Hey folks, Barbarella here to share my thoughts on THE RECKONING, which came out on Blu-ray last week. There’s a long, involved story of why I didn’t post a review on this last week, and I won’t go into detail here, but if you ever catch me out and are curious, just ask. I’ll tell you all about it.
At any rate, I hold high expectations going into this period drama/horror film directed by Neil Marshall, because I absolutely love his film THE DESCENT. However, I am often burned by such expectations, and sadly, THE RECKONING burns me much like a witch in Salem.
Taking place in 1665 England, while the Great Plague ravages London and superstitious people search for a cause, the story revolves around Grace (Charlotte Kirk), who, after losing her husband (Joe Anderson) and rejecting the creepy landlord’s advances, finds herself accused of witchcraft and at the mercy of renowned and ruthless witch-hunter John Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee).
I love much of the cinematography, which at times captures some genuinely alluring images, but the characters fall flat in their stereotypical roles – slimy landlord, self-righteous witch-hunter, innocent victim, and townspeople shouting “Witch” in a very Monty Pythonesque fashion. The townspeople’s jeers send my brain wandering to MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL and pull me completely out of the film, but I welcome the temporary reprieve.
Now that you’re thinking about MONTY PYTHON, I’ll try to redirect you back to my experience with THE RECKONING. I am someone who loves the way tension builds in a great horror film, and I expect more of that in this story. In the opening sequence, the story intercuts between happier times and current events. Feeling more like something from a bizarre music video, the editing never allows for any kind of real tension to build with the current situation. I argue that the flashbacks prove completely unnecessary, anyway. Charlotte Kirk’s performance divulges all we need to know about what she loses.
The actors work with what they have, but the writing limits them. Not all the writing is lacking, though. I do love some scenes and bits of the film. My favorite scenes involve either the hauntings or a wagon, but the witchcraft portion of the film drags everything down. Ghostly visits become less interesting and even tedious as the story progresses. Nightmares also feel overly repetitive and scenes involving them that could have been dynamic feel stagnant, instead. I would’ve liked more diversity in the dream sequences or less abrupt edits to allow some tension or intrigue to grow.
Do you know what else I would like? Filmmakers and actors to get a better understanding of how pain works. The mishandling of pain in cinema is becoming a new pet peeve of mine. While many films fail to recognize that pain lingers after an injury occurs, I find THE RECKONING’s handling of post pain-inflicting scenarios especially egregious. I mean, in real life, a person could have an operation where a surgeon takes great care to limit the amount of damage to that person. That person would still experience more pain days later than a film character who was essentially butchered experiences hours later. Pain lingers. Depending on the injury, it could linger for months, even a lifetime, so I’m irritated by anyone in a film who experiences serious injuries yet within hours is hopping around and doing things that would not be possible without crippling pain. This needs to be handled better. Filmmakers spend hours getting little details right in a wardrobe or background that almost no one notices, but they fail to spend any time capturing how a lead character might experience pain an hour or a day after a severe injury.
Despite these flaws, THE REDEMPTION has elements I love. As I mentioned before, I appreciate the cinematographer’s choices and how beautiful the film looks. Some of the visual elements hit with tremendous power. In fact, one single image proves so artistic, I’d love to own a Mondo print of it. Also, I delight in the effects involving a particular wagon scene.
Aside from these, Christopher Drake’s eloquently crafted score greatly embellishes the film. In fact, I could just listen to that score and let my imagination run. I reckon, that’s my favorite element of THE RECKONING. (See what I did there?)
THE RECKONING is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray, both of which contain deleted scenes.