It was the time of the crusades and the wold was at war with itself and with religion. Fear was rampant and priests and zealots saw Satan and witches around every single corner. If it was suspected you were a witch they would make sure that you confessed to it before they would kill you to save your soul. After consigning your body God and your soul to perdition they would then do rituals to make sure that your body stayed dead, not to rise again as a demon infested corpse. They wanted to make sure that your soul was safely with God and that your body would never again cause them trouble as they perceived that you did in life. The beginning of the film opens with such a scene but the rituals were not completed and we get to see the consequences of that. The priest in his holy zeal went by himself to read the passages and was killed by something far worse then what he had feared the women were. He was killed by a demon from the very depths of hell.
About 100 years after the death of the ill fated priest we find two knights of the Crusades, Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) getting ready for battle. Across an expansive desert they are about to face what has been told to them was the enemy of god by the Grandmaster (Brían F. O’Byrne) of the knights they were attached to. The Grandmaster was very charismatic in being able to rally his troops in such a way that they feared nothing except the fear of failing. Behmen and Felson it would seem were there for more sport then anything, they did not act like questing knights for god at all. They would compete with each other to see who would by the drinks by seeing who killed the most infidels. Later we learn that Felson actually joined so he could get his many sins forgiven that he had done in his youth and past. They were both in it for the glory and none could match them on the field of battle, that is till after 10 years of service they found themselves killing innocent women and children. They didn’t even realize what they had done till it was staring them right in the eye and it took the fight out of them instantly.
After the battle was over they said they had enough and decided to leave and no one wanted to or even tried to stand in their way as they deserted the order in broad daylight with everyone watching. No one wanted to cross swords with these men, they were legends in their own time and they wanted to make sure that they didn’t die by either mans sword. So renowned were they that their names were known throughout the land and in the various orders of both priests and knights. That fame caught up to them about a month after they left their unit after wandering into a town that was surrounded by death and desolation. The plague, the black death was rampant in the land and they stumbled right into the middle of it not even knowing that it was happening. Their first view of it was as they came across a farmers house and found the couple in their bed dead and dieing covered in puss filled boils and covered in flies and maggots. The best they could do for them was to burn the house and them in it and take 2 of the horses to get to town.
The town itself was not much better then the house that they had found, it was filled with the dead and dieing. There was death all around and fear as people cried out for the 2 knights to take them to safety in whatever town they might be headed to. Both knights knew they had to get out of town quick before their true identities were found out. Their fears were well founded when a boy transferring their belongings from one horse to the next caused Behmen’s sword to fall to the ground exposing the crest on the hilt. The stable master just took the money for the new horses and notified the city guard of what he had saw. It wasn’t long before a squad of guards and crossbowmen were on them to arrest them. Sure the two men fought but when it became evident that they only way they would escape was to kill them all they gave themselves up. They were tired of it all anyway and didn’t really care one way or the other except for the lives that they would have been forced to take. Little did they know that would put them in even greater harms way and freedom at the same time.
As the two were being lead away to the dungeon a priest noticed the crest on the sword and took them to the Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee), who was himself dieing of the plague. The cardinal knows of them and what they have done for the church and asks them to serve the church once again. It is not till Behmen sees the person they call the Black Witch that he decides to help but on the condition that the girl is given a fair trial and that all the charges against the 2 knights are dropped, permanently. In return they would make sure that the girl gets to the monks at Severak for trial. And what a trip it will be as they wind their way through forgotten roads, haunted forests and the bridge from hell, at least that is the way they see it.
This is going to be one film that will not turn out as you expect it will. You will find yourself thinking that it is just a trip to the abbey but nothing could be further then the truth. This is not just an adventure film but is also a demon filled horror story that just might keep you up at nights after you see it. This will definitely change the way you look at medieval films. This is a true horror story as if the Brothers Grimm themselves had told it.
I give this film a Musing review of