Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, Annasophia Robb, Stephen Rea
Horror films come in several different guises. The one Hollywood is most famous for, is the violent type, represented by films like Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, where gore and blood is common among them. Lately, the west have borrowed ideas from the east to make movies like The Ring, The Grudge and Dark Water. This one however is reminiscent of the old horror flicks of the past such as The Omen and Carrie. And yet, it doesn't quite work.
First, let's get to the story. The Reaping is about Katherine Winters, a former Christian missionary who specialises in debunking religious phenomena. Which basically means that if you show her a statue that cries blood, she'll tell you it's not a miracle and why. Katherine has spend most of her time travelling the world with her assistant Ben, in investigating 'miracles' and finding out why they happen, and explaining them using science. Her motivation comes from her dark past, where she had lost her husband and daughter during a mission in Sudan. Apparently they had been murdered by the locals as a sacrifice.
Anyway, one day a man named Doug meets her and requests for her help in investigating strange occurences in his town of Haven, Louisiana. Apparently their river has turned blood red, ever since a boy was found dead on its banks, with his younger sister standing over him. Katherine and Ben begin looking into it, and learn that the girl, named Loren, comes from a family not liked or respected by the townsfolk. Everyone in Haven seems to believe that Loren is not only responsible for her brother's death, but that she is related to the devil and is bringing about the Ten Biblical Plagues. After the red river, the other plagues begin to appear: dead frogs, flies, dead cattle and lice. Despite everyone's insistence, and warnings from her former mentor Father Costigan, Katherine refuses to believe that a supernatural evil or that the girl is behind it all, until it's too late.
If anything, this film proves to be quite educational, if viewers ever wanted to know about the Biblical Plagues. Director Stephen Hopkins does a good job in demonstrating the plagues as they attack the town, one by one. I thought that the locust attack was impressive. But where the onscreen action succeeds, the characterisation fails. The girl who is the centre of the madness, acts just like every other child onscreen who is supposedly possessed. When will Hollywood writers create a different type of character, one that you can differentiate from the norm? Just because a child is possessed, doesn't mean she has to act like it. Hilary's character Katherine, also isn't unfamiliar. We've had heroes onscreen who have had nightmares from past mistakes, and uses the antagonism before them in the present as a reflection of their past. Hers is no different.
Swank does a decent job playing Katherine, but she is better off playing someone with more meat and drama to toss around the script. Morrissey disappoints as Doug, his southern accent is a complete disaster to listen to. Rea doesn't get much screen time as Father Costigan, which is sad. Annasophia Robb, who plays the gum chewing over competitive girl in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, does well in looking scary and scared, but not much else.
The film sinks itself further thanks to more unimaginative and unoriginal elements. Hopkins relies too much on cheap shocks and scares to terrify the audience. He even resorts to an overkill of special effects in the film's climax, which only succeeds in defying logic rather than heightening the thrills. Perhaps the only thing that saves this film is Swank's performance. She is the glue that holds it all together, and it's a nice change to see her in a horror film, if you want to call this a horror film.
The Reaping isn't a great film, but it's watchable enough if you want to learn a few things about the plagues. (3.5/5)