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THE REAPING, 2007
Cast: Hillary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, William Ragsdale
A former Christian missionary, who specializes in debunking religious phenomena, investigates a small town which seems to be suffering from the 10 Biblical plagues.
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REVIEW:There aren’t a lot of horror films these days that don’t really scare you in a primitive way. This is one of them, though unlike others, it pulls through to the end thanks to its cast and crew. Although it is rated as a horror, it is mostly thriller-drama based focusing on the old science-versus-religion affair.
Katherine (Hillary Swank) is a former minister who abandoned religion after her husband and child were killed on a missionary trip in a violent country. This leads her to spending her days debunking (mostly religion-based) miracles and lecturing at the local university. Ironically, her partner, Ben, is an ex-con with a bad history until he discovered God. The story starts when the two are approached by small town teacher, Doug, who calls for their help. He explains that his idyllic small town is suffering from what seems like the ten biblical plagues. Frogs are falling from the sky, the rivers have turned to blood, but this doesn’t take Katherine’s interest. At least, not until he tells her that the town folk are blaming a little girl from a hermit family for the oddity.
The town is a practically a postcard cliché, featuring friendly locals, picturesque scenery, rich history and religion. So naturally Katherine isn’t a good fit there. She and her partner are made at home by Doug, who seems to be the only person in town who can give any true insight about the place and about these plagues. Still not buying that the child is responsible for them, Katherine is insistent on proving that they are caused by something less supernatural or Godly. But can she?
Though there is nothing particularly new in the film, it’s pulled along with a fairly stellar cast. Swank is in stellar form as always and both British David Morrissey and Idris Elba do surprisingly good jobs of playing American, particularly Morrissey who has to do a Southern accent that many lesser actors could make sound like Elvis Presley. That being said, Elba does well not playing his character like a ‘gansgta’ stereotype and is probably the most likeable characters in the film. There’s even a good supporting role by Fright Night’s William Ragsdale as the sheriff.
Stephen Hopkins does well building tension and suspense as well as great atmosphere. A lot of this is helped by great locations, though a lot of the swamp areas almost bring back memories of 2005’s Skeleton Key which also had the same type of vibe. The visual effects of the film are probably one of the strongest points as it is realistic, yet understated unlike too many over-the-top CGi heavy movies of this generation. The photography is also excellent, I suspect this film would look rather well on blu-ray as the standard definition DVD looked near HD, even in the darker scenes.
One shouldn’t delve into the film expecting to go into uncharted territory. The film is best enjoyed if you accept it to be the more-or-less light entertainment feature with religious themes. Naturally, like most genre films as of late, there is a minor twist at the end which I obviously won’t spoil, though many may probably have guessed it during the second act or sooner, however it is quite entertaining and it’s not until the final act will some people start to find the entertaining merits of the film.
It seems that most films with religious connotations these days don’t sell well with most audiences for whatever reason, so if you’re not into that subtext, I would suggest avoiding the film rather than chastising it for following the themes that they have chosen. After all, you wouldn’t want your money back for a science fiction movie because it has too much science. (Would you?)