Monday, October 3, 2022

#2,826. The Reckoning (2020) - The Films of Neil Marshall


Director Neil Marshall, the man behind such genre favorites as Dog Soldiers, The Descent, and Doomsday, travels back to 17th century England with his 2020 horror film The Reckoning to spin a tale of pestilence and witchcraft.

When her plague-infected husband Joseph (Joe Anderson) takes his own life, young mother Grace (Charlotte Kirk) finds herself at the whim of their treacherous landlord, Pendleton (Steve Waddington), who tries to pressure Grace into having sex with him. When she refuses, Pendleton accuses Grace of witchcraft and sends for England’s most notorious with hunter, Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee), to question her.

Awaiting Moorcroft’s arrival, Grace is thrown into prison, and while there begins to experience visions of both her dead husband and Lucifer himself (Ian Whyte), who tries to convince a frail Grace that it would be in her best interest to turn her immortal soul over to him.

The Reckoning benefits from a convincing re-creation of the time period, when England was in the throes of the black plague, and Marshall and his team do a fine job conveying the dirt, grime, and disease that was prevalent during this dark era of history.

As for the cast, Charlotte Kirk looks far too glamourous (her hair and make-up are always pristine, making her one of the least convincing “prisoners” to ever inhabit a dank jail cell), but both Sean Pertwee (as the holy man who sees witches everywhere) and his assistant, the badly deformed Ursula (Suzanne Magowan), are convincing as the film’s heavies. And while Marshall and company take a modern approach to the story, making Grace seem more like a feminist crusader than a victim of religious persecution, the scenes in which she is tortured by Moorcroft and Ursula are nonetheless tough to watch.

Unfortunately, The Reckoning has one major failing: the scenes in which Grace encounters Satan. They go absolutely nowhere. I was hoping these sequences might figure into the story somehow, with Satan taking a more active role in Grace’s plight. Being accused of witchcraft was an immediate death sentence in those days, so why not have Grace and the Devil actually enter into an agreement? But it wasn’t to be, and instead we’re left with an ill-advised modern take on a troubling period of history, and a movie that looks a lot better than it plays.
Rating: 5 out of 10

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