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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

The Reaping

The Reaping
2007 (2007) - Warner Bros.

For the most part, the big Hollywood studios have no business trying to make horror movies. Sure, there are some pretty incredible exceptions. The Exorcist and Jaws spring immediately to mind. And I have nothing against studio movies. In any given year, you can count on the studios producing some fun blockbusters, a few really funny comedies and several quality dramas. But if they produce one genuinely scary horror movie, it's a minor miracle.

This doesn't stop them from trying, of course. Part of the problem is that although horror movies can be profitable, they're rarely megahits. So the budgets for these studio creepshows tend to be modest, resulting lately in some chintzy digital effects and more often than not, one relatively big star anchoring a cast of much cheaper talent. Case in point: The Reaping starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank.

Swank plays Katherine Winter, a debunker of supposed miracles who turned her back on God after the death of her husband and daughter. As presented here, she seems to be kind of a female Indiana Jones specializing in religion. She's asked to investigate the tiny Louisiana town of Haven after the water in the local river supposedly turns to blood. Folk think this is the first of the ten Old Testament-style plagues that will be visited upon them and are eager to lay the blame on a small girl (AnnaSophia Robb) whom they suspect murdered her brother. 'Cause she might just be, y'know, the spawn of Satan.

Very few religious horror movies have worked. There's The Exorcist, of course, and the original version of The Omen is fun. But there are a lot more clunkers in this subgenre than winners. Stigmata, End of Days, pretty much any movie about demonic possession that isn't written by William Peter Blatty. The Reaping is no exception. For awhile, it's simply boring. Not much happens except for the usual unearned scares that studio horror movies revel in. You know 'em... the audience jumps because they've been startled into awareness by the sudden appearance of someone or something and a burst of intensely loud music, not because they're invested in the story. In the final act, The Reaping turns aggressively stupid. As usual, the atheist protagonist discovers the error of her ways and returns to the lord. As usual, there's a whole lot of noise and bad special effects to take the place of suspense and hammer you into thinking you're frightened. And as usual, there's a litany of last second plot twists that aren't particularly surprising unless this is the very first movie you've ever seen.

Warner's DVD looks and sounds just swell, and it damn well better considering the movie is only about six months old. Extras are limited to a quartet of brief and non-illuminating featurettes. The Science of the 10 Plagues is an In Search of Historic Jesus style documentary that essentially just reinforces Hilary Swank's monologue offering scientific explanations for the Biblical plagues that befell ancient Egypt. The Characters is one of those quick featurettes where the actors attempt to justify why they bothered to make this movie in the first place. A Place Called Haven examines the locations and sets. It's the most interesting one on the disc but it doesn't have much competition. The Reaping: The Seventh Plague is an in-depth sixty seconds on the filming of the big locust scene.

I didn't expect a whole lot from The Reaping. Studio horror movies are usually pretty weak anyway and Hilary Swank, while an interesting actress, has dubious taste in big-paycheck assignments. Even so, this was worse than I thought it was going to be. I'm really tired of atheists being forced to admit how wrong they are in movies and even more sick of sweet-faced little girls being depicted as tools of evil. If you reap what you sow, somebody must have spread a lot of fertilizer before they planted The Reaping.

Film Rating: D+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/C-

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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