Review by Gary Murray


I was hoping for a cross promotion using that Blue Oyster Cult classic “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

    The Reaping is not a tale bringing in the crops but a supernatural tale of faith.  The movie starts with two stories.  A priest (Stephen Rea) finds his pictures burning, but only parts and mostly on a woman’s face.  The fact that they are all framed in his apartment means that she is an important part of his world.  He puts the burnings together like a jigsaw puzzle and they make the pattern of a scythe.  In the other part of our story, two research scientist/heroes are trying to disprove a miracle in Chile.  They find toxic waste seeping from near the church, disproving the miracle and stopping industrials bad guys.  Back in the USA, it is revealed that our head scientist/hero is Katherine (Hillary Swank), a researcher who uses science to debunk miracles, 48 so far.  She has a research assistant Ben (Idris Elba) who is more of a man of God.  He believes that debunking ‘so called miracles’ makes the ‘true miracles’ more profound.  Through his life story, he knows that there is a God.  Enter stage left the driving force of the rest of the story.   Doug (David Morrissey) is the representative of the community of Haven that has a slight problem.  It seems the town has a river of blood, it is not just red but filled with the plasma of people. The townsfolk think that the little girl Loren McConnell (AnnaSophia Robb) has turned the river into something sinister.  Loren’s brother is dead and the locals believe it is the work of a possession.  But, the powers of science don’t believe in the Old Testament.  We find out that Katherine, in her back-story, is a missionary sent over to Africa.  With a drought that the locals blame on the outsiders, a tragedy happens.  Katherine is now a one-woman myth slayer, doing everything she can to disprove the existence of God.  But Katherine cannot explain what is happening in the town.  It becomes obvious that we are to get the Old Testament ten plagues.  There are frogs, locust, boils, etc. all going toward the big one, death of the first born.  Cattle are destroyed.  Everything points to the Devil and the girl.

    The film is of Katherine finding her faith and battling the forces while trying to find out the truth of the town.  The ending is surprising only for those who have never seen a movie before (see Rosemary’s Baby for your first clue).  One of the biggest distractions in The Reaping is how badly it is shot.  Framed poorly and sometimes out of focus, at times The Reaping felt like an art student film project.  It was more something to come out of (Andy) Warhol’s The Factory than from a major studio.

    Hillary Swank won two Oscars and since then has done Black Dahlia, Freedom Writers and now The Reaping.  All were different and one was good, but the first two didn’t burn up the box office.  I find it amazing that the young Mrs. Swank didn’t bust a gut laughing at some of her dialogue.  The other major problem is that she doesn’t wear a Haz-Mat suit, either doing battle in Chile or wandering around the Haven swamps.  It the toxic were manmade, she would have more protection that a pair of giant slicker boots.  Stephen Rea has little to do in the film other than look sullen, which he has mastered into high art.  His sad sack priest is another in a long line of sad sack characters.  But AnnaSophia Robb does the Linda Blair role with a certain style.  She doesn’t have much dialogue but her eyes express equal parts of shock and evil.  Even at a little over 90 minutes, The Reaping feels too long.  The film tries to be a statement of conviction, both in finding it and losing it.  But it never takes what it needs most, a leap of faith.

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The Reaping
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