Review by Sean Boelman
Filmmaker Neil Marshall has gained a bit of a cult following thanks to his early work in the horror genre, but his recent efforts have been nowhere near as satisfying. Those hoping for a return-to-form with his witchcraft horror The Reckoning will be sorely disappointed, as it is little more than an hour and fifty minutes of sex and torture.
Set during the Black Plague, the movie follows a grieving widow who is accused of witchcraft when she rejects the advances of a wealthy landowner. Although the concept is there, the script doesn’t take it any deeper than the surface, causing the film to become extremely monotonous after about twenty minutes.
Marshall’s early movies were good at creating tension and using bursts of gore and brutality to accent the most heightened moments in the plot. In this one, there really isn’t much of a plot to be found, so the only parts that are of interest are those more vicious bits. But apart from one or two strong moments, it’s not enough to sustain a nearly two-hour runtime.
Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that the film feels almost entirely empty. The feminist themes are right there, but the filmmakers do nothing with them. Instead, the movie turns into a revenge tale about false accusations, something which is particularly damning given recent revelations regarding two of the film’s writers.
That said, the antagonists are somewhat interesting, if only Marshall and his co-writers would have been willing to do more with them. A lot of this can be explained by the fact that star and co-writer Charlotte Kirk is Marshall’s fiancée. This feels like a vanity project, everyone's existence in the movie seemingly serving Kirk’s presence.
Unfortunately, Kirk simply isn’t strong enough of an actress to carry the film on her own. Granted, she isn’t given that much to do in the movie, but the finale’s promise is completely underwhelming due to her less-than-impressive delivery. Sean Pertwee is much more enjoyable to watch, but is constantly overshadowed by Kirk’s mediocrity.
On a technical level, the film looks much cheaper than anyone would anticipate it would be. The cinematography and production design aren’t terrible, but they also don’t do much to immerse the viewer in the movie’s world. And the excess of the sexually explicit and violent scenes is laughable and distracting.
The Reckoning is Neil Marshall’s second major misfire in a row. Those who were hoping that his return to the horror genre would have been something enjoyable will find that he has almost entirely lost his touch.
The Reckoning hits theaters and VOD on February 5.