21. Black Death

Director: Christopher Smith
Stars: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten

With each film that he makes, British director Christopher Smith further establishes himself as one of the genre community’s most exciting and unpredictable talents. In 2004, he released a particularly nasty piece of work in Creep, a claustrophobic monster movie; two years later, he flipped the slasher movie concept on its head with the horror-comedy Severance, followed in 2009 with the stellar mind-bender Triangle. This year, though, Smith unveiled his most impressive work to date: Black Death, a humorless, grim medieval horror film.

What starts out as a road, or better yet “crusade,” movie( led by Sean Bean, because, after all, you can’t have a sword-and-shield production without him) slowly descends into a gruesome exhibition of God-fearing, religious anarchy. Black Death has a lot to say about the darker side of faith; Smith, along with screenwriter Dario Poloni, ask their questions and vaguely provide answers so that, by the film’s downbeat conclusion, you’ll be left shell-shocked and eager to debate.

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