30th Oct2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘The Reckoning’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Joe Anderson, Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington | Written by Edward Evers-Swindell, Charlotte Kirk, Neil Marshall | Directed by Neil Marshall

England. 1665. The great plague has caused a frenzy of fear, distrust and death. Desperate and terrified, the population turns to superstition, the Catholic Church taking cruel advantage of the grim witch-hunting opportunities presented. Recently widowed Grace Haverstock is at her wit’s end when her landlord attempts to force her into paying debts with sexual favours. Her refusal means she must face horrific interrogations at the hands of Britain’s most ruthless Witchfinder General. But she is not alone. And her journey won’t end here without a reckoning.

I’m going to be honest, the name Neil Marshall doesn’t seem to carry the same kudos is once had, especially after many fans felt his Hellboy adaptation lacklustre. However I am in the opposite camp… I truly enjoyed Hellboy (for I’m not one of the Guillermo Del Toro fanboys who wouldn’t give it the time of day and hail his versions as gospel), especially as it played on more of the horrific aspects of the comic.

And yes, despite the risible Centurion in 2010 I still look forward to a Neil Marshall film. So I did have hopes set moderately high for The Reckoning, even moreso given its set in the times of the black death, where women were tried, without reason for being witches by, usually corrupt, Witchfinder Generals.

Oh, yes we’re in THAT territory with The Reckoning! We’re also in the territory of a film that outstays its welcome with repetitive scenes of torture and a penchant for jump scares – Charlotte Kirk’s Grace suffering one too many nightmares; making the audience almost numb to even the most terrifying of frights.

Unfortunately the repetition is not just kept to the torture. We’re also repeatedly shown Grace hallucinating about her now-dead husband, her mother, and even Satan himself. All the while the film cutting to title card after title card, counting down Grace’s days under the torturous watch of Sean Pertwee’s witch finder Moorcroft. Grace and Moorcroft repeatedly battle back and forth; Grace suffering brutally at the hands of Moorcroft and his assistant Ursula (who FYI, commits the films most grimace-worthy piece of torture, against a fellow woman no less) but never gives up – literally fighting to stay alive for the sake of her child.

When the end does – eventually – come, The Reckoning has once last surprise up it’s sleeve as Grace becomes something of an angel of vengeance. LITERALLY fighting back against Moorcroft, Ursula and all those who would do her and her child, Abby, harm; turning into a female swashbuckler type, sword and blunderbuss in hand!

Ultimately The Reckoning is something of a mixed bag. There’s a seed of a great film here, especially given the subject matter; but the films repetitive nature undermines the rest of the movie – the violence, the performances… and eventually the story. And I couldn’t help but think that Marshall and co-writer Charlotte Kirk, who also plays the central role of Grace, could have made a lot more out off the nature of the battle between the brutal misogyny of men and the women they look to overpower.

** 2.5/5

The Reckoning screened on Friday October 23rd as part of this months Frightfest Digital Edition.


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