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The Reaping (2007)
Director: Stephen Hopkins

review by Tony Lee

Ecological shocker meets biblical horror in Stephen Hopkins' grisly The Reaping, written by Carey and Chad Hayes, twin brothers who graduated from TV scripting on stuff like Baywatch, to movies like Invincible, and the House Of Wax remake. Oscar-winner Hilary Swank (De Palma's Black Dahlia, Eastwood's classic Million Dollar Baby, feminist biopic Iron Jawed Angels, and SF adventure The Core) plays a former missionary, Katherine Winter, turned investigative academic using science to debunk reported miracles around the world.

While defending a cursed girl, Loren (AnnaSophia Robb, Bridge To Terabithia), from god-bothering locals in a Louisiana town (named Haven, with heavy-handed irony) that's stricken by a checklist of 10 plagues, our professorial heroine struggles through a re-learning experience about faith, parental loss and grief, while rogue priest Father Castigan (Stephen Rea, doing his usual loony-on-the-phone act) calling to warn the already harassed Katherine that something really terrible is going to happen.

Yes, from the swampy river of blood and a lethal outbreak of boils, to the swarm of locusts and a firestorm from the sky, unnerving events conspire with disturbing climactic revelations about the Haven residents' peculiar beliefs, to produce numerous shocks and dramatic sequences throughout this mystery thriller from the director best known to genre fans for the wholly underrated sequel Predator 2, and the deeply flawed yet unfairly dismissed Lost In Space movie.

Explicatory montages of dreams and memories rush by so fast they may resemble blitzes of photos or freeze-frames, but there's no dissembling or little prevarication. We get the unvarnished truth about characters and situations. Katherine's terse monologue of rational explanations for Egyptian myths is one of those speeches that any serious atheists would like to memorise. The town's decent into hell is impressively realised here and, apart from its predictability due to viewers' familiarity with scripture, this paranormal chiller is far more sophisticated than the simply perplexing weirdness of Silent Hill.

In marked contrast to many similarly-themed, evil child, apocalypse, or prophesy films (the Omen series, The Rapture, The Seventh Sign, End Of Days, Lost Souls, The Body, etc), The Reaping actually benefits - generally, yet with a few specific moments excepted - from the robust character of its scientific content, with authentic sounding clarity that makes the weird events all the more intriguing, instead of undermining the traditional mode for these films. Undoubtedly, a decade of The X-Files has much to answer for in that respect!

Although its finale is mildly disappointing, the gross or spectacular doomsday images are well conceived and flawlessly rendered. Hopefully, such slickly made, cross-genre projects can find a niche in the studios' A-list movie arena.
The Reaping poster

The Reaping DVD

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