Crucifixion (2 stars)


Hellish exploration of a cruel and unusual punishment that barely lets up for a single second

During one of his typically on-point routines about religion, stand-up god Bill Hicks once questioned why Christians would wear crosses round their necks and not, say, fishes. 'D'you think when Jesus comes back, he's going to want to see a cross, man?' he mused. Going on to compare such ill thought-out iconography to people approaching JFK's widow with a rifle pendant and pulling an imaginary trigger: 'just thinking about John, Jackie; keeping that memory alive.'

A near two-hour slab of historical horror to merrily toast the new year, Crucifixion has experts looking on at the Easter celebrations in the Philippines, aghast at those 'martyrs' who agree to be attached to a cross with sterilised nails through palms and feet. It might look like it stings, but it's nothing compared to the real life terror and agony of an actual crucifixion. Jesus, of course, was the most famous victim of this barbaric practice (had he gone through with it, broadcaster Dominik Diamond may have run him a close second for a Channel Five documentary in 2006), but crucifixion goes back some nine centuries before him to the Assyrian Empire, an area which now covers parts of Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Later advocates included Alexander The Great and the Visigoths before the Romans became the true masters of this gruesome art. It later faded from 'popularity' only to make a comeback in 16th century Japan and was later adopted during the genocide in Darfur.

In case you were ever wondering exactly how someone dies from being crucified, fear not, modern forensic CGI can get to the heart of this despicable matter. But above all, the policy of crucifixion is not just to kill enemies, but to send very public messages to 'rebels, upstarts and troublemakers'. It certainly puts the handing out of ASBOs into perspective. Over the course of this hellish melee, a vast amount of pained expressions, blood-soaked faces and laughing executioners will wear you down to a nub. As they used to say at the end of Crimewatch, don't have nightmares. You will, but do try not to.

Sky History, Friday 1 January, 9pm.