Mo’Nique Breathes Life Into New Thriller [Review]
The Reading follows recently widowed Emma Leeden, who details the loss of her family in her new book “Invasion”. To generate press, Emma agrees to a staged psychic reading by 19-year-old Sky Brown in Emma’s now fortified home. There’s only one problem. Sky’s spiritual connection is real, and evil emerges in a house they can’t get out of.
The Reading is a supernatural thriller starring Mo’Nique Hicks and hits BET+ this week. That sentence is not the kind of thing I get to write every day, and the trailer looked great. So I needed to be first in line to see this movie. The first few moments had me. We meet Emma (played by Hicks) who is a doting wife and mother. Mere seconds after we meet her picturesque family we get cut right to the violence. The deaths are jarring and the home invasion element is always alarming. But such an opening set high expectations for what the movie had in store. Plus, we haven’t even gotten to the supernatural part yet.
We jump ahead and meet the four college kids whose side hustle of doing psychic readings for money. Sky Brown (played by Chastity Sereal) and her crew seem to have a system in place. However, the reading she’s doing when we meet her leaves her shaken as the spirit tries to touch her during the session. Against her intuition, she gets talked into taking one more job at Emma’s house. Unfortunately, that reading leaves everyone in the home battling for their life.
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The first third of The Reading is very well-paced and gives us everything we need to get into this world. The foundation laid by writer and director Courtney Glaude makes it easy to overlook minor things because the build-up to the ride is pretty smooth. We can forgive sound mixing making it almost impossible to hear lines in restaurants and cafes, or during doors closing. We can forgive some of the dialogue and ignore the questions we have about Sky’s mother. A mom who gets angry at her daughter if she helps out financially but does sex work in the room next to her. We’re ducking and dodging these plotholes because Glaude is swiftly getting us to the moment we’ve been waiting for. The moment when all of these characters will be in this house and we can see where all of this tension is leading.
What ends up happening is that we get stuck in the house with a group of college kids with very little urgency. The reveal has moments and shifts the film so we can see Hicks do some amazing things with her character. However, because the twist is so obvious and there’s so much left of the movie it feels like we ate dessert and now have to suffer through our veggies. We can’t help but dwell on the Sky’s lack of survival instincts, or how someone who should’ve been dead is now running around as if they don’t have a bullet in the chest. We also never really see the group understand that there is danger in the next room, as they act like infomercials for people trying to survive a horror movie. It’s messy, and it makes me sad.
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Another thing that hurts The Reading is that it doesn’t fold in the supernatural element enough. We have Sky and her gift, but once all hell breaks loose it’s tossed to the back burner until the movie is almost over. Even then, it’s left up to the audience to piece together a line from earlier in the movie and have faith that is what’s happening. The second half of the movie feels completely different than what the first half set us up for. While this kind of shift can work, it doesn’t here. It instead highlights many issues we wanted to forgive. After a while, even Mo’Nique’s performance can only do so much to keep us watching.
I think there is a lot of really great stuff in the top half of this script. I just wish that it had carried over more and found a way to coexist with what we got. Also, I think the uneven acting draws attention to some of the design elements that possibly hinder the story from getting the tension it deserves. As messy as it was, I’m happy I saw it. Also very happy Mo’Nique gave me a character I have longed to see.
Let me know if you are going to watch The Reading this week at @misssharai.
It’s a predictable time that refuses to go through any of the more interesting doors it opens. However, it’s also a showcase for Mo’Nique to prove that she’d kill it in this genre.