“The Reaping,” reviewed by Susan Granger
When a thriller starring two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank sits on the shelf for a year, its usually because its 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 shes 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 thats 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 whats happening here and regains her faith in order to combat the dark forces that threaten the community. Theres also a confusing subplot involving a sulky young girl, Loren McConnell (AnnaSophia Robb), who may have incurred Gods wrath because she killed her brother.
Screenwriting brothers Chad and Casey W. Hayes, utilizing Brian Russos story, borrow from The Exorcist, Rosemarys 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, theres 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.