The Reaping

2007, Movie, R, 90 mins


Director Stephen Hopkins and screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes — the sibling tag team behind the dreadful 2005 HOUSE OF WAX remake — combine elements from horror movies that range from THE OMEN to ROSEMARY'S BABY into a confusing hack job.

Several years after a disastrous good-will mission to the Sudan ended with the loss of her family and her faith, former ordained minister Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) no longer preaches the gospel. In fact, some might say she's preaching against it: Katherine has become a religious phenomenon debunker who, when she's not teaching classes at Louisiana State University, travels to places as far afield as Conception, Chile, to prove that what locals believe are "miracles" are really just natural occurrences with simple scientific explanations. But even Katherine is surprised by what she finds in the small bayou town of Haven, La., where she and her assistant, Ben (The Wire's Idris Elba), have been summoned by local schoolteacher Doug Blackwell (David Morrissey). Not long after a local boy was found dead on the banks of Haven's river, the water has turned the color of blood, and the deeply religious townsfolk are sure the dead boy's spooky younger sister, Lauren MacConnell (AnnaSophia Robb), who lives out in the woods with her mother (Andrea Frankle) is the root of the trouble. Katherine as consistently disregarded the dire predictions of her former mentor, Father Costigan (Stephen Rea), who keeps calling her cell phone with warnings that something truly biblical is afoot, and is inclined to suspect some sort of bacteria… perhaps the red algae some scientists believe changed the water of the Nile to "blood" as recorded in the Old Testament. But no rational explanation can account for the string of occurrences that begin to plague Haven: dead frogs that fall from trees, swarms of flies that suddenly appear during a barbeque, a rancher's entire herd of cattle suddenly withers and dies. If Katherine were inclined to believe the rumors, the same ten plagues that struck Egypt before the exodus of the Israelites are being visited on Haven. But why?

Good question. The Hayes boys are so intent on keeping the whys and wherefores a mystery till the very end — is Lauren a devil or an angel? — that it all becomes a confusing muddle that isn't interesting enough to warrant much attention. Hopkins relies far too heavily on sudden loud soundtrack noises to inject some scares into what is essentially a pretty dull affair, and the plague effects are sub par even by the standards of Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 Exodus epic The TEN COMMANDMENTS. Swank and Elba work hard for their paychecks, but Rea quite literally phones in his performance. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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