Neil Marshall is the director of one of my very favorite horror films, The Descent. It came out in 2005—16 years ago.
Since then … yikes. He’s been responsible for the terrible Hellboy remake and awful films like Centurion and Doomsday. He’s done some decent TV work here and there, but nothing has delivered on the promise he showed with his cave-dwelling-monster masterpiece.
The Reckoning, his latest cinematic turn, keeps the bad streak going—in a particularly torturous way.
Working from a laughably bad script he co-wrote, Marshall takes us to England in the 1600s, where a plague has swept through the land, and witch hunts disrupt the days. Grace (Charlotte Kirk)—after losing her husband (Joe Anderson) because he took a drink out of the wrong ale mug—refuses the advances of her landlord (Steven Waddington). Therefore, she is a witch, and her neighbors must burn her.
Marshall tries to take you back to these dirty times—but his film comes off as more of a Monty Python and the Holy Grail rip-off. The plague and witch-hunt scenes ring of Eric Idle and his “Bring out your dead!” cart, and cries of “Burn her!” remind of John Cleese bringing up very small rocks as things that also float in water.
As a period piece, it fails, because of the goofy art direction, bad wigs and terrible line readings. It feels like a bad student film by a director who has seen Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky a few too many times.
Kirk is an appealing and decent actress, so watching her in garbage like this is depressing. However, this mess is partially her fault, since she’s also listed as a co-writer.
Marshall’s attempts at horror are getting pathetic. The Reckoning comes off as a vivid display of a director well past his prime.
The Reckoning is available via various streaming services.