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  Reaping, The Biblical Bunkum
Year: 2007
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Stars: Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea, William Ragsdale, John McConnell, David Jensen, Yvonne Landry, Samuel Garland, Myles Cleveland, Andrea Frankle, Mark Lynch, Stuart Greer, Lara Grice, Cody Sanders
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: Father Costigan (Stephen Rea) awakens one night in the cell of his monastery to see the photograph of his old friend Katherine (Hilary Swank) burning without explanation, The face on the picture has been scorched away, and when the priest investigates the other photos that he has of her, the same has happened to them - yet when he arranges them in a pattern, the marks make the sign of an inverted sickle. It must be a sign, but he cannot contact Katherine right now because she is in Chile on a project to find out the reasons behind a supposed miracle happening there that has obsessed the religious poor there. She may be able to explain that one, but there's more...

The fact that The Reaping depicts Chile as a Caribbean Third World country is but one of the crimes against intelligence that this throws up, as it starts off purporting to be a rationalist view of religious belief, then throws that out of the window for some ludicrous plot gymnastics that scream at you to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and saviour. Once upon a time Hollywood religious movies would be of the Song of Bernadette or Bells of St Mary's variety, all very nice and sweet with a measured tone and sincere contemplation of the Word of God, but after The Omen came along, it was deemed necessary to batter audiences over the head with the big message.

If anything, The Reaping resembles one of those Ron Ormond "terrorise the faithful into obeying" movies from the seventies, a big budget version of If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, only this is not quite as funny. Sad to say, mostly this is tedious, and after briefly pausing to ponder over the bizarre choices Hilary Swank makes when she's not winning Oscars, you settle in for ninety minutes of being yelled at in a pious frame of mind. After we see university lecturer Katherine solving the riddle of the Chilean miracle, she's feeling pretty smug, but she has a tragedy in her background where she lost her husband and daughter, something that has habit of popping back into her life in wearisome dream sequences.

Those shock nightmares that she wakes up from are just one instance of the clich├ęs on display, from the rural Deep South radio stations only playing fundamentalist preachers to that time-worn observation that children's drawings can look really creepy in the wrong light. Katherine and her associate Ben (Idris Elba) are headed to a smallltown to investigate the river that runs through it turning to blood, and hey, isn't that a bit like what happened in Egypt in the Bible? Yes, taking the cue from Dr Phibes, the screenwriters are implementing that old favourite, the ten Biblical plagues and visiting them upon the townsfolk. The reason for this will become clear, but it has very little to do with the Scripture.

Katherine meets the seemingly sensible Sheriff Doug (David Morrissey), and they begin to make their way around the area, recording the weirdness such as frogs falling from the sky or sudden appearances of lots of flies, until she links what is happening with the weird little girl Loren (AnnaSophia Robb), who has been accused of murdering her brother. In the spirit of lazy horror movies explaining their preposterous events by saying, look, it's all supernatural so anything can happen really, the plagues are first presented to be the result of Satan using God's power to his own ends, but there's a twist coming up that makes a mockery of even that fatuous notion. It wouldn't be so bad if you could laugh at this, but the idea that the unbelievers need to be terrorised into turning to God is pretty offensive, and as it plays out The Reaping only gives you a headache. The final twist is especially idiotic. Music by John Frizzell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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