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New to Shudder - THE RECKONING

the reckoning review
Accused of being a witch, a widow battles both a cruel witch-hunter and the devil himself.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Neil Marshall

Starring: Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington, Joe Anderson

the reckoning poster

As the blurb that closes out Neil Marshall's The Reckoning tells us, over 500,000 women across Europe and North America were executed for practicing witchcraft. Of course, the truth is that witchcraft was simply an excuse to punish women who defied the rules set down by Christianity, and the threat of being burned alive was a tool used by many men to hold sway over women. To justify such actions, the Christian accusers would force a confession from such women, usually extracted after days of prolonged torture. If they ever bring back this practice, they might use Marshall's own film as a particularly cruel method of torture, as it's so bad I was willing to confess to being a warlock myself if I thought it would make the end credits arrive a little sooner.

the reckoning review

From the off it feels as though Marshall is employing this idea as a way to hitch onto the MeToo movement, but unwittingly his film is more resonant to our current times through its backdrop of the Great Plague. When farmer Joseph (Joe Anderson) contracts the plague, he hangs himself to spare his wife Grace (Charlotte Kirk) and their infant child from contracting the deadly disease. Left with no means to pay the rent on their small holding, Grace rebukes the aggressive "compromise" offered by her landlord (Steven Waddington), who decides to exact revenge by accusing her of witchcraft.


The land's top witch-hunter, Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee, looking a lot like Peter Wyngarde in his iconic Jason King role), arrives to extract a confession from Grace, who is confined to a prison and forced to stay awake 24 hours a day. This leads Grace to suffer hallucinations in which she is visited by the Devil himself, or perahps she really is being visited by Satan. In one of several laughably misjudged decisions on the film's part, Grace has sexual romps with Old Nick, which reminded me of that movie Sherilyn Fenn made back in the day where she becomes the lover of a sasquatch type creature (I swear I'm not making this up).

the reckoning review

Moorcroft fails to coerce Grace into a confession, but the truth is he's not exactly trying very hard. He never thinks to threaten the life of her child for a start, and she's not subjected to much in the way of physical torture. In fact, Grace never really seems to be suffering at all. Despite her hardship, she always looks like she just stepped off a fashion runway, and I'm pretty sure nobody in 17th century England had such gleaming white teeth. Kirk seems to be lit by an entirely different cinematographer, as though she's Marlene Dietrich and doesn't care about authenticity so long as she looks fabulous (the fact that she happens to be Marshall's other half may have something to do with this). Given how unfeasibly glamorous Grace is compared to everyone around her, can you blame them for thinking she might have made a pact with the Devil?


Kirk's Instagram looks aren't the only anachronisms on display here, with characters speaking such historically dubious lines as "I'm tired of your shit." The generic teal and amber lighting scheme screams 21st century and the sets lack the necessary lived in quality. At times you feel like you've accidentally stumbled onto a Duran Duran video, especially during the cheesy sex scenes.

the reckoning review

I suspect Marshall may have been aiming to create a sort of b-horror Passion of Joan of Arc, along the lines of how Roger Corman and Vincent Price gave us a glorious drive-in take on Shakespeare with Tower of London, but the movie doesn't embrace its trashiness enough to compensate for how dull the whole affair is. There is one great splatstick moment involving death by horse carriage, a brief reminder that this is the director who gave us the riotously fun Dog Soldiers, but otherwise The Reckoning is an ordeal no woman (or man) should have to endure.

The Reckoning
 is on Shudder UK/ROI now.



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