Genius Products // 2002 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 19th, 2007
They like to watch.
Christina Ricci (Monster) and Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) star in this 2002 supernatural thriller about a girl who sees horrifying visions of people dying and the mysterious 2,000-year-old curse linked to the Crucifixion.
Cassie Grant (Ricci) is a drifter, wandering the English countryside, when she's struck by a car. Amazingly, her injuries are non-existent. Overrun by guilt regardless, Marion Kirkman, the driver of the car, decides to bring Cassie to her home and care for her. Cassie eventually becomes the nanny for the Kirkmans' son, Michael. Meanwhile, Michael's father, Simon (Stephen Dillane), a renowned researcher, is working for the Catholic Church on a fascinating religious archaeological find.
As Cassie is continually haunted by eerie premonitions, she turns to her new friend Dan (Gruffudd), and tries to unravel the mysterious thread that ties the victims she sees in her mind together. But the secret runs deep. Like, Golgotha deep.
I'm not sure where this soft-spoken thriller hunkered down for five years, but it's actually brought something interesting to a DVD market stuffed with half-assed religious whodunits. The Gathering moves slow and is not a horror film, but a satisfying mythology and a strong cast earn it a recommendation from me.
I tend to like these religious-themed thrillers, and while there have been plenty that deserve an extended stay in limbo, a well-made, intriguing film that uses the rich subtext of early Christianity and the Church floats my boat, or, ark, as it was. The Gathering benefits from a interesting angle on the Passion story (and, no, it has nothing to do with Jesus shacking up with Mary Magdalene or moving to Vienna to open a fruit stand); I won't spoil it, but it involves a curse, and, as we all know, curses from the Almighty always translate into righteous home entertainment.
Sifting through this particular curse is Christina Ricci who, dang it, is just ridiculously good-looking. Though sometimes her heart doesn't seem to be in it, Ricci does well enough as the hapless-protagonist-searching-for-answers. This is a role that is, essentially, an exposition window for the audience. Films that rely on a central mystery require a character to take one for the team and play dumb, and Ricci does well enough at it. A few moments that required intensity slip through her fingers, but my, what lovely fingers they are. I'm a fan of Gruffudd, and though his character is subdued, the guy is still a presence and brings a sinister calm to any scenes he's in.
Regardless of the actors, a movie like The Gathering lives and dies on the quality of its central mystery. This one delivers and it doesn't have to piss on Christian orthodoxy to deliver a compelling narrative. Again, don't want to give anything away, but I thought the question the film turned on was especially creative, and tackled an element of the Crucifixion I hadn't considered. It's a stretch, sure, but we're just looking for some solid thrills, not an apostolic theology lesson.
And thank goodness the mystery works, because if it tanked, this movie may well have been un-endurable. This sucker takes its time moving along. The film is staged very well and looks theatrical, but the pacing lumbers. The writers doled out enough revelations about the mystery and the action picked up a bit at the end, but don't anticipate a white-knuckler here kids. And for that matter, don't anticipate a horror film either: there's a moderate amount of blood and a jump scene here and there, but this is a straight-on supernatural thriller, not a gore flick.
The DVD is technically okay, though light in the extras. Video: a solid, clean anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Audio: a calm 5.1 Dolby Digital that gets active at the big finale.
The Gathering doesn't fly by, but proves to be a satisfying religious creeper. If that grabs you, check it out.
And the Lord said: Thou aren't guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R