Eventually, The Reckoning (2021) Will Be with Films Like This
Title: The Reckoning
First Wide Release: February 5, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Neil Marshall, Charlotte Kirk, Edward Evers-Swindell
Runtime: 110 Minutes
Starring: Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After suffering the loss of her husband to the Plague, Grace (Charlotte Kirk) struggles to make ends meet for herself and her daughter, Abby. Not even a few days after her husband’s death does her Landlord Squire Pendelton (Steven Waddington) arrive demanding she pay rent by the end of the week lest she be evicted. After rejecting his sexual advances, he begins spreading a rumor in town that she is a witch, and she is imprisoned. He calls for John Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) to purge the devil from her soul and make her confess to her crimes.
A clunky story of superstition and revenge, The Reckoning fails to capitalize on the timely potential for its premise.
The setup for The Reckoning gives plenty of latitude to explore the themes of Christian authoritarianism and the subjugation of women. By playing on the term “reckoning”, director Neil Marshall evokes ideas related to current discourse on sexual abuse and assault in modern society. Unfortunately, it doesn’t succeed. Instead of a meaty period allegory for the abuses of the Church and men, The Reckoning becomes a middling supernatural horror film that goes on tangents while ignoring a central message.
There’s this confusing desire to intercut Grace’s mother, husband, and the devil into her spiritual unraveling. There’s never any reasoning for this other than it looks cool. These scenes by themselves feel awkward and clunky even before they are interwoven into the narrative. It feels more like an excuse to add more drama without getting too unrealistic with the actual humans in the story. The insidious sin here lies in the fact that it never comes to a gratifying resolution. With some editing it would be easy to cut it out altogether, and the film would likely be better off if it isn’t out to commit to this path.
My biggest issue with The Reckoning is that it seems to relish in the suffering of women without saying anything substantial about their experiences. Grace is tortured for most of the second act, enduring devices and practices more horrific than the last, but there’s no revelation, no point to Grace’s arc by the end, especially concerning the devil’s supposed influence. Is the point that there is no point to the oppression of women, or is it that the team didn’t consider saying something stronger or more original? I will say that the film does deserve some credit for not showing some of the more gratuitous tortures and spares the audience the details.
By the time we reach the final twenty minutes there are clear inconsistencies that put the final nails in this film’s imaginary coffin. The tone shifts to something over-the-top and entirely discordant with the majority of the film that precedes it. Grace is given superhuman abilities to kick ass and take names after being deprived of food, water, and sleep on top of repeated physical harm. And the audience is expected to just go with it. I suppose this is where the supernatural influence comes to play, but again, it is never explained so that would be giving the film too much benefit of the doubt.
I do want to acknowledge the positive aspects to Marshall’s return to horror. It is visually beautiful. The grungy village and archaic castle make wonderful backdrops for haunting imagery and inspired shots of the action onscreen. The cast makes a solid effort to sell their anguish and revenge making for a relatively smooth ride for the entirety of the film.
It’s painful for me to admit that I’m not a huge fan of The Reckoning considering Neil Marshall directed my favorite film of all time, The Descent. Disregarding that fact, The Reckoning fails to differentiate itself from plenty of similar films. While it’s beautiful set pieces and strong acting can’t distract from the weak script, its lagging middle section and refusal to clearly define the stakes makes for an overall muddled slog of a watch. An unholy alliance of faith-based horror tropes can’t save The Reckoning from being another average journey into the sins of the church and immoral men.
Overall Score? 5.5/10