From director Stephen Hopkins comes the surprisingly drab The Reaping, a Hilary Swank-starring horror movie that has a neat concept but not much else. Just in time for Halloween, The Reaping is hoping to reap the awards (sorry) of those looking for a scare, but I would recommend looking elsewhere.
Swank stars as Katherine, an atheist college professor who has built a career out of disproving miracles. When a man comes inviting her to visit his small, secluded town, she is intrigued at the mystery: their river has turned to blood. With some townspeople talking the 10 biblical plagues, Katherine sets out to find the scientific answer, but as more and more of the plagues occur - dead frogs fall from the sky, livestock grow sick, locusts invade, etc. - she begins to realize that what is happening is not a force of nature, but the result of a creepy little girl who lives in the bayou.
The Reaping plays out not unlike The Exorcist, with a character who is skeptical of God slowly coming to grips with the fact that something supernatural is at work. Unfortunately, The Exorcist was good, and The Reaping is not. Swank does her best to hold the movie together, but her character has been done so many times before that it's hard to see what appealed to her, other than money. Idris Elba is good in a supporting role, though his character meets a rather lame finish.
What really hurts The Reaping is that beyond the concept, it is clear no one really knew how to weave all of it together with an interesting plot. Much of the movie is devoted to showing the different plagues, which are decent enough, but none of these scenes really amount to much excitement or thrills. Not surprising, the writers (Carey and Chad Hayes) decided the best course of action was to make a creepy little girl (AnnaSophia Robb, of Bridge to Terabithia) responsible (at least allegedly) for it all, which is always a safe bet in horror movies. Add a quiet kid to the mix and you've got a sure thing, right? Wrong. The villains are recognizable from the outset, and the final act of the movie is just dreadful. I sort of zoned out going into the climax so I don't remember exactly what happened, but I know there is some weird explosion and other stupid stuff. Basically, whatever was accomplished in the first two thirds of the movie is destroyed by a terrible ending. Oh, and the last scene of the film is just plain cheesy.
The Reaping has its moments and is certainly a watchable picture, but the movie lacks any kind of originality or intrigue, something that could have so easily been accomplished given its premise.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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