The Gathering (2002) was one of those films so disappointing to the producers that it languished unreleased for five years
Eventually someone decided that with Christina Ricci in it, it should at least be able to recoup its losses as a direct-to-video release.
While climbing a hillside in Glastonbury, a young woman of no consequence to the rest of the film suddenly falls through the ground, into a very bizarre chamber with eerie faces gazing out from the relief-carved walls.
Cut to opening credits of the unremarkable The Gathering, followed by completely different characters for the story. An archeologist, Luke (Simon Russell Beale), has been hired by the church to investigate the underground ruins, which date to 1st Century Roman Britain. The Church has reasons for secrecy & wants him to investigate the ruin without letting anyone else know about it.
The ruins are under the church (despite that in the first scene they were inside a hill). Evidence is the place was intentionally burned in a time of plague. There's something evil about the relief wall-carvings, which depict the cruel or indifferent or merely entertained people who came to watch Christ being crucified.
In a converging plotline, Christina Ricci plays Cassy, a character whose male body double roles off the hood of a car, & the driver, Marion (Kerry Fox), takes her to the hospital. Except for amnesia, she's entirely uninjured.
So the woman who struck her on the road hires Cassy to be a nanny, because who wouldn't want to entrust their child to some random drifter who doesn't know her own identity.
Cassy experiences brief, hallucinatory episodes of death & horror, & tries to be patient for her memory to return & meaning to become known.
The children she cares for are Michael & Emma (Harry Forrester & Jessica Mann). The boy is asthmatic, mute, & evidently haunted by something evil. Cassy is linked to him in some manner that the story will never clarify, but she can walk in his nightmares & protect him therein. This ability could've been damned cool, but the story is generally incoherent, which limits the impact of even the very few passingly good bits.
Cassy meets a supportive young man, Dan (Ioan Gruffudd). She tells him what she's been experiencing. She fears her visions are premonitions. He'll turn out to be other than she expected, but none of that's interesting either.
Luke doing archival research of the reliefs in the ruins begins to find the same faces in apocalyptic sacred artwork through the ages, & eventually in photographs of horrific events in modern history.
The same people are always witnesses, present at hundreds of catastrophes. And he begins spotting those faces among visitors to the village of Ashby Wake, as they are gathering again, knowing something doomful is brewing.
Although presented in a muddle, badly written & badly edited, the mystery of the piece gets quite intriguing until they start to resolve it, then it's just hoky. Though again there's a germ of an idea that could've been great, but the germs seem to have gotten it ill.
Borrowing from the legend of the Wandering Jew but without reference thereto, these people who witnessed the Crucifixion became immortals doomed always to watch horrible things. The promise of all this is of an apocalyptic event in Ashby Wake, but as there is no such event, it's all wasted dissimilation with no pay-off.
Instead we get an increasingly muddled story about some point in the recent past when never-punished priests molested & abused children in the church orphanage. It is these events that haunt little Michael's nightmares. And the local crazy, Fred Argyl, an adult survivor of childhood abuse in that orphanage, is plotting his revenge.
The paedophiles get picked off one by one by -- either by a supernatural agency or by Fred, who is also planning to set off a car-bomb in the middle of a pending festival.
Cassy keeps spotting those people of "the gathering" who haven't witnessed much yet, & never will. One psycho killer does not an apocolypse make, so even if it had all gone off as Fred planned, it wouldn't've been sufficient to incite "the gathering."
In the all too obvious pretence at a plot twist, Cassy realizes she's one of the "watchers," who always watch but never intercede. She has made a decision to break the curse & try to change the fate of two children, even though her fellow gatherer Dan tries to stop her from tinkering with events. The bulk of the rest of the film is a "hide from or fight the psycho" series of scenes that hardly required a cursed immortal's presence.
Action takes us from cornfield to tractor barn & it's painfully hard to care about any of it as it's all just so insufferably stupid. All the ancient mystical bits fail utterly to make this anything but a story about a babysitter versus a psychopath.
So why on earth does someone as interesting as Christina Ricci accept roles in such fool films? She must be, like myself, a fan of horror, as she certainly doesn't lack for all the independent film work she could want.
I adore her in her & she's been in some tremendous offbeat films like Black Snake Moan (2006), Prozac Nation (2003), & Buffalo 66 (1998). But she'll never be an adequate horror queen if she can't find better B-horror projects than Bless the Child (2000), Cursed (2005) or The Gathering.
The Gathering is essentially the religified version of an areligious short story from Weird Tales (May 1943), filmed for The Ray Bradbury Theater as The Crowd (Season 1, Episode 3, 1985). It's quite a lot better than the feature film, & is included on the dvd The Ray Bradbury Theater Volume 1 (2004).
Nick Mancuso is protagonist Joe Spallner. He survived an auto accident that drew a mysterious crowd of gawpers, & when he has recovered & out of the hospital, he becomes aware that wherever terrible things occur, the same crowd gathers.
When he hears an auto accident outside his place of employment, he notes that the crowd gathers with preternatural swiftness. He afterward becomes obsessive, taking his video camera with him everywhere, lurking at dangerous stretches of roadway, filming the crowd when it appears (in the original short story he used newspaper photographs to document the existence of the crowd).
Very tightly plotted & close to the short story in structure, the tales draws us through events as a shocking inevitability until Spallner's connection to the crowd is established in the end. The script is by Ray Bradbury himself, so the changes that do occur are his own, & he did have a slight variant in mind for the climax.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl