The Gathering (2002)

Christina Ricci stars in this effective and rather understated modern British religious thriller. Universal Dutch R2 release.

The Film

At the Glastonbury music festival, two young party goers fall through a crack in the ground into the remains of an early church. An expert in religious iconography is brought in who discovers that, uniquely, the church's crucifixion scene seems to be reversed. Meanwhile a young American girl, Cassie Grant (Christina Ricci) is walking through the nearby English countryside when she is struck by a car - only slightly hurt, she has suffered a bad memory loss and is taken in by the women who ran her down, until she recovers. Cassie soon becomes haunted by gruesome dreams, and becomes scared for the safety of the young boy she lives with who seems to be the focus of the visions...

An original story and script written by the teleplay writer Anthony Horowitz, The Gathering boasts a very well crafted script. Religious conspiracy and thriller storys are a dime a dozen at present after the success of the Dan Brown novels and their kin, however Horowitz avoids the usual clichés of this genres, with the massive cover-ups by sinister organisations and secrets that will destroy a thousand years of faith, instead choosing to keep the themes small and almost plausible with some real thinking points. The film itself retains this feel, set almost entirely in a small English town with very low-key characters - no-one here is planning to rule the world - and accordingly there is not much action in this film, but the pacing remains strong throughout and it does build up to a rather unpredictable and exciting climax with a fitting if rather drawn out conclusion.

Director Brian Gilbert does a solid job on this film, helped by some good production values and beautiful Manx scenery. The church set is a real stand-out and looks superb, while the subtle use of CGI is reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro's horror works, and looks very effective. The soundtrack is mostly choral based and perfectly suits the film's religious themes.

The beautiful Christina Ricci takes the lead role, while Ioan Gruffudd (who has since gone on to be famous in the Fantastic Four films) takes second billing. A lot of criticism has come to the leads, and the rest of the cast, for their poor acting, however, in keeping with the very understated, British nature of the film as a whole, it does appear that the cast are carefully downplaying their performances to keep with the tone. A few familiar faces crop up in the supporting cast and the child actors do some very good work.

A very under-rated film, thanks to its deliberately understated, small-scale nature and poorly conceived promotion as a horror film, The Gathering comes recommended to those who enjoy their thrillers on the realistic plot based side, without world-changing events every ten minutes
or MTV-edited action scenes.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Christina Ricci - the beautiful former child star who has done plenty of work in modern-cult cinema.
Ioan Gruffudd - best known to British viewers as Hornblower he has since gone on to Hollywood success.
Directed by anyone interesting? Brian Gilbert - a little known British director who also filmed the curious Wilde (1997) with Stephen Fry as the infamous writer.
Is it scary? Occasionally - Some tense scenes, and a few jump shocks.
Any violence/gore? Quite a bit of blood and some gore in a few scenes.
Any sex? No.
Who is it for?
Certainly of interest to horror fans and especially fans of religious horror or thrillers.
Good soundtrack? A choral based classic score mostly, fits well with the film's religious tones.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
(Note: the film has been released in the US on DVD in a 2.35:1 ratio, however there is no hint of cropping on this 1.78:1 print, suggesting it is OAR)
The disc is very strong visually, good colours, practically no print damage. Very good transfer, almost looks like HD.
Audio Original English language track. Dolby Stereo, Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1.
Sounds good, surround channels used occasionally, but quite well.
Subtitles Optional Dutch subtitles for the film and extras.
Extras The disc includes:
  • B-roll - 4 minute collection of behind the scenes shots, with no additional audio, some interesting footage.
  • Interviews with:
    • Main Cast (Ricci, Gruffudd, Jessica Mann & Harry Forrester)
    • Director
    • Writer
    • Producer
    • Costumes
    • Make-up
  • Note: these interviews are presented as supplied to media outlets
Packing Standard Amaray case.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? R1 release from Mirimax is in a 2.35:1 ratio (probably cropped) and lacks bonus features or DTS track.
French and Scandinavian R2. Other regions lack DTS.
Cuts? The print is uncut. However, up to 10 minutes of scenes from the as-filmed version of the film seem to have been edited out by Mirimax, including several scenes referenced by the actors in the interviews. There could be a longer release in future.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 18th July 2005, updated 29th April 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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