The striking similarities between these two movies begin with their settings in or nearly in 1348CE, and introduce stalwart holy knights who are charged by The Curch to root out The Evil cause of The Black Plague that is presently reducing the populations of Europe by something like 50%. The Season of the Witch is a vastly superior movie starring Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman. (A movie is a film that I’ll probably never revisit.) It goes in search of conventional heroes who encounter problems and furnish solutions; and once I’ve seen the patented Hollywood packaging of the usual Hollywood product, there’s very little reason to go there ever again. The Season of the Witch is just like that; boxed entertainment. The End.
The Black Death is difficult to watch because of all the fashionable camera movement (even in extended dialogue scenes). Action scenes apparently give filmmakers unlimited license to disorient and nauseate a manipulated audience, but this film takes those liberties whenever talking heads are babbling or silent or severed. I also hated the fashionable editing practices that go hand-in-hand with wobbly camerawork.
The Black Death, however, has a significant advantage over The Season of the Witch; it’s about something I find far more interesting than neutralizing the diabolical machinations of the malicious imps of Satan. The Black Death is about the rightness of righteous intolerance. It comes right out and describes The Church as Power unjustly dedicated, for thirteen unbroken centuries, to pervasive sociopolitical dominance, the subjugation of women, and of the faithful, and the merciless extermination of disbelievers/heretics and unChristian infidels. That’s a littly ballsy for exploitainment. It also installs Sean Bean as the leader of a tiny band of sociopathic felons tasked by The Church to determine exactly what ungodly, necromantic force prevents an isolated village from falling prey to the catastrophic plague that’s ravaging everybody else. It’s a film about the plural shadow of devout belief (rather than doubt) hidden in a bloody, exploitation movie that really coulda/shoulda been better made.
Inevitably, our “heroes” find the plague-free village peopled by ________________ (that would be prejudicial spoilery). It’s probably sufficient to say there are zero signs of Satan-worship, aliens, nor people from the future. The unChristian inhabitants make cogent and interesting talking points regarding faith in the invisible, implaccable, vengeful Lord of Christian creation and orthodoxy — which sets the heavily-armed, sociopathic killer-Christians, in their midst, on edge. It’s probably enough to say that an isolated village of pissed-off infidels in the plague-ravaged bowels of Papist England in 1348 aren’t a single hair more pleasant company than psychotic fighting men hellbent on roasting bleeding heretics at the bidding of The Cardinal.
Don’t read this: (The [global] village is inhabited by lying, two-faced, manipulative, sophisiticated, self-serving, murderous agnostics: very much like Us!)
Were it not for the intrusive and excessive camera-movement/editing quirks of this film, The Black Death would deserve the kind of careful attention it clearly attempted to provoke. Unfortunately, the film also wobbles to its bloody and irresolute conclusion with a ludicrous voice-over epilogue designed to inflect the thrusts of serious conversations of patrons leaving the theater away from universal parallel witch-hunts, toward the isolated personal issues of a vengeful monk…Hollywood schlock. Expecting to be nauseted, I might revisit this one.