quickly attended to, and a young monk named Osmund (Redmayne) is charged with leading the way.

The road is filled with many dangers and not all of them come from the plague.  Murderous thieves, bandits, witch burnings, and sabotage litter the road to this fabled village that death can’t seem to touch.  Not only is this village immune to the plague, but it is also said that there is a necromancer who can bring people back from the dead.   Again, as usual, it’s always great to see Sean Bean on the screen.  It’s Boromir for God’s sakes!  Director Christopher Smith has used a limited budget to create a medieval world filled with dread and horror.  I would go so far as to say that if you’re religiously sensitive that you may or may not be offended at was is depicted in Black Death. The film does ask a lot of questions with regards to religion and faith, but mixed in with some cool and brutal sword fights.  The knights even carry this gigantic contraption made out of steel, iron, and wood where a blasphemer or heretic is placed into it standing up and once strapped it is literally sliced in half from the bottom to the top.  This is done in the name of the church.  Take that as you will.

I really enjoyed the horror element injected into Black Death having already been familiar with Christopher Smith’s previous films like Creep and Triangle; he knows what he’s doing.  I still haven’t seen Severance, though.  Production design is king here, because everything was shot on location using practical effects.  The CGI element is not present and if it is I was not able to pick up on it.   That on its own is a breath of fresh air.  I was getting tired of that fake CGI blood that has become so prevalent in these types of films.  Black Death is a grounded sword and sorcery tale that dabbles in myths and truths and asks many questions that demand many answers.  How far would you really go when it came time to putting your faith to the test?  What would you really do if you were put into a corner that you could not escape from?  Black Death will ask you.

Black Death is an almost authentic look at what the plague had done.  Bodies litter the roads, rats scurry along, and people with huge boils on their necks and faces try to carry on.  These were truly the dark ages.  There were a few instances of me squirming due to the conditions of the environment, so if you have a strong stomach (like me) then Black Death will be right down your alley.  I just wouldn’t recommend eating while watching.

Video

Black Death is presented in 1080p 16X9 2.40:1.  The color palette for Black Death is extremely grim with the exception of Langiva’s (Van Houten) hair and red dress.  She’s the only person in the entire film that carried any vibrant color. The skies are muted, dark, and gray.  Blacks don’t crush, and the liquid blood is also very vibrant.  Flesh tones of the sick and healthy are handled extremely well.  There is no softness to the picture and DNR was not used in extremes.  Natural grain is handled very well and is consistent throughout the entire film.  Would it be crass to say that Black Death looks great? 

Audio 

Black Death is presented in DTS-HD Master 5.1.  This is a terrific and dynamic sounding soundtrack!  The LFE channel rumbles throughout the battles and doesn’t interfere with the other effects.  There is no overlap in that department which makes for a nice and balanced sound field.  Dialogue is clean and clear and the surround sound channels handle the screams and taunts of angry villagers nicely.  The battle scenes in Black Death sound amazing as well.  Be careful to not stick your hand in the way or it will get chopped off!

Special Features

Black Death contains just a bit of relevant special features that quickly become redundant and of the self congratulatory kind.  There are deleted scenes, featurettes, interviews, shameless promotions, and a trailer.  They’re also all in SD for your enjoyment.  Not.

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Bringing Black Death to Life
  • Interviews with Cast and Crew
  • Behind the Scenes Footage
  • HDNET: A Look at Black Death
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed Black Death on Blu-ray with the exception of the last 5-10 minutes.  I felt that the film wrapped up almost too quickly and there could have been an extra half hour added to it.  Black Death runs less than two hours without credits.  I do think that Black Death is a welcomed flick to the swordplay genre, but with a bit more meat and potatoes to satisfy  those that may want a side of horror and thriller elements to their main course.  It’s a trifecta of sorts.  To recap: Did I mention that Sean Bean is in it, too?  That is all you need to know.  “For Gondor!”  I mean, yeah…check it out.

 

Order Black Death on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

6 Responses to “Black Death (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    I saw this at the Cleveland Film Festival this year. Although I liked it, I did not like it as much as I would need to in order to own this and want to watch it again. I love Sean Bean and the gritty violence, but there were an awful lot of cutaways that I found distracting. However, i would agree with Gerard. Check this one out if you have not already!

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Excited for this. It’s in my queue

  3. Gregg

    I shouldn’t be spending money right now but I so badly want to pull the trigger on this buy.

  4. Gerard Iribe

    I think you would like it, Gregg.

  5. Big Boys Oven

    I must get this one!

  6. Jiminy Critic

    Going to watch this for sure… nothing like the plague for some old-fashioned entertainment!