“The Reaping,” reviewed by Susan Granger

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When a thriller starring two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank sits on the shelf for a year, it’s usually because it’s cinematic rubbish.

Hilary plays Katherine Winter, a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after her husband and daughter were murdered in an act of religious fanaticism in the Sudan. Now she’s a cynical, world-renowned debunker of paranormal religious phenomena who is summoned by a science teacher (David Morrissey) to a small Louisiana bayou town called Haven that’s suffering from what appears to be an onslaught of the ten Old Testament plagues that God used to convince Pharoah to allow Moses lead his people out of Egypt.

Accompanied by her assistant (Idris Elba), Katherine sees how the river is running red with blood and frogs are falling from the sky. Despite her skepticism, she realizes that mere science cannot explain what’s happening here and regains her faith in order to combat the dark forces that threaten the community. There’s also a confusing subplot involving a sulky young girl, Loren McConnell (AnnaSophia Robb), who may have incurred God’s wrath because she killed her brother.

Screenwriting brothers Chad and Casey W. Hayes, utilizing Brian Russo’s story, borrow from “The Exorcist,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Omen.” Instead of exploring the power of evil and the existence of Satan, director Stephen Hopkins relies on spooky, formulaic shock sequences. Thanks to cinematographer Peter Levy and CGI, there’s lots of ludicrous, graphic violence: a gruesome plague of locusts, decaying and dying cattle, putrefying corpses, murders and suicides. Insofar as acting goes, Hilary Swank strikes out completely in developing any emotional depth to her non-believing character. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Reaping” is a sloppy, shamelessly exploitive 3. Perhaps the devil made them do it.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.