The Reckoning is a 2020 horror film about Evelyn, a young widow who is falsely accused of being a witch among the paranoia of the Black Plague. No one wears masks in this film! The Reckoning is directed by Neil Marshall, the visionary director behind beloved horror films such as Dog Soldiers (2002) and The Descent (2005).
The concept. The film takes place during the Black Plague in England. At the time, the plague blamed witches and cats — cats were known to be a witch’s companion and, as a result, were killed in large quantities. It allowed the rat population to thrive, and as we now know, the rats — though not the main culprit — aided in the spread of the bubonic plague. This fact is what enticed Neil Marshall and helped him co-write the script. The story of a persecuted woman giving all her strength to prove her innocence set against mass panic regarding a communicable disease is so relevant to the times we currently live in; it’s uncanny. No one could have guessed how opportunely timed this film would end up being. The Reckoning has an original concept with conventional execution.
The execution.The film did not particularly dazzle or surprise. Most of the story choices were predictable. The acting was good enough to not pull me out of the story, but not good enough to entirely pull me in either. The cinematography did not bring attention to itself. There weren’t any beautiful or note-worthy shots. The editing wasn’t too noticeable. The set design was lacking at times; some sets felt bare. The costumes appeared accurate but not spectacular. There are enough inaccuracies to pull viewers out of the world of the film consistently. With so many aspects of The Reckoning being just good enough, the film itself does not feel fully realized.
The inaccuracies. Generally, I don’t think inaccuracies or mistakes are a huge deal. As long as the average viewer is not taken out of the story by them, it’s usually fine. Due to this, only what I found distracting will be mentioned. A woman is found after being burnt alive. Her skin is full of third-degree burns, but her dress somehow was not burnt at all. The entire dress was inexplicably still on her. Then, another part where a character gets wounded in both feet. In the next scene, the wounds have seemingly healed because they do not walk with any difficulty from then on. The makeup was oddly modern for a film that takes place during the Great Plague. The main character, Evelyn, is a woman that lives alone in the middle of the woods, yet she steps out of her cottage wearing a full face of 2021 style makeup. Her cheeks contoured, her eyebrows filled in, a smokey eye, rosey lipstick, and highlighter. She looked fantastic, but it made absolutely no sense in the context of the film. On top of that, her makeup was often inconsistent from scene to scene. Her lip color and eye shadow colors would sometimes change. Am I nitpicking? Maybe. However, it really did pull me straight out of the film from the very first scene, and I'm not particularly makeup savvy. I imagine the average, non-makeup-wearing viewer being affected by these inconsistencies as well. Even when Evelyn is in a situation where shes unable to apply makeup, she still looks very made-up. The actor playing Evelyn is already beautiful — it would have been better for the film if she was made-up to look tired and dirty.
The horror. Is this film scary? No. It feels more like a thriller than a horror film. The horror comes entirely from jumpscares as there was a lack of atmosphere. The main character has nightmares through the second act, and those are the only scary moments. The nightmares were very interesting but didn't really go anywhere. It would've been great to see some introspection from the character or deeper exploration of themes in those nightmare sequences. Instead, all we got was the appearance of one creature who is meant to represent the devil without much else.
The Reckoning is a film with a wonderful concept, yet it struggles to deliver on it.