When Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) lost her husband and daughter while working as a missionary in Sudan with Father Costigan (Stephen Rea), she turned her back on her faith. Now working as a university professor, she looks for answers through scientific investigation instead of prayer. When Louisiana schoolteacher Doug Blackwell (David Morrissey) asks her for help, she and colleague Ben (Idris Elba) make their way to the swamplands around the town of Haven to investigate. Since the death of a child, the river has turned blood red and the locals believe Satanic forces are at work and evil seems to have taken hold.
Review by Louise Keller:
If there is an instruction manual for supernatural horror films, the filmmakers of The Reaping have followed it to the letter. The result is derivative and predictable with little to recommend it beyond the star power of Hilary Swank. Swank plays a missionary turned professor, whose loss of faith since the slaughter of her family has made her a cynic, eager to find a logical explanation for events that some consider supernatural. Even if you are not familiar with Exodus' ten plagues of Egypt, you will soon have first hand religious instruction of Satanic terror, as a river turns to blood, humungous frogs flop everywhere, and a blistering twister of gigantic locusts descends. There are a few scares and the mood constantly retains a level of fabricated spookiness, yet all the manipulative and formulaic film trappings detract.
The opening scene in which Stephen Rea's angst-ridden priest finds flames coming from his photos of Swank's Katherine seems to have special meaning to him as they form the symbolic shape of a scythe, but to us, it seems likely the special effects team had a brainstorm. The most enjoyable part of the film is in the establishment stage, when Katherine and Idris Elba's Ben make their way to the symbolically named small town of Haven. The air is full of expectation as they make their way along the eerily blood-red river - first by dinghy and then wading on foot through the remote, shallow marshlands. Katherine is startled and hits her head. Her first sight of AnnaSophia Robb's Loren with red dress, blonde hair and demonic gaze, scampering between the dense forest trees offers a chance for one of many flashbacks to her own daughter, tragically lost when Katherine was a believer. David Morrissey's Doug Blackwell is an unfortunate choice for the role of the local teacher, who we repeatedly hear is from a long line of first-born children. He is as self-conscious as he was in Basic Instinct 2, and Doug and Katherine's short-lived love affair is unconvincing and totally devoid of sexual spark.
As the 10 plagues from the bible become apparent to all and sundry in the town of Haven, things grow ever more exaggerated. Director Stephen Hopkins does a reasonable job of injecting tension into the mix but the clunky soundtrack reminding us when to instruct our hearts to skip a beat is irritatingly obvious. Things get sillier and sillier and the climactic scenes are melodramatic and ridiculous. As for the final scene, suffice to say I groaned.
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REAPING, THE (M)
CAST: Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea, William Ragsdale, John McConnell
PRODUCER: Susan Downey, Herb Gains, Susan L. Levin, Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis
DIRECTOR: Stephen Hopkins
SCRIPT: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Levy
EDITOR: Colby Parker Jr.
MUSIC: John Frizzell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Graham 'Grace' Walker
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 19, 2007