MORE TEA, VICAR? CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
A British horror movie! Not a co-production with Romania or Bulgaria (how poverty-stricken does the industry have to be when we can't even raise the finance for a six-people-in-a-house film like Spirit Trap?) but a 100% home-grown offering. Mind you, the big mystery is how come it's only just surfaced, having spent a decade on the shelf: the IMDb lists it as a 2003 film but the copyright date on the end credits is 2001. Why haven't we seen it before? I mean, it's not a lost masterpiece but it's a hell of a lot better than a lot of the amateur night slop we've been getting on disc recently.
The Gathering is a supernatural religious-horror yarn that comes across as Midsomer Murders spliced with The Da Vinci Code. In an English village so thoroughly postcard-traditional you genuinely expect to see John Nettles bumbling about knee-deep in corpses, a pair of canoodling teens fall through a hole in the ground into a long-buried church: a church that may well have been built in the first century by Joseph Of Arimathea himself, and is thus a monumentally significant discovery. But why is the figure of Christ Crucified facing the wrong way? And what do the carved figures on the wall represent? Bishop Robert Hardy calls in experts Stephen Dillane and Simon Russell Beale to investigate. Meanwhile, Christina Ricci is knocked down by a car and, suffering from amnesia, is taken in by Dillane and Kerry Fox, but it's not long before she starts having hallucinations and bloody visions....Might it have something to do with the history of the Dillane house? Or the local garage mechanic who's obviously on the brink of going postal? Is there more to handsome stranger Ioan Gruffudd than is first apparent? As the terrible truth about the ancient church becomes clear, the modern Church want the whole thing covered up, just as the mysterious Gathering assembles....
Certainly The Gathering isn't great, but it is worth a look as an inoffensive Sunday evening chiller - with its Miss Marple setting it could play quite happily on ITV with only a few trims for F-words. Not every horror needs to push the envelope as some kind of audience challenge; frankly if every other genre production was a Martyrs or A Serbian Film we'd soon get sick of it. The Gathering operates quite happily within its own little envelope as a comfortable, non-confrontational, "safe" horror film. I rather enjoyed it: it goes off in directions you don't necessarily expect, it's generally well done and cast, holds the interest, and has a nicely satisfying ending. Sometimes that's all you want.