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  Reckoning, The Turn The Tables
Year: 2020
Director: Neil Marshall
Stars: Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington, Joe Anderson, Suzanne Magowan, Ian Whyte, Callum Goulden, Sarah Lambie, Leon Ockenden, Emma Campbell-Jones, Mark Ryan, Bill Fellows, Oliver Trevena, Tomas Engstrom, Indianna Ryan
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the seventeenth century and the plague has the continent of Europe in its grip, leading the population to paranoia as they try to identify scapegoats for the marauding death across the land. One woman who has decided to stay as far as she can out of it is Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk), who has recently been widowed when her husband hanged himself because he realised he had been infected and had no wish to pass the disease onto either her or their baby - but what if he had been infected deliberately? After Grace digs his grave with her bare hands, more trouble is afoot as the local squire (Steven Waddington) starts visiting...

Witchfinder General cast a long shadow over British horror films, its mixture of the beautiful scenery of the country and the horrendous depths humanity has lowered itself to within it a potent one for the purposes of chills and shocks. It was one of the founding works of hauntology, despite featuring no supernatural element unless you counted the religious part as piety exhibited itself as extreme cruelty and victimisation as a method of keeping the peasants in line, and that gross hypocrisy again, continues to be a major part of the genre, especially in the years decades later when victims began to find a voice and fight back against their oppressors in public.

Which brought us to director Neil Marshall's contribution to the genre, not coincidentally starring and co-written by a significant participant in the #MeToo giant killing, Kirk, who had well-publicised tanglings with powerful men in the entertainment industry that have led to some confusion about what is actually going on in the upper echelons of that society. With all that in mind - and it was difficult to divorce the real life issues from the fictional ones here - you might expert a mighty, righteous anger to fuel The Reckoning, look at that title, for a start, it sounds like a statement of intent in a "We're not going to take this anymore!" battle cry way.

What you got, however, was something that looked like the first project of all concerned, not the product of a director who has a good twenty years of experience under his belt, with no sense of the period it was set in, and its tries at righting the injustices against the executed "witches" of four hundred years before resembled wish-fulfilment from people who hoped you had learned history from the movies, not the history books. As Grace is accused by the squire, in full on Tod Slaughter mode, of witchcraft to gain her property when she unexpectedly pays the rent, and also because he lusts after her and wants to sexually dominate her, it was at least clear she was not in league with the Devil, as nobody who had been tortured and executed for the trumped-up crime had been, so that travesty of the law was included.

Everything else, however, was pure fantasy, and the cast, even Sean Pertwee as the resident witchfinder, came across as dismayingly suburban instead of Olde English, even on a level of Hammer horror. This was also shot in Eastern Europe rather than Britain, which should not have mattered that much but somehow did, and this inauthenticity bled into the fibre of the piece in a manner that too many other aspects did. Unlike the sixties Michael Reeves cult classic, nothing about this convinced as an indictment of actual activity, and that the audience were apparently intended to get off on violence meted out to the vulnerable women and the wicked men alike was not a good idea, especially when it was all so cartoonish. And not in a fun way, because there was genuine anger behind its motivation, so to see it misguided so badly did not even generate camp. What was frustrating was that its metaphors were by no means false, it is just that they mishandled them lifelessly. Music by Christopher Drake.

[The Reckoning is out on digital platforms April 16th 2021 on Shudder.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Neil Marshall  (1970 - )

British writer and director. Made his feature debut in 2002 with the popular werewolf chiller Dog Soldiers, while 2005's The Descent was a scary girls-in-caves horror. Moved into television, including episodes of Game of Thrones, before returning to the big screen with the troubled Hellboy reboot and witch hunt horror The Reckoning.

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