Directed by Brian Gilbert
Produced by Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson, Pippa Cross
Written by Anthony Horowitz
Director of Photograpy Martin Fuhrer
Music by Anne Dudley
Cast: Christina Ricci, Ioan Gruffudd, Stephen Dillane, Kerry Fox, Simon Russell Beale
2002/87 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment DVD
I'm not trying to turn this review into a Mike Lovefest, but I do want to share something about myself. I love writing DVD reviews. I average 3-5 reviews a week, and while it can be a chore at times, I truly enjoy the process. However, being somewhat narcissistic about my writing, one part of the process that I don't like is that I sometimes have to wait for my review to appear on-line. This may sound childish, but I want my work to be seen as soon as possible. Then I try to imagine what it like for actors and filmmakers who work on a movie, only to have it shelved, where it's not seen by an audience for years. That's got to be weird and frustrating. Such is the case with THE GATHERING, a movie which was shot in late 2001, but is only now premiering in the United States.
THE GATHERING opens with two events. First, two youth who have wandered away from an open-air concert in the British countryside, fall through an opening and land in a 2000 year old church which was buried underground. Church representative Luke Fraser (Simon Russell Beale) and religious researcher Simon Kirkman (Stephen Dillane) are sent in to examine the find and learn that it's most unusual in design, as the Crucifix is facing away from the altar and it pointed towards a series of wall sculptures which depicts a group of people looking at the cross. Meanwhile, American tourist Cassie Grant is struck by a car driven by Marion Kirkman (Kerry Fox), Simon's wife. Marion rushes Cassie to the hospital, where she's found to be unharmed, but her memory is fuzzy and she can't recall why she's in that part of England. Guilt-ridden, Marion invites Cassie to stay with her family. Cassie immediately takes to Marion's children, Emma (Jessica Mann) and the withdrawn Michael (Harry Forrester).
Simon and Luke's research leads them to realize that the important thing about the church is not the altar or the Crucifix, but the audience portrayed in the sculpture. They are also shocked to learn that the church didn't simply sink underground over time, but was buried on purpose. At the same time, Cassie begins to have horrific visions where she sees several townspeople suffering violent injuries. She also feels as if certain strangers are watching her. As Simon and Luke get closer to the truth, Cassie realizes that her visions are actually premonitions and that something catastrophic is going to happen in the small town.
THE GATHERING is an interesting attempt to make the kind of religious horror/thrillers which were so common in the 70s, such as THE OMEN. Director Brian Gilbert has created a film which not only harkens back to those films, but also evokes memories of some Hammer classics as it utilizes the unique English locations. He infuses the movie with a sense of deliberate pacing, allowing the story to unfold at its own pace.
The problem is that this pace is very confusing and frustrating. For the first half of the film, THE GATHERING seems to be filled with random images. We are introduced with the characters and we get an idea of who they are and what they are doing, but none of it gels. The fact that Cassie doesn't know who she is or why she is there seems very far-fetched, and this is only exacerbated when she's taken in by the Kirkman's and becomes their nanny. Then, all of a sudden, the story comes together and it suddenly feels as if we are watching a different movie. From this point, things come together very quickly and THE GATHERING goes from being a somewhat quite and creepy film to an all-out psychological thriller with heavy supernatural overtones. The movie offers a pretty good twist ending, but astute viewer will see it coming with over 1/4 of the film left to go. (In the past, I've noticed that many movies whose released was delayed have been heavily edited, and this may help explain the odd structure of the film.)
The film's disjointed structure gets no help from the uneven feel to the film's mood and tone. The movie's central story (once it's revealed) is very interesting, and is one that I haven't seen before. Those who like movies where church secrets are revealed or alternatives to accepted Christian lore are uncovered will no doubt find THE GATHERING's idea intriguing. Yet, this is surrounded by hackneyed notions like the huge black dog who Cassie sees outside of her window every night (this reminded me of the dog from THE OMEN) or the "American who feels out of place in a small British village" subplot which we've seen countless times before. These parts of the story weigh down the more intelligent parts of the script and one gets the impression that the filmmakers wrestled between THE GATHERING being a classy, haunting film, or simply another religious thriller.
When reviewing a film like this, one question becomes the most important: Did this movie deserve to go unseen (in the U.S. at least) for 5 years? The answer is no. THE GATHERING isn’t necessarily something special, but it’s much better than the PG-13 rated remake crap that we’re getting today and at least it tries to do something a little different. Fans of movies like THE OMEN, THE SEVENTH SIGN, or lesser material like LOST SOULS or STIGMATA will find THE GATHERING worth a rental.
THE GATHERING stares ominously at DVD courtesy of The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie doesn’t look like it’s been on a shelf for years, as the image is very sharp and clear. The picture shows virtually no grain and there are no defects from the source material. The colors look good, most notably the green pastures. There was some very mild edge-enhancement issues, but otherwise the transfer looks fine. The disc houses a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects with no overt problems. The stereo effects are good, as are the surround sound effects which come into play during crowd scenes and Cassie’s visions. The subwoofer also perks up during these scenes and during one big explosion.
Not surprisingly, there are no extra features on THE GATHERING DVD.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©