England 1665. The country is paralysed with a plague and consumed with economic woe. Not like today where England 2021 is instead paralysed with a pandemic and economic turmoil and…….oh! But the England presented in director Neil Marshall’s new film The Reckoning is set during a time when women were persecuted on a whim if accused of being a witch. How times have changed as its unlikely that Sky news’ contravener of covid regs, Kay Burley, would have been able to get to the bottom of the street without ending up in a dunking stool.
Here it’s Evelyn (Charlotte Kirk) now a widowed single mother and haunted by the ghost of her husband Joseph who hung himself. Struggling to look after her baby whilst looking after her farmstead and pay the rent she soon finds herself the prey of leering landlord Squire Pendleton (Steven Waddington) whose advances she rejects. It’s the start of a world of pain when the Squire starts spreading rumours that she is a witch. She soon finds her baby taken from her after a bunch of amateur witchfinders wearing beak faced masks which her away to the dungeons of the castle where she awaits the arrival of top Witchfinder General John Moorcraft (top scene stealer Sean Pertwee) and his sidekick Ursula (Suzanne Magowan) a hideously burnt henchwoman with a face that wouldn’t be out of place on a pizza menu.
The latter half of The Reckoning sees Pertwee who excels in this type of role inflicting all manner of torture on her in an effort to extract a confession out of her in one of those sort of Catch 22 situations where if she admits she’s a witch then she’s burnt at the stake and if she doesn’t confess then she will be relentlessly tortured until she does die. So between moments of angst in the dungeons where she befriends a young gaoler we have a number of scenes of torture using the sort of instrument that even Ann Summers would draw the line at selling.
Beside starring Kirk also co-writes with Neil Marshall whose horror roots are very much to the fore with beheadings, melted faces and mashed heads for the gore hounds. But as prescient as the medieval setting is to what the world has been going through in the past year the subtext is very much that of misogyny and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement especially. With the shadow of Witchfinder General and The Crucible looming large it essentially boils down to a battle of wills between the two. Marshall has a great pedigree in escalating peril most notably with his female cast in The Descent but his heroine’s inner strength doesn’t feel as fleshed out and we’re urged more to boo Pertwee and co rather than cheer her on.
Here’s our interview with director Neil Marshall and star Charlotte Kirk…..
Here’s The Reckoning trailer…….
THE RECKONING IS ON SHUDDER FROM APRIL 16TH 2021.