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Movie Review: The Reaping

The Reaping (Warner Bros., 2007)
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Written by Carey Hayes and Chad Hayes based on a story by Brian Rousso

What is it exactly about Dark Castle Pictures’ ability to lure recent Oscar winners to their horror films? Halle Berry followed up her award winning performance in 2001’s Monster’s Ball with the company’s Gothika, a film that was a fairly decent b-movie time waster for the first two-thirds and then took a big dump on itself with an ending that is the definition of absurd. And now, Hilary Swank, after winning her 2nd Oscar for her great performance in Million Dollar Baby, does this film for Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis’s horror themed company. In all fairness, The Reaping doesn’t share the same problems that Gothika had. No, The Reaping just sucks from beginning to end.

Katherine Winter (Swank) is a professor at LSU who in her spare time travels around the globe attempting to debunk religious phenomena. Her newest assignment keeps her close by; the residents of the small town of Haven, Louisiana think they might be facing God’s wrath when their main water source turns to blood.

Doug Blackwell (David Morrissey), Haven’s local science teacher, hires Winter in the hopes that she can find a scientific cause for this predicament, and not what the townsfolk believe to be the first in a repeat of the biblical “Ten Plagues.”

Winter, a former God-fearing woman who has turned to scientific explanation to denounce her former faith, is more than eager to show the town the true scientific nature of their problems and take the blame off of a little girl (AnnaSophia Robb), who the town believes to be the culprit behind all of this mess. However, once the frogs start falling from the sky, the livestock start dying, and the locusts take over the small town, even she is having a hard time believing this is a simple case of scientific phenomena.

My first problem early on in the film was with Winter’s profession. Is this really a job that a university would give funding to? And even if this type of research does exist, would a state college in the heart of the Bible belt be behind it? However, I forgot about that query quickly once all of the other bullshit that this film proposes started piling up.

How does a film with big budget and special FX lovers like Silver and Zemeckis producing it look so terrible? Did we really need fake looking CG cows falling over when it would have been just as simple to build some animatronic ones?

It’s also noticeable how much this film must have been chopped up throughout the editing process. The middle portion of the film skips around all over the place and makes very little sense. They even screw up the order of the plagues in one part. Granted, most people have not read the Bible cover to cover recently or probably remember the exact order, but is it so hard to get something like this right? This is, after all, the main backbone of the film’s story.

The script was written by the Hayes brothers, who also wrote the 2005 remake of House of Wax, yet another in a long line of crapfests from the Dark Castle label. So, I didn’t expect too much from them, but Wax looks like The Exorcist compared to this film. The Hayes tack on the laziest exposition device at the end of the film where Winter is allowed to discover what has been going on in the town over the past few weeks through a psychic link with the young girl that wasn’t even touched on through the first hour and twenty minutes of the film.

I guess I’ll be nice and not give away the big twist, but I will tell you that it makes no sense and is yet another reveal that contradicts the actions of most of the cast from earlier events. What really kills me though is that I was actually excited about Zemeckis and Silver forming this company back in the late nineties right before the awful House on Haunted Hill remake was released. However, seven films later, and not even a decent one among them, my excitement has turned to exhaustion.

In a year when we’ve already had a slew of terrible horror films released, Hills Have Eyes II, The Messengers, Hostel Part II, The Number 23, etc. The Reaping does its damnedest to compete for top of the heap. I’m not sure how my worst of 2007 list won’t be filled with horror movie titles. I might just have to make a special section for the genre when I compile it next month. Oh, and did I mention this movie sucks? Just checking.


Sam Loomis

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