Director Neil Marshall’s latest horror takes us to England, 1665. After losing her husband to the great plague, Grace (Charlotte Kirk, who also co-writes), is unjustly accused of being a witch. Placed in the custody of the country’s most ruthless witch hunter, Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee), she is forced to endure physical and emotional torture. Insisting her innocence, Grace must also face her own inner demons.
With the pandemic and the #MeToo movement, the plague and female empowerment are timely themes. A movie commenting on misogyny under the guise of a witch hunt has huge potential. Unfortunately, The Reckoning’s poor execution and convoluted approach leaves a lot to be desired.
The overlong opening with repeated shots of Grace burying her husband is an indicator of what is to come: a drawn-out melodrama. While numerous scenes are suitably shocking in their violence and gore, the director leans heavily on a series of fantasy moments. These are jarring and come over as nothing more than a cheap means of providing some jump scares. Overusing this technique renders them more tedious than terrifying.
The characters are largely lacking in complexity, although Pertwee excavates what he can and elevates proceedings. Steven Waddington as the sinister landlord also delivers a solid performance.
The feature boasts beautiful cinematography – courtesy of Luke Bryant – and there is an imposing score by Christopher Drake. These add a great deal to a film that cannot be faulted for its atmospheric visuals.
However, there are too many questionable creative choices. Grace, for example, is beaten and tortured to within an inch of her life yet emerges physically capable of embarking on a revenge rampage. It’s one of many instances that leaves the audience shaking their heads rather than shaking in their seats. Marshall and Kirk no doubt had good intentions, but The Reckoning doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. A muddled misfire.
The Reckoning is released digitally on demand on 13th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Reckoning here: