John V. Soto enjoys subverting audience expectation. The Perth-based writer-director behind the supernatural thrillers Crush and Needle admits he enjoys playing games with viewers and setting up elaborate mysteries for them to unravel. Now with The Reckoning, Soto is aiming for a fresh take on the conventional mystery crime thriller, one that will be decidedly more reality based.
“There’s a degree of disbelief with all supernatural and horror films so I thought I’d like to do a film where nothing is supernatural,” he says. “When I looked at other detective films, however, I realised they were all very linear like an Agatha Christie [novel], which had been done a million times. I thought what if we tell the story from two points of view instead?”
The Reckoning follows teenage runaways Rachel (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) and AJ (Alex Williams), who embark on a mission to determine what happened during a hit and run incident where no one was called to justice. Trying to locate them is a detective (Jonathan LaPaglia) whose colleague has recently been murdered and who believes the teens have recorded footage of the perpetrator. The teenage narrative is shot in the style of found footage, while the remainder of the film uses conventional cinematography in the third person. “It’s essentially two films merged together,” Soto says. “In the end, I had to write each storyline separately and work out various points where they collide.”
The film also stars Viva Bianca and Luke Hemsworth and was originally to feature Callan McAuliffe (The Great Gatsby) as AJ, however, due to a scheduling conflict, the actor had to drop out. “He was heartbroken, but I’ll probably be working with him on something else in the future,” says Soto.
Soto takes pride in the fact that The Reckoning was shot completely on location in Perth. “I think there’s a quality of performance you get when you’re in an actual location versus when you’re on a sound stage,” he explains. “It just feels real and I find that the actors respond better.”
The Reckoning will make its Australian premiere at CinefestOz on 23rd August, where it has been selected to compete amongst five other films for the inaugural $100,000 cash prize for its producer. The other finalists include Felony, Son of a Gun, The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse, Paper Planes and My Mistress. The film will be released locallly in cinemas on 5th September, with VOD to follow a month later.