Neil Marshall’s The Reckoning is a film set during the Great Plague. Fear of disease and superstitions easily create uneasiness and tension amid the characters and create parallels to modern times. The story examines violence against women and society’s need to put the blame on something for which it cannot handle. The movie explores these themes, but it tries to do a bit too much causing some disruption that is chaotically entertaining.
The Reckoning features some picturesque scenes. The town, costumes, and scene setups all make for an aesthetically pleasing cinematic experience. The movie has no end of interesting characters. Grace (Charlotte Kirk) is a new mother who finds herself widowed after her husband hangs himself in an effort to spare his family from the plague. She cannot let herself grieve for too long because she has to pay the rent.
Squire, the landlord, attempts to rape her, but she is able to fight him off. Out of spite, he spreads a rumor that Grace is a witch and orders her arrest. This sets the film in motion and brings in characters like Moorcroft, a witch hunter, his right hand woman Ursula, and Lucifer himself.
Grace shows she is strong and resourceful and does not let sentimentality blind her from the need to survive. She is resolute and does not fold under pressure. While Grace is a very strong character, there is another more powerful, but lesser shown. Ursula, the right hand of Moorcroft, is an action star. Ursula is played by Suzanne Magowan. She is a villain, but is far more complicated than a basic bad guy. Almost a foil to Grace, Ursula shows what can happen if you give in to the torture. Magowan’s performance is eerie and masterful. She is kind, despite her sadistic practices, and seems to be more rational than any of the other characters. It’s a very grim portrayal of self preservation.
I’m not one to ask for realism in movies. In fact, I’m good without it. The Reckoning makes some strange choices. At her healthiest, Grace cannot wield a sword. After being subjected to abuse and barely able to hold herself up, she flies into action in a brilliant fight scene. Rousing speeches are made, emotions are evoked, but they somewhat betray the character that has been created. The score seems to be out of control too. The scenes are as dramatic as the swelling music, but the end result is a bit anticlimactic.
The Reckoning is a bit of a roller coaster, but it is action packed. There are excellent fight scenes and the audience will want more of them. The Reckoning delivers on gothic atmosphere and macabre imagery. In addition, there is a pretty awesome looking Lucifer.
The Reckoning comes exclusively to Shudder May 13
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