A pair of renegades from the Crusades get roped into escorting a witch to trial in this Medieval horror flick from the director of “Whiteout.”
The action begins with a chilling sequence where we observe three accused witches getting punished by a small town goon squad. Said justice amounts to mercy if they plead guilty. Two take the deal but all they get is the same fate as the third -which amounts to being hung and drowned at the same time (suspenders and a belt).
The priest who was officiating begs for help in retrieving the bodies so a final ritual can be observed. No dice! It’s ‘Miller Time” for these guys and they go off in search of the local pub. The Holy man must fish them out himself. His incantations work well but the third body springs into action and makes short work of him. Cut to a hundred years later.
Now we are off to the Crusades where we observes an army of Knights invading small villages and demanding the citizenry join up as Christians. Two of the men, Behmen and Felson, are growing disenchanted with this process. They outright quit after one of them accidentally impales a young woman.
They journey back to Europe where they learn a plague is infesting the continent. They come upon a village where most of the people are infected. There they are arrested as deserters under order of the local Cardinal. He has them locked up but they can be free if they agree to escort an accused witch to the big city for judgment. They opt for the trip thinking it better than being locked up by guards who could drop at any moment from the disease.
They assemble a diverse crew for the job which includes: Hagaman-a thief who knows the way, think of him as GPS; Ekhart-a warrior; and Debelzaq- a priest. The girl in question turns out to be a fetching brunette with saucer eyes, no name, and a silky voice that is almost hypnotic. If you question whether all are going to finish the trip then you are in the zone.
The men start dropping like flies in mysterious ways. One runs right onto a fellow’s sword thinking he is running into the arms of his teenage daughter. Another goes down in gory fashion when they are attacked by a pack of wolves. The rest arrive at their destination only to find a city upended by plague and infested by an even more dangerous presence.
it all boils down to a pitched battle with the dark forces . Steel against Satan and to the victor will go the soul of the young lady.
This is fun stuff that should appeal to fans of dark fantasy and “Dungeons and Dragons.” The language isn’t authentic so you don’t hear olden language like ‘smite” or “verily.” The history is mostly botched but the actors look great (even though they shouldn’t because indoor plumbing and proper hygiene were not observed in the good old days depicted here.
The actors are all in character and include: a menacing Ron Perlman as Felson: a less melodramatic (as in he doesn’t adopt a funny voice) Nicholas Cage as Behmen;and an almost unrecognizable Christopher Lee as the plague stricken Cardinal. There are also appearances by actors from Cable crime shows like Ulrich Thomson (Banshee) as a conflicted knight and Stephen Graham (AL Capone on ‘Boardwalk Empire’)as a foul mouthed peasant.
The final fight has some excellent sword play and cool effects as the heroes must battle out with zombie/demon/ priests. Worth a look if you missed it.
Especially good is the alternate ending which is essentially a brawl with hell spawn. Sadly the film’s theatrical ending is lame city and suffers from too much CGI. They even brought in a different guy to reshoot the finale. Luckily the original battle scene is included as an extra and is more in keeping with the style of the flick.
Best Lines: “Perhaps you would like to pelt me with fruit or kick me in the groin?”
“I know the way, I just can’t see the way.”
“My vow is to God, not the men who murder in his name.”