With the bubonic plague ravaging medieval England, rookie monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) joins a ragtag group of Satanist-hunting mercenaries to investigate an isolated community which is suspiciously bubo-free.
Given that fear of religious fundamentalism and flu pandemics are among the most popular manifestations of modern paranoia, Chris ‘Severance’ Smith’s Black Death boasts some degree of topicality. And, with the likes of The Name Of The Rose, The Navigator, Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man as almost certain influences, it’s also ripe with grimey promise. Yet, despite a promising men-on-a-medieval-mission set up, its themes and inspirations never coalesce.
A key problem is the absence of a decent protagonist. As the faith-questioning monk, Eddie Redmayne is little more than a lip-wobbling wet fish; as the dark-intentioned, Godfearing mercenary sent to investigate a suspiciously plague-free village, Sean Bean fails to rise about dour scowls. Motivations are murky, but not in a good way: are we supposed to sympathise with the villagers, whose 14th-century Summerisle-lite community does (of course) harbour a dark secret? Sadly, come the surprisingly restrained torture scenes and badly executed twists, you’ll struggle to care.
An encouraging set-up soon descends into a grubby muddle, leaving you wishing you were just rewatching The Name Of The Rose instead.