The Reckoning is a horror film set during the Great Plague of 1665. Grace (Charlotte Kirk) is a mother who’s been recently widowed and is struggling to look after her newly born daughter whilst paying her rent and surviving the current epidemic. When she fights off a rape attempt from her landlord she’s accused of being a witch and is tortured until she confesses her covenant with the Devil.
The opening ten minutes of The Reckoning are fantastic. They contain a brilliantly edited montage cutting back and forth through time telling you the story of why Grace is burying her husband in the present. It’s full of emotion and fantastic match cuts that make for a perfect scene setter of a tragic and horrific film. Sadly, however, as soon as those ten minutes are up the film descends into a boring slog of bad dialogue, bad acting and just endless scenes of vile torture, imprisonment and even some quite graphic beastiality.
The idea of a film set during the Great Plague is a very intriguing one. Especially given the plague we’re currently living through. The Reckoning could have been a film about the dangers of paranoia. What fear can do to people in times of great suffering. That story is somewhere within this script but the film being from the perspective of a victim of the paranoia can only go so far. This goes tenfold when that victim is basically just beaten up for the majority of the film’s run time.
The film’s director and one of its writers, Neil Marshall, could have basically made a remake of the 1970s classic cult film Witchfinder General. A story that follows the titular character as he goes around the English countryside arbitrarily deciding who and who isn’t a witch. While at the same time it follows a hero who stands against the Witchfinder as he comes for his lover. The film suffers a lot from basically being old and also shares The Reckoning’s obsession with showing egregious torture.
The decision to follow a female protagonist is clearly the writers’ attempts at making a “Girl Power” film, set in a time where misogyny was at its worst. Unfortunately, Grace doesn’t really get much of a chance to be a hero and spends most of the film as a victim. As mentioned before, a large amount of the film revolves around her being tortured. The other parts either someone’s trying to rape her or she’s stuck in a cell. At the end, she does get to become more heroic, but by that point you’ll have lost interest and will just want the film to be over.
The Reckoning clearly wasn’t cheap to make. A lot of the special effects are quite good. There’s some really great practical effects used, especially later on. Sean Pertwee’s the only big name in the cast and he does the best he can with the script but he can’t save it.
This film was basically one giant missed opportunity. If you’re thinking it might be for you, you’re better off watching The Witch instead.
The Reckoning is available on digital platforms from April 16.