“The Reckoning,” a British witch hunt thriller, is a well-intentioned yet consistently staid horror film about institutionalized sexism and the women who must endure it. “The Reckoning,” set in 1665, the “year of the great plague,” follows Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk, who co-wrote the film with director Neil Marshall), a newly widowed mother who is convicted, incarcerated, and tortured for fictitious witchcraft offences.
Grace’s accusers are all violent humanoid cardboard cutouts, and her trials are all clearly gruesome without ever being enlightening or varied enough to be both engrossing and relentless. I’m usually a supporter of neo-grindhouse films, which use tired horror-fantasy conventions to exaggerate the cyclical nature of real-world inequality, but “The Reckoning” isn’t mean or uplifting enough to merit much of a defense.
Grace’s condition is quickly established in a bathetic, music-video-slick prefatory montage: she discovers her husband Joseph (Joe Anderson) hanging from a tree after contracting the bubonic plague, and she must drag a broadsword out to his dangling body, cut Joseph down, and then bury him. Grace is then duped by her late husband’s shady landlord, Squire Pendleton (Steven Waddington), who is hot for Grace’s figure but even hotter for Joseph’s house.