Director: Neil Marshall
Stars: Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
I love me some Neil Marshall movies. His Dog Soldiers and The Descent are two of my favorite films of all time. Centurion is a very fun bit of historical ultra-violent action and I enjoy his love letter to many of the best 80s action flicks ever made, Doomsday. But then he did the recent Hellboy reboot, and I thought that was godawful; and being a fan of both Marshall and the Hellboy character, that hurt my soul. However, I kept hearing stories about studio interference, and that helped soothe my wounded appreciation of the filmmaker. After all, anyone can have their vision trashed by the witless and uncaring suits at the top, right? So it was with much anticipation that I went into this movie set in 1600s England during a time of plague and witchcraft hysteria. Were my lingering fears about Mr. Marshall’s movie-making prowess washed away or reinforced by this revelation? Well, grab your grimoires, kiss the goat, and let’s find out.
Here a good, honest farmer dies of the plague and his very attractive wife is left to fend for herself and for her baby. Naturally the landlord is a nasty sort, and he wants to take advantage of the situation to bed the woman; she refuses, and so she is labeled as a witch. Science! A witchfinder is called in and there is a “trial,” not to mention some torture and various supernatural visions that may be real or just the product of fevered imaginations. Will our heroine survive the ordeal? Will the guilty be punished for their perversion of justice? Will the Devil claim his due? Well, that is firmly in the land of spoilers, so I shall not reveal those answers here but leave you to discover that for yourself should you wish to. But then, therein lies the question, should you even bother?
Well, the answer is, sadly, a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, this movie is better than Marshall’s take on Hellboy, but it is also weaker than all the rest of his impressive film catalog. The story is pretty basic, it does nothing that you won’t see coming, and has not one surprise to spring on you. It ping-pongs back and forth between mellow drama, light medieval torture porn, and a few scenes that do deliver effective scares, but only a very few of all the ones they tried. The acting is hit and miss, too. Sean Pertwee as the witchfinder is, as is always the case with Mr. Pertwee, very good, but Charlotte Kirk as our leading lady always felt a bit off to me. I never really bought her fear, anger, righteous indignation, or even her physical pain. That “offness” can be said for the majority of the cast as well, as most of them—men, women, or children—should have had long mustaches for them to twirl while being so over the top eeeeeeeeeevil. Really, I found myself more often than not snickering when I should have been booing or hissing at the baddies.
On to the extras that RLJ Entertainment has put out on this new Blu-ray. Sadly, there are only a few deleted scenes and that’s it. Was the movie not worth more of an effort than that? Clearly the disc’s distributor didn’t think so, so take that as you will.
The Reckoning was not the return to form for Neil Marshall I was hoping for, and I am an easy mark for both historical horror and witchcraft movies. It seemed to move through the motions, giving you what you would expect from such fare but not one thing more. I found little to impress or inspire me here, and as such I really can’t recommend it. Give this one a pass or rent it from your favorite streaming site at most.