Feminist Exploitation

Something is awry in Neil Marshall’s The Reckoning that regrettably makes it a miss. The director behind horror thrillers such as The Descent and Dog Soldiers creates a nasty little piece about fiercely misogynistic witch hunters terrorizing helpless women as the Great Plaque ravages England during the 17th Century.

Some parts of genre classics Witchfinder General, The Witch, and I Spit On Your Grave all collide together in the messy, loose screenplay. The Reckoning wants to mesh graphic torture and a penchant for gore with an almost serious feminist critique of historical English society.

The ham-handed mix has a few electric moments but is bogged down by too many wayward currents. A tighter, leaner narrative with fewer characters would have worked better. Not to mention a confounding inattention to historical detail that will surely bother knowledgeable viewers.

The Reckoning has a crudely sadistic streak and never shies away from graphically displaying its wares

Getting a gripping star performance from Charlotte Kirk as a young mother wrongly accused of being a witch, The Reckoning should work as a dark meditation on the witchcraft hysteria that once swept England and early America. Marshall’s film unfortunately lacks authenticity, betrayed by the moderate budget and a surprisingly underwhelming turn by Sean Pertwee (TV’s Gotham) as a Witchfinder torturing anyone he thinks is a witch.

After losing her husband to the Plague, Grace (Charlotte Kirk) is accused of witchcraft by an influential Squire after rejecting his unwanted advances. She soon falls into the custody of the ruthless Witchfinder Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee), whose only mission is forcing a confession from Grace by any means necessary. Maintaining her innocence throughout the terrible physical and mental torture, Grace begins to have visions of the Devil tempting her. Grace’s only anchor keeping her sane is her baby daughter, now taken away.

There is no doubt it’s a brave, vulnerable performance by Charlotte Kirk with real grit. The Reckoning is a showcase for her talents. Grace is about the only character that isn’t a straight caricature in the female-driven movie. The other characters are closer to walking stereotypes than fully fleshed-out people.

The problem is most everything else, including a couple of terrifying set pieces that provide juice but were likely unnecessary. The Reckoning has a crudely sadistic streak and never shies away from graphically displaying its wares. The unrated period thriller would earn a hard R-rating, rare in today’s watered-down horror market. That tone doesn’t always fit with Marshall’s attempted pandering to girl power.

The Reckoning is rough around the edges but definitely provides visceral thrills when not distracted. A little more refinement and some major editing could have done wonders for the storytelling. Neil Marshall fell in love with a couple of sub-plots that shouldn’t have made the final cut, including the Witchfinder’s strange relationship with his personal bodyguard, a woman that survived being burnt at the stake.

There’s probably an audience for The Reckoning with its graphic visuals but not everyone is going to be happy with the uneven movie.

Video

RLJ Entertainment provides a serviceable Blu-ray transfer for the 2020 period thriller, likely reflecting everything captured in the 2K digital intermediate. The 2.:39:1 presentation is maybe too revealing of the cheaper sets and lackluster production design. This is mostly sharp 1080P video with substantial definition, though erratic black levels and contrast issues occasionally mar things. Not sure if the dodgy VFX caused problems but there are scenes with milky, weak black levels and also scenes with crushing.

One issue is the poor AVC encode. The nearly two-hour movie is encoded with limited parameters on a BD-25, resulting in severe banding and posterization. Otherwise the largely pristine video may be too glossy and slick for a movie set in gloomy England’s distant past. There is no real attempt to smoothly fine-tune the color grading. Flesh-tones are mildly washed out and on the bright side.

Audio

The Reckoning’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio has dialogue issues. The surround mix buries them, forcing listeners to turn the volume beyond reference levels for intelligibility. That produces harsh and overpowering sound when the active audio elements kick in across the soundstage. I’m not sure everyone will have the same issues but it ultimately forced me to use subtitles instead of getting blasted when the dialogue-driven scenes gave way to action.

The actual mix is fairly atmospheric with discrete separation across the front soundstage and choice split surrounds. The low end is thick and makes its presence felt. Outside of the soft dialogue problems, the enjoyable surround design is made with horror thrills in mind. The moody score from Christopher Drake has robust sound quality with impressive micro-dynamics and clarity.

Optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles play in a white font. The subtitles remain inside the scope presentation.

Extras

The Reckoning arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of RLJE Films and SHUDDER with a nice slipcover. Extras are disappointing, limited to a few deleted scenes. Nothing to get excited about like a commentary. The trailers for other SHUDDER movies all play before the main menu.

The Reckoning Deleted Scenes (10:25 in HD) – Several deleted scenes help flesh out more of the backstory, including Grace’s mother. Some are mere extensions of scenes that made the final cut.

Gwen Trailer (01:30 in HD)

The Pale Door Trailer (01:53 in HD)

Mary Trailer (02:01 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Reckoning
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
2

Movie

A vibrant lead performance by Charlotte Kirk and nasty torture sequences don’t make up for the half-baked screenplay.

Sending
User Review
3 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 32 The Reckoning screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 120,000+ already in our library), 120 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, subscribe on Patreon.