Only in today’s looks above-all-else obsessed cinema, can a 1665 ‘witch’ prisoner during the Great Plague appear like they just stepped out of a Maybelline ad in every scene. The Reckoning’s torture fest is too much and its plot too little. You keep waiting for a great epiphany that never comes while vile imagery piles on.
This review contains spoilers for The Reckoning, currently streaming on Shudder.
Imagine being a poor peasant woman in the 17th century yet having 24/7 access to a 21st century full-time hair dresser and makeup artist… All while doing hard time behind bars no less. Clearly a witch!
Rats are swarming every prison cell around you carrying the bubonic plague. The prison guards are not allowing you to sleep, throwing buckets of water on you should you dare nap. But constant mental & physical depravation day in and day out doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in some blush.
The Reckoning fully lost this reviewer for good when lead villain John Moorcroft threatens to use a device that expands intimate parts as a last resort… Then goes through with it barely a minute after.
‘Don’t make me do this Grace! Don’t make me do it! Okay… Fine, I’m doing it.’ The whole cinematic visual is frankly, gross to watch.
Despite getting no confession of witchcraft, Judge Moorcroft declares that it’s proof lead character Grace Haverstock is a witch anyway. Par for the course, perhaps… As the film seems intent on portraying 99% of its male characters as unwavering, simplistic brutes and cowards. You will go very few minutes without seeing a male as evil incarnate in this movie.
The film cuts to the chase early on when a landlord decides to trick Grace’s husband to drink a brew spiked with plague, so he can demand liberties from her. Grace manages to fight the landlord off. ‘Naturally’, the town decides she’s a witch. Thus, calling in John Moorcroft to town to get a confession.
You might think with all the buildup of Satan visiting Grace in her sleep, she’d turn out to be a witch after all. Getting a witch’s revenge as a Reckoning to be had on all involved. A twist of fate. But nope!
The most fascinating aspect of this film is actually the side plot, where an accused witch in a failed sacrifice decides to follow her victimizer. Despite being burned at the stake and surviving, Judge Moorcroft’s female assistant is fully loyal to him. Blaming herself and trying to convince Grace to let go as she had done prior. A true case study of Stockholm syndrome.
The Reckoning should have focused more on this twisted relationship between witch hunter John Moorcroft and protege Jane Hawthorne to build further empathy. Less so on the demon visuals & Grace’s undead husband. At least if she wasn’t going to end up being a witch all along.
All this being said… Lead actress Charlotte Kirk is quite likable on-screen, there’s lots of unrealized potential to be discovered as her career moves forward.
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Trivia: The Reckoning had its world premiere screening at Fantasia International Film Festival 2020.
– The film’s cast features actors Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Emma Campbell-Jones, Joe Anderson, Steven Waddington, Callum Goulden; among others.