5/10/2021

The Reckoning (Review)

Director: Neil Marshall
Writers: Neil Marshall, Charlotte Kirk, Edward Evers-Swindell
Cast: Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington, Joe Anderson, Suzanne Magowan, Ian Whyte
Year: 2020
Min: 110

1665 is "the year of the great plague", as the opening credits tell us. It is here that our story takes place. Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk, who also co-wrote the script along with Edward Evers-Swindell and director Neil Marshall) has found that her husband has hung himself, after contracting the bubonic plague. When, the scummy landlord Squire Pendleton (Steven Waddington) comes to collect the rent, she pays him with her and her hubby's wedding rings. He tells her that are other ways to pay and tries to rape her. She rebukes him and fights back. Pissed off, he leaves and threatens that she will regret this.

The Squire, then, accuses Grace of witchcraft. She is taken and imprisoned, while he, himself, takes her little, baby girl away. An especially cruel witchfinder, John Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee), (who coincidently burned Grace's mom at the stake, when Grace was but a child) is in charge of her trial and torture. Accompanying him in his sadistic ways is his horribly scarred companion, Ursula (Suzanne Magowan). Meanwhile, Grace is haunted by dreams in which Satan (Ian Whyte), himself, wants and tempts her. But, regardless, she won't be broken by the witchfinder and give him the confession she wants. Instead, all she wishes to have her daughter safe and back with her. But first, she must first find a way to escape. 

The Reckoning is a British dramatic/ adventure/ horror film from genre master Neil (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Game of Thrones) Marshall, who directed and co-wrote it. It is a movie in the vein of films like Witchfinder General and Mark of the Devil. Except, that it has that added action influence that Marshall is so good at. It played a couple of festivals last year and was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 6, 2021. It makes it exclusive streaming debut on Shudder on May 13, 2021.

This movie really sucks you in, pretty much from the beginning, and even more so once the plot really unfolds. Thanks to Marshall's directing, this is a beautiful looking movie, with a somber start. The dark, grey and rainy parts play in sharp contrast to the bright and happy flashbacks of Grace and her husband, during the start of the film. The scene of his hanging is an early and strong, emotional hit. There is a heavy feeling for much of the film, particularly during the torture scenes. And, while, those aren't super explicit, they do rock you hard enough to elicit the intended reaction.  

With that being said, all the shit that you'll see our heroine go through, really makes the pay off in the climax worth it. And, boy, is it ever awesome! The action scenes from there are on in are thrilling, exciting, and bloody. Marshall also manages to add lot of suspense and white knuckle intensity to what is happening. My fists where clenched and my heart was in my throat, as I watched these scenes unfurl. All the while, cheering for Grace to succeed and make the bad guys pay. The movie also has a gorgeous score by Christopher (Creepshow the series) Drake, which comes off as powerful, tragic, and evocative. And, I fucking loved it! 

The movie only lost me a bit during its cheap dream scenes and unnecessary jump scares. These moments are when Satan keeps visiting and haunting Grace. He wants to screw and tempt her to turn to him. But, to me these parts serve only to slow the movie down and feel overdone. To be honest, though, this is the only complaint I have of this otherwise, very well done film. 

Within the movie, we do get a sex scene with some nudity. I mention this mostly, because moments like this are almost non-existent in film nowadays. Aside, from being easy on the eyes, it serves as a believable and tender proof of Grace and her husband's love. Here is hoping that this marks a return of sex in movies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we get strong violence and gore. Among the mayhem is torture, immolation, whipping, bloody squibs, decapitation, and a superlative head crushing. 

The inherit sexism of the time plays an obviously major role in this movie's themes and plot. It is at the heart of the film and a major motivation for our heroine. That isn't the only statement this flick makes. This is evident from the movie's prologue, where a woman is pulled away from her family by officials. It reminded me about cases and events from recent times. It felt like an allusion to police brutality and of ICE separating families. So, that despite the flick's historical context, its message actually feels very contemporary. 


The acting is excellent from the whole cast. Steven Waddington's Squire is a detestable, scummy, asshole, who you will absolutely loathe. Also, worthy of your hate is Sean Pertwee's John Moorcroft. As the film's witchfinder, I wanted so badly for someone to kick the shit out of him. Both main antagonists, as such are very well portrayed by their respective actors. But, this is, ultimately Charlotte Kirk's movie. She is a breathtaking beauty, whose flawless acting is one of the year's most heart wrenching performances, as well as one of its best protagonists.

The Reckoning is a powerful and exciting dramatic horror movie with some rousing moments of action. The climax, in particular, will have you the edge of your seat. The acting is superlative, giving life to detestable villains and great heroes. Still, it is Kirk's Grace that truly shines. She is my favorite hero in a 2021 release, so far. Some graphic gore and well handled torture scenes help add to the flick's intensity. In all, it is the best witchfinder movie since Stuart Gordon take on Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum. 






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