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The Reckoning (2021), Neil Marshall, Charlotte Kirk, (Horror Movie Review)

The Reckoning (2021), Neil Marshall, Charlotte Kirk, (Horror Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: Set in the plague-infested year 0f 1665, A recently widowed woman refuses the sex-for-rent offer from her creepy landlord and ends up falsely accused of witchcraft.

LOWDOWN: I read The Arrow's review about some werewolf flick called Dog Soldiers on this website many years ago. Being the very early 2000's it was a year or so later when I was able to get my hand on a copy, I ended up loving it and have been in Neil Marshall's corner ever since. Having one hell of a varied career, Marshall has spent the last few years in the world of television, and specifically in the past of sorts. Giving us some of the best episodes of Game Of Thrones and Black Sails, He has proven his ability to use worldbuilding to tell a story, and so I was curious about how his new film The Reckoning (WATCH IT HERE), set during the great plague and witch trials would turn out. What did the Iceman think? Pour a bit of your favorite sippin' rum, and let's find out.

Grace (Charlotte Kirk) has just lost her husband to the Great Plague of London, and after an epic burial scene, realizes she's sh*t out of luck as she has barely enough to cover her farm properties rent. Her landlord, Pendleton (Steven Waddington), assaults her after his "proposition" doesn't go over well, but Grace isn't the type of lady to take any of that nonsense and puts him in his damn place. Having his ego checked harder than the might of Dave "Tiger" Williams, Pendleton accuses Grace of being a witch and puts her on trial.

The Reckoning is probably one of the smallest budgets Neil Marshall has worked on in a while in terms of film. After the studio interference sh*show of the remake of Hellboy, I'm glad to see him something more intimate and personal in terms of story and production. You couldn't ask for better timing as a global pandemic is at the heart of this story, with pestilence and death being a significant factor in everyone's stress and paranoia. The simple fact that Grace hasn't gotten sick is used against her as proof of her supernatural witchcraft nature. One of The Reckoning's best things is Marshall's knack for worldbuilding and immersing you into the atmospheric setting he has created. Details such as the plethora of dead hanging cats or the creepy plague doctors garb, everything in this far away era seems dark, dirty, and depressing.

Most of the runtime is spent during the four days of Grace's witch trial, and this is where the movie switches gears to a story about endurance and perseverance. Though we get some action/horror initially and near the end, things slow down as Marshall focuses on Grace's emotional journey of self-preservation. Kirk does great as a bad-ass and is an excellent argument for the conversation on how to do a strong female lead. She has a femininity about her that doesn't compromise and will punch you in the f*cking face if need be. Yet, she never easily overpowers a man double her size or has a feat of strength that would make Lou Figueroa proud, which is Hollywood's go-to version or a strong woman these days.

Once Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee), a religious judge, jury, and executioner, comes to town, The Reckoning hits its stride. When it comes to the prevalent issue of witches, he is the mid-1600s answer to Harvey Keitel's Winston Wolfe. Sean Pertwee owns it here with his stoic passion for doing the work of the Lord. Moorcroft is a perfect example of writing and casting your villain. His outfit, posh mustache, and overall elegance make him instantly hateable, yet he takes no pleasure in his role as a torturer and doesn't relish in his duties. He exists in the grey of motivation, and even though he believes he is righteous, the amount of innocent women killed during these trials makes you want to see his head on a spike. Pertwee brings a class-act to the part, and If you see The Reckoning for one reason, see it for him.

On the flipside, As much as I loved how deep and expansive this felt on a small budget, it's also where the cracks start to show. More than a few times, we cut away on a crucial moment because of the budget, or things get framed in a way where something epic feels awkwardly small. I'm all for problem-solving filmmaking, but this may have bitten off more than it could chew at times with its apparent limitations. There is also too much going on in terms of tone and intent. It's a religious drama, period horror-action female revenge flick, and holy hell, did this switch between them like it was the 90s, and you had a hundred channels with not a damn thing on. They have a few cool dream sequences where Grace f*cks the Devil, and I'm like, "Ya! Ok, lets get weird," but then they continue with the story and never do anything with it. The Reckoning is tossing a lot at the wall here, which becomes distracting. This could have used a bit more focus and just tell a simple story of religious persecution that becomes a female revenge flick set around The Black Death.

GORE: Things are pretty tame, but we get one great surprise gore shot near the end.

BOTTOM LINE: The Reckoning may be timely with its message, but this isn't a movie that forces a message down your throat, as much as it's a cool period flick that deals with resistance, triumph, and vengeance. The Reckoning works best when it's just Grace, Moorcroft, and their dueling beliefs on who's truly righteous and who'll break first. Neil Marshall crafts an exciting exploitation drama that deals with religious extremism in a way that keeps the pace moving and the stakes high. It's tonally all over the place and wants to be everything to everyone. In my humble opinion, this could have used some trimming to help complement what worked. Overall, the performances rocked and I had the most fun when it let loose. Check this one out!

RLJE Films and Shudder will release the action / horror THE RECKONING In Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on February 5, 2021.

 

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