Period Horror ‘The Reckoning’ is a Powerful Look at England’s Witch Trials

Alice Oscura, Featured Writer

Plot: A young woman who recently lost her husband to the plague is accused of witchcraft after rejecting the advances of her landlord.

Review: The Reckoning (not to be confused with the 2014 American crime thriller of the same name) is directed by Neil Marshall. Some may recognise his work from other horror films such as Dog Soldiers (2002), The Descent (2005) and the failed reboot of Hellboy (2019). Filming took place in Budapest, Hungary before the Covid-19 pandemic.

I see shooting on the new film version of Les Miserables is coming along well

The story is set in 17th century England during the time of the Great Plague that was ravaging Europe. The opening credits explain briefly of the paranoia that began to set in on the population, with people becoming desperate to point fingers and blame somebody for the pestilence that had befallen the citizenry. Hence the start of the witch hunt and brutal trials followed by the unnecessary executions of approximately half a million innocent women across Europe and the Americas.

The lead character Grace Haverstock is played by Charlotte Kirk who also co-wrote the screenplay. Grace is recently widowed after her husband Joseph (Joe Anderson) killed himself after being infected by the plague in order to protect his wife and baby daughter Abby. However, he only managed to create a larger problem for Grace as their landlord Pendleton (Steve Waddington) decides to make his move on Grace. Feeling emasculated by her violent rejection he proceeds to have her charged under suspicion of witchcraft.

Thou dost not appreciate my masculine charms? Thou must be a witch! There canst be no other explanation

The film explores the extremely real concept of the injustices suffered by many women during that time period. If you were graced (no pun intended) with exceptional beauty it was more of a curse than a blessing as you became the object of a lustful man’s desire. And if he turned out to be a brute like Pendleton, well most women had little to no choice. Women were not allowed an inheritance as only male heirs would be allowed to inherit properties and holdings. If a woman was too outspoken and disobedient to her husband she would be accused of witchcraft. Many women were brutally tortured and mutilated in order to force confessions out of them in a desperate attempt to make their anguish stop.

The dialogue and atmosphere of the film is very theatrical and reminded me of a stage play. The film strives to be a rousing tale of female empowerment in the face of a male-dominated society and religious hierarchy. There are some particularly powerful moments that rely somewhat on fantasy-driven sequences that deliver a horror element to the script. During these moments, the film would tend to take on a more sexual vibe which I believe is meant to depict temptation and the sexuality and beauty of the female form. The stylish sequences show Grace being visited by her deceased husband and being tempted by the devil himself. It is a bit artsy, so this film may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

What the hell is this? Get it? Hell? Devil? You get it

The score of over-the-top orchestral music suited the more climatic moments of the film but seemed out of place in other sequences.

The main villain Judge Moorcroft is played by British actor Sean Pertwee who I instantly recognised from the lead role in Marshall’s Dog Soldiers. Pertwee wastes no time in getting down and dirty in his role of the religious fanatic judge and England’s leading witch hunter. Grace suffers a long and particularly brutal four days of torture at his command, including the use of the infamous Pear of Anguish which was meant to inflict severe internal damage to a victim.

The film is a display of toxic male behavior and the way that powerful men would victimise women in order to control them.

Wow. 17th Century England was pretty awful for women. Yeah no joke here. Just legitimate horror

I will admit that while the film has many flaws you have to give them credit for the message that is trying to be showcased here. Whilst it definitely isn’t the best execution, I am fairly sure that it is going to open a few eyes on the horrific events that occurred during the witch trial era and the slaughter of many innocent women.

The Reckoning is a powerful, feminine-driven horror film that returns the director to his original roots.

Dark Alice’s Score: 7 out of 10

For Horror Head Writer Sommer’s review of The Witch you can click here. And for more than 180 horror film and tv reviews you can click here.

39AFB96D-4DEF-4DED-8DFE-3400E758CE9B Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump.

I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.