Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Gathering (2002)

The Gathering is director Brian Gilbert’s first foray into the field of "horror" after already doing mainstream comedy (Vice Versa, 1988), mainstream drama (Not Without My Daughter, 1991) and critic-pleasing historical drama (Wilde, 1997). And, as to be expected, The Gathering is a pleasingly middle-of-the-road horror suspense film, well-made but with no surprises. About the only thing that makes the flick truly watchable is the headlining star, Christina Ricci, just at the point of her career when she decided to lose the baby fat and for the killer bod. OK, she had a killer bod even with baby fat – see John Waters' Pecker (1998) and Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999) for primely droolable Ricci – but around the time of The Gathering she obviously upped the diet pills or used her finger a lot more, for she strolls around looking like a dreamily top-heavy model — an amazing feat considering how tall she is in real life. But, regrettably, although she is the best thing about the film, she also keeps her clothes on for the whole film. (The only commonly available version of The Gathering is the Weinstein Version, which was trimmed of ten minutes – including a sex scene featuring Ricci.)
The Gathering begins with the discovery a buried church from the 1st century in the rural English town of Ashly Wake, a church that features a hitherto unknown scene in relief of a group of people watching the crucified Jesus. Simon Kirkman (Stephen Kirkman), a well-known iconoclast religious scholar just happens to live in the neighborhood, so he undertakes the excavation and studies. In turn, his wife Marion Kirkman (Kerry Fox) just happens to run over an American drifter Cassie (Ricci), who awakens in the hospital bereft of her own memory but able to recognize the young son of the Kirkman’s by name. Invited to stay with the Krikmans until she regains her memory, Cassie is not only soon plagued by nasty visions but also begins seeing unfriendly, silent strangers hanging around the town. Like some sexy Nancy Drew she follows selected clues to a loner mechanic Frederick Michael Argyle (Peter McNamara) and learns that something terrible is going to happen soon; worse, she comes to realize that the young man she has been spending time with (and, in the Weinstein version, has screwed) is not what he appears to be — nor, for that matter, is she!
The plot circles around the concept that a group of 13 rubberneck spectators who once watched the crucifixion of Christ have been doomed by The Angry God to wander the earth forever, continually turning up at places where inevitable tragedies are to occur. (Busy folks, to say the least – whether they cause the events or just witness the events blurs on occasion in the movie.) Combine this idea with the above description, and you can pretty much figure out any and all the major twists that happen in The Gathering. In fact, the only true surprises are those leading up to the church’s discovery and they all happen within the first five minutes of the film.
Well acted and well shot, the film is not really all that terrible — it’s just that it isn’t really all the original or exciting either, and is also somewhat illogical at times. The Gathering is pleasant, neo-religious supernatural suspense film about the possibilities of redemption, but it is also nothing to write home about. There are both better horror and better Christina Ricci films available out there.

No comments: