The Gathering (2003)
(15) Running Time: 92 mins
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
The Gathering, starring Christina Ricci, has been sat in limbo release hell for close to ten years. Why Granada Film Productions decided to release it now is anybody’s guess, but I reckon there never would have been a right time. See, The Gathering does not really fall comfortably in to any modern horror category. It is certainly no Saw, it aint foreign, it is not handheld or found footage, it’s not a re-invented slasher, it’s not even a remake, it’s not really anything! I guess, it’s really a ghost story, and a poor one at that. The film drifts along at its own leisurely pace, without a care that the viewer may become either distracted or irritated. This is a slow burner which may have done well twenty or thirty years ago, but for today’s horror market, if you wanna be a slow burner, you need to have the courage to do something different and engage the viewer, not send them to sleep!
Christina Ricci will hold your attention, but she cannot hold a film by herself, and the support she receives from the rest of the cast is not great. They all try, hell, some even excel, but they just do not have a strong enough plot to work with and characters come in and out of the film and you barely notice them. The whole film reminds me of a dense fog; it doesn’t really do anything, but just sits there. The Gathering has some nice ideas, but blimey it just takes so damned long to actually do anything with them. Ricci plays Cassie, an American visiting a British country village called Ashby Wake (see, even the name is a bit boring) and on her way there she gets hit by a car whilst stepping out of the woods in the rain. A bizarre occurrence as you start to wonder just why she was walking in the woods in the rain in the first place, but anyway, the lady who is driving is called Marion. After a visit to the hospital, Cassie seems to get better rather quick, and Marion takes her home to make sure she is OK. Cassie has conveniently lost her memory, and so stays until she can get it back. While at the massive old country house, Cassie starts to have visions of dead people which she believes are premonitions. She also becomes very attached to Marion’s son, Michael, and feels she needs to protect him.
While this bland plot is going on, Marion’s husband Simon has been tasked by a local priest to investigate the findings of a buried church. He finds this old church buried underground, and it has a statue of Christ being crucified, with strange statues of almost alive looking people watching it. It all sounds rather creepy, and the premise is good, but this film fails on so many levels. There are no scares, zero tension and even bizarre incidents like Ricci being chased through the town whilst being stared at by locals don’t create any sense of panic or confusion. There is one great death on a motorway which I was not expecting at all, and this is about half way through. It woke me up from my almost catatonic state, but after five minutes I was back there again, staring blankly at the TV wondering when this dire mess was gonna be over. Even Ricci spending much of her screen time in a low cut top she wears to bed couldn’t save the film. If you’re ever in need of a sleeping aid, then this is your medicine. One dose of the Gathering and you’ll be sound asleep in no time!