The Reaping Review

A religious-themed horror movie from the producers of House On Haunted Hill, Gothika and House Of Wax, The Reaping is more or less what you'd expect: Rosemary's Baby meets The Omen meets The Seventh Sign, dumbed down, pumped up and plastered with CGI. The only surprise is that it's so boring. Here's a movie that unleashes the biblical plagues of Egypt - rivers of blood, rains of frogs, swarms of locusts - on a small redneck town in the American Deep South. How do you take a premise like that and make it dull?

The answer is, you hire screenwriters who recycle all the genre's clichés without doing anything to make them seem fresh or fun, you cast a star who looks uncomfortable and out of place acting in such a film and you hand the project to a director who knows how a big budget horror movie should look but not how to give it a pulse.

Connoisseurs of religious horror films will know they all involve a member of the clergy who's had a crisis of faith and so The Reaping gives us Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank), a former missionary who stopped believing in God after something terrible happened to her in the Sudan. Now she's a college professor who dedicates her spare time to investigating alleged miracles and debunking them.

Katherine's called to the small southern town of Haven, a god-fearing backwater in the Louisiana swamps to provide expert witness on a very strange phenomenon: the town's river has turned to blood. The locals don't believe this is a miracle however. They think it's a curse brought down on them by a mysterious blonde girl who lives just outside town. When other unexplained events follow, each one echoing one of the plagues God visited on the Egyptians in the Bible, Katherine is forced to question her atheism and consider whether the townsfolk might be right.

Just about every element of The Reaping has been borrowed from another film - the miracle-debunking hero comes from Stigmata, the biblical plagues from The Seventh Sign, the Devil-worship cult from Rosemary's Baby, the sinister child from god knows how many horror movies. What else? The climax is a straight rip-off of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. And fans of the Omen series will recognise the scene in which a character is killed by a Satanically-engineered accident just after he's revealed crucial information to the heroine. You'd think by now the Devil would have learned to silence these whistle-blowers before they blabbed!

The Reaping's total lack of imagination, combined with slow pacing and a lack of any interesting characters kills any hope of creating the chilling atmosphere the film-makers are aiming for and makes it a chore to sit through. The special effects are occasionally impressive - movie locusts have certainly come a long way since John Boorman pelted his cast with styrofoam in Exorcist II! - but they aren't scary. Nor are director Stephen Hopkins' desperate attempts to make us jump.

Hopkins is a frustrating man. He's not untalented. He's made a couple of good little thrillers - Judgment Night and Under Suspicion - and he directed much of the first season of 24, helping to define the look and pace of that excellent show. However, whenever he's given a big budget special effects movie to make, he turns out noisy, mindless, uninvolving crap like this, like Lost In Space, The Ghost And The Darkness and Predator 2.

Spare a thought for the cast, who look as lost as any actors I've ever seen. Hilary Swank is an exceptional actress given a good role but she needs to choose her scripts with better care before she turns into Halle Berry. The only cast member who deserves any praise is English actor David Morrissey, who puts on a commendable Irish accent - it's just a pity he's supposed to be playing an American southerner.

Overall

3

out of 10

Last updated: 18/06/2018 02:48:31

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