Neil Marshall’s The Reckoning isn’t the movie you’re expecting. You might think that this latest film from the Dog Soldiers and The Descent director is a supernatural revenge movie – and while it does feature those elements, it’s much more of a dramatic thriller about righting the wrongs of men against women. It’s a well-drawn (and very timely) piece with a captivating central performance from co-writer and Executive Producer, Charlotte Kirk.
Set in England during the Bubonic Plague, The Reckoning sees Kirk’s widowed farmer’s wife, Grace accused of being a witch by her lecherous landlord (Steven Waddington) after she spurns his advances. Grace faces eviction as the Plague rages, but her luck gets even worse when Sean Pertwee’s zealous Witchfinder, Judge Moorcroft arrives on the scene.
The shadow of Michael Reeves’s 1968 film, Witchfinder General looms large over The Reckoning and while Neil Marshall’s film isn’t as good as that Vincent Price starrer, it can hold its head-up high. At the centre of the film is a strong lead performance from Charlotte Kirk, who anchors the film with a quiet gravitas. The role might not offer the actress much opportunity to deliver in the way of humour, but it does show that she has dramatic chops and the inner-toughness to be a viable heroine. The always great Sean Pertwee is also wonderful as Judge Moorcroft and the actor gives the character just the right amount of conviction and confliction to make him fully rounded.
The Reckoning is an incredibly good-looking film, loaded with wonderful visuals courtesy of cinematographer Luke Bryant and production designer Ian Bailie. It might be dealing with a dark topic, but it’s a beautifully realised and atmospheric piece. Christopher Drake’s score is also highly effective in adding an extra dimension to the film.
A throughly engrossing film, The Reckoning’s only flaw is that we never get to witness a full-blown revenge rampage from Grace. Yes, she gets the opportunity for payback, but Marshall’s film would have been all-the-better if the last act had featured a much more expansive finale. That might have been more crowd-pleasing but in fairness, it’s probably not the film Marshall and Kirk intended.
It’s likely The Reckoning was originally conceived in the shadow of the #meetoo movement, as Kirk’s Grace rises against the tyranny of society’s patriarchs. All good genre movies use the basis for current issues to help pepper the tale, but The Reckoning is even more prescient in these COVID-19 times. It’s a layered film, which manages to transcend its genre roots in ways that even its makers couldn’t have imagined.
A punchy tale of revenge with a female focus, The Reckoning is richly drawn film which is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.