Neil Marshall’s THE RECKONING was the opening film of the Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 and it fucking KILLED so hard. Set in 1665 against the backdrop of witch hysteria and the Black Plague on it’s sweep through Europe, where it killed more than 1/3 of the European population, we are introduced to Grace and her husband Joseph. Grace is a lithe and beautiful blonde with hair that looks oddly like a Garnier Fructis commercial in foil to the literal barn the couple shares with their newborn daughter Abigail. She and Joseph live a tough life, renting a property from the Squire, a man who seems all too interested in Grace and all too hateful of the love Joseph has for her, while Grace remains haunted by the trauma of watching her mother executed for the crime of witchcraft by a Witchfinder General.
When Joseph is stricken down with the “sickness”, and pestilent boils appear on his body, he makes a decision that changes the trajectory of this family for forever. Grace’s willfull nature and refusal to bow down to the patriarchal and cruel world of religious zealotry, misogyny, and worse, sets a target on her back whereby she is accused of witchcraft and faces the very Witchfinder who killed her mother, and the battle of wills between the two is gruesome, hateful, beautiful, and deliciously bloody. Friendships are tested and torn apart, relationships are destroyed, and Grace learns what it really means to make the ultimate sacrifice for someone you love.
I’ve tried my best to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, because this film is such necessary watching. Horror fans will known Neil Marshall from his films like “Dog Soldiers” (a graveyard super favourite) and “The Descent”, but he also directed “Hellboy” (2019), as well as Centurion starring Michael Fassbender (which is a great comic book retelling of a piece of historical fiction). Marshall has also directed two episodes of the television series “Game of Thrones” – ‘Blackwater’ and ‘Watchers on the Wall’ of which he was nominated for an Emmy. His television directorial work has extended into shows like Constantine and Westworld as well. His style blends a kind of Boris Vallejo artistic eye over the reality of the periods he shoots, turning everything into a tabletop RPG/comic book stylized film. The men are gruff, grimy, and the women are beauties, while the monsters are villains torn directly out of the pages of a dungeon master’s guide. THE RECKONING is no different from his previous work. Dry British humor informs much of the character choices, and the whole film seems to have a very distinct HAMMER HORROR-esque vibe that is overlaid with a very healthy dose of dungeon-synth music that Count Dracula would straight vibe to, as well as some very distinct Castlevania-like elements to the tale – with the main difference being that the person in power in THE RECKONING – is a woman – Grace. Grace is almost super human in how she handles the vagaries of life, but also facing off with a cartoonish Witchfinder General who looks like a gothic leather daddy version of Governor John Ratcliffe from the Disney film Pocahontas.
On the technical side of things – THE RECKONING is pretty tight – it blends dark cool colors in shots with one singular splash of something warmm (usually a candle or torch), and is never so dark you can’t make things out. There did appear to some minor sound mixing flaws, where voices would occasionally get lost in the mix. The practical effects makeup looked pretty good most of the time, though there were a few effects that didn’t necessarily work for me personally. Most of the costuming was very well done, though I was hesitant with the plague doctors who seemed to wear masks that appeared to be more bone like rather than the leather masks they actually wore during the plague.
The score was amazing – like I said previously, a healthy dose of dungeon synth and music that sounded like it could have been ripped from the chill out jams of Count Dracula or straight out of a Castlevania game.
Overall this movie is a solid 6/6 for us here in the graveyard – making it a GRAVEYARD SMASH (TM) confirmed.
If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, old sexy Boris Vallejo drawings, and the phrase “sexy burn victim” is interesting to you, then this feature you will absolutely not want to miss checking out.
The Drunk in a Graveyard guide to the TEN FILMS we are most psyched about at Fantasia Fest 2020 is up.
You can read our coverage of short film DOPPELBÅNGER here, as well as our podcast episode on Justin McConnell’s documentary Clapboard Jungle here. And be sure to stay tuned for more coverage coming up soon, and follow our social media to keep up!
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