February 5th, 2021
MOVIE: THE RECKONING
STARRING: CHARLOTTE KIRK, SEAN PERTWEE, STEVEN WADDINGTON, JOE ANDERSON
DIRECTED BY: NEIL MARSHALL
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Director Neil Marshall is good at horror movies. He has a thick, nasty style to his craft, which was evident in the claustrophobic classic The Descent. He attempted to inject that style into 2019’s Hellboy, which delivered more blood and a wacky side to the devilish hero, but he still failed to give it a reason to exist at all. Now he’s moving past his big budget effort with The Reckoning, and once again, the aesthetics look cool, but the end result is a mess. The story arrives at a right time, where the setting is 1665 England, and a great plague is sweeping the land. It has sent people into mass hysteria, death is all around, and with panic must come a purpose. It begins the process of persecutions, where Christian beliefs inject lies of witchcraft, and various women become the lambs sent to the slaughter. The Reckoning is about Grace (Charlotte Kirk), whose husband Joseph (Joe Anderson) returns from his travels and through bad luck has caught “the sickness”. Before succumbing to the illness, he kills himself, but Grace becomes the one that is blamed, arrested and put on trial for witchy ways. What follows is her trial and various modes of torture. The Reckoning turns into a mixture of painful survival and a dance with demonic hallucinations. That could be cool for a horror movie, but in this instance, it becomes tedious. The Reckoning is more of a headache than anything.
One major problem for The Reckoning is that Monty Python and the Holy Grail all but ruined any chance of taking this movie seriously. The classic scene where the town folk are accusing a woman of being a witch simply because “she looks like one” is more or less the entire premise of this film. Co-written by Kirk, Marshall, and Edward Evers-Swindell, the only reasoning they have for accusing Grace for being a witch is because her husband caught the nasty plague everyone else seems to be getting, and because the local sheriff Pendelton (Steven Waddington) wants to lock her up for his own keeping. Grace’s defiance to his advances leads to her imprisonment and things spiral out of control when torment master Lord Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) arrives with his tools of persecution. The middle section of The Reckoning is Grace locked up in her cell, removed for a daily dose of poking and prodding, and hallucinations where she sees a devil figure seducing her. Very little of it is scary and not shocking enough to even entertain.
Where the credit can be given to The Reckoning are the moments of fantastic makeup used for the devil character. His presence in each scene is terrifying, with a face that will haunt your dreams, and claws that could rip your heart out. The other incredible talent is Kirk, who carries the film, taking on the emotion of her character sent through the wringer. She co-wrote the film so there is a certain amount of authenticity injected into the narrative about a woman losing her husband, wrongfully accused of something, and fighting to survive to find a way back to her child. She is going to be a rising actor to look for.
Outside of those positives, I found The Reckoning to be disappointing. There is a talent in director Neil Marshall, but he seems to be hindered by scripts that don’t suit his strengths. Other films have done this type of story better, especially recently in Gareth Evans’ Apostle, Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, or Robert Eggers instant colonial classic The Witch. All of those films do it better. The judgement is clear, The Reckoning should be skipped.
RLJE Films and Shudder will release the action / horror THE RECKONING In Theaters, On Demand and Digital February 5, 2021.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady