Written by Carey Hayes & Chad Hayes
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Running Time: 1:36
for violence, disturbing images and some sexuality.
All things considered, I kind of liked The Reaping.
Katherine Winter was an ordained minister who went through an extremely tragic event and ultimately gave up the faith. She now spends her time teaching, and also debunking 'miracles' that other people find throughout the country. She is brought to a small town in Louisiana because a boy has died and people are blaming his young sister. More importantly, it looks like she's bringing Biblical plagues to the area. It's up to Katherine to find out what's really causing the problems. And it may just test her faith once and for all.
I didn't go into The Reaping with any anticipation or interest. Usually religious thrillers don't do much for me. And beyond her Academy Award winning films (neither of which I've seen - yes, I know, I'm a bad reviewer) Hilary Swank doesn't have the best track record for picking good films. But I went in with a relatively open mind, and was pleasantly surprised. First off, Swank is a little bit of hot, and the filmmakers spent a lot of time on her butt, which was nice to see. I don't see her winning any awards for this performance, but she brought was was necessary to the table: a little believeability and some good sex appeal. The rest of the cast was decent, with young AnnaSophia Robb looking pretty and pretty creepy when she needed to. She's got kind of an odd face, and when you add in her striking blue eyes, it made her look scary and yet innocent. She was kind of a prettier version of Damien.
The story jumped back and forth between present day and what happened in Katherine's past to make her give up her faith. I can't say I enjoyed all the flashbacks, because sometimes they were dropped into odd places. And the story line with the old priest seemed to not serve any purpose other than to use his words as voiceovers later in the film. The camera work was a little odd too. It was never able to focus on one thing at a time. It would sort of jump from one character to another, but never for very long before it would go off into weird angles. It wasn't a shaky cam but it never stood still. There were also shots where you'd think it was leading somewhere, then suddenly cut off. For instance, early in the film we see a river that appears to have turned into blood. At one point the camera slowly lowers itself into the river and as we go underneath you anticipate seeing something. I mean, why else would the camera go underwater? Instead it slowly goes under and then cuts to another scene. I'm not sure what the point of shots like that were, but it happened more than once.
A lot of religious thrillers tend to leave me cold because, well, they're usually about Christians. I can't remember the last time I saw a religious thriller about another religion. Anyway, I don't know much about Christianity, so I'm at the mercy of the filmmakers to explain to me what's happening, and I find I can't trust them very much. I don't know what the plagues are, and I don't know the order they come in, or the significance of them. I thought the movie did a reasonable job of setting us up with a simple story and then relying on the visual effects to carry the rest of the film. And from that respect it worked. The special effects held up very well. There were explosions, locusts, bloody rivers, lice, boils and everything else you expect from a good plague, none of which looked fake. Sometimes you get a thriller where they don't spend money on effects, but this movie seems to have had a good budget.
There were also some good scares in the film. There were at least four to five moments where the audience jumped out of their seats. A couple of times the scares came out of nowhere. Other times you were scared more out of anticipation than anything else. I think a lot of that has to do with whether or not you're invested in the movie. I liked Swank's character and I felt bad for Robb's character so I was with them throughout the film. And as the story unfolded and I learned more and more, I found myself caring more about the characters. None of this is to say the movie was perfect, because it was far from it. But all things being equal, you could do a lot worse.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I wasn't turned off by The Reaping. It held my interest throughout and gave me a few good scares and I really can't ask for much more than that from a religious thriller.
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