Imagine a downbeat cross between historical romance, rape-revenge thriller and what’s become known as folk horror and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the overall mood of The Reckoning. Writer-director Neil Marshall, who made a splash as a genre director back in the early 2000s with Dog Soldiers (werewolves vs army men) and Sundance smash The Descent (CHUDs vs spelunkers), casts co-writer Charlotte Kirk as Grace Haverstock, a woman unjustly accused of witchcraft after the death of her husband during the English plague epidemic of 1665. After Grace rebuffs the advances of local squire, landlord and sex pest Pendleton (Steven Waddington), he helps convince the townspeople that she must be a witch, summoning Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee, trying his best to crawl out from under Vincent Price’s indelible Witchfinder General performance) to elicit her confession of heresy.Continue reading
This cut-rate release from the English studio Tigon, best known as a producer of second-tier horror (the terrific Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan’s Claw) and sexploitation (Au Pair Girls, which is actually a bit of fun, and the SF-themed Zeta One), has the makings of an enjoyable countryside romp through ritualism and witchcraft, but it suffers from a split personality. Half of the film plays as a surprisingly straightforward nudie picture, with sisters Christine and Betty (Ann and Vicki Michelle, respectively) appearing reliably in various states of partial and utter dishabille. And the other half plays as a somewhat ambitious psychological horror movie about young Christine, the title character, who first submits to and finally dominates a coven of witches holed up in the woods outside London.
The Blood on Satan’s Claw, a 1971 horror melodrama from English genre studio Tigon, lacks the moral underpinnings of Michael Reeves’ cautionary classic Witchfinder General but resembles it in setting and atmosphere. Where Witchfinder General was all about the villainous official played by Vincent Price who saw witchcraft in every corner – or, cynically, used accusations of witchery to advance his own personal and political aspirations – The Blood on Satan’s Claw clarifies the relationship between wickedness and virtue by showing how evil, in the guise of rebellious children and especially a seductive teenager, can be vanquished by vigilance and bravery on the part of Christian men. It’s the kind of movie where the cranky old judge who ducks out of town at the first signs of a supernatural dust-up returns in the final reel, empowered to vanquish the devil himself.