Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Reading, on BET+

Most movie psychics are either scamming frauds or the tormented real deal. Sky Brown is the worst of both. She can genuinely connect with the dead, who then become very angry when they see Brown and their friends conning their loved ones out of money. It is getting harder to keep them at bay, so Brown wants out, but she agrees to one last high-paying job in Courtney Glaude’s The Reading, produced and “presented” by Lee Daniels, which is now streaming on BET+.

Emma Leeden just barely survived the violent home invasion that left her husband, teen daughter, and young son brutally murdered. She is truly a survivor, who is currently promoting her empowering memoir. To spur sales, Leeden’s publicist hires Brown’s crew to stage a reading with her. Gregory, the ringleader of their scam knows Brown is having a spiritual crisis of sorts, but he high-pressures her to agree anyway.

Of course, Leeden and her publicist assume Brown is a fraud, so they are pretty surprised when she starts telling Leeden things they did not previously leak to her. Then all heck breaks lose and Brown finds herself trapped with friends in Leeden’s smartly-secured, bullet-proofed McMansion.

The Reading
has a big twist that is surprisingly effective if you do not see it coming—so this should be the only review you read. It turns into a very different kind of horror movie, but the ending implies a promise of a sequel that might be more in line with what Glaude initially presents The Reading to be. Regardless, he nimbly helms the film, pulling off the big shockeroni and then directing all the traffic of the resulting chaos.

Mo’Nique is impressively fierce as Leeden and Chastity Sereal has some good psychic freakouts as Brown. There are definitely some very physical performances in
The Reading. Ian Haywood’s portrayal of Gregory is also more complex than the genre standard. Admittedly, the characters are not very resourceful, but the ensemble still largely sells the sinister scenario.

Indeed, is pretty good for a made-for-streaming horror movie, with a clever take on psychic “spiritualism.” It is easily Daniels’ best film after
The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Recommended for horror fans, The Reading is now streaming on BET+.