Director: Stephen Hopkins
Studios: Warner Bros., Dark Castle Entertainment
Starring: Hilary Swank, AnnaSophia Robb
Tagline: What hath God wrought?
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: suspense, supernatural, religious occult, surprise ending
Scare score: D+
So I’m not starting with The Reaping for any other reason than I saw it on TV this morning. I have to say, I was surprised I’ve never seen it before, not that it was a huge success in theaters. I also have to say I was surprised to see Hilary Swank playing the lead role of a paranormal investigator, miracle explainer, and overall skeptic – don’t you love when big name actors cross over into the genre of horror?
Let’s talk about the plot: Ex-minister Katherine Winter (Swank) has taken up a life of disproving miracles, believing that all supernatural and miraculous occurrences can be logically explained. This adamant support of logic is put to the test when a teacher from a small Louisiana town out in the bayou, aptly named Haven (can you sense the irony yet and do you love it?), comes around asking for her expertise so as to explain why their 2 mile stretch of river and swamp has turned – wait for it – red as blood. *Bible!* As the plot thickens, Katherine learns that the town believes one little girl, Loren McConnell (Robb) is responsible for the onset of these Biblical plagues, which continue progressing, in order, as they once did in ancient Egypt. Throw in small town secrets, a satanic cult, the subplot of a prophecy revolving around the spawn of satan, Katherine’s inability to distinguish dreams/ nightmares from reality, and some convincing special effects of plagues, and you have yourself a nice little movie.
I did like this movie and appreciate the religious-based plot. Let’s talk about the general rule for horror movies that try and tie in religious themes: protagonist was once faithful but lost touch with their faith due to a traumatic event (death of a loved one, etc), protagonist’s lack of faith is tested, protagonist usually reestablishes faith. Shockingly, all of these are true in this film. The special effects of a river of blood, swarms of locusts, dangerous and dying cattle, and even the lightning (fire raining from the sky) were pretty impressive considering this was 2007.
This movie had a few twists. We are set up to think that in the face of the oncoming arrival of the spawn of satan, believed to be the young and innocently scary McConnell, God may send an angel (loosely used as a term that also refers to those ordained in their religion – omg! Hilary!) to combat the evil at hand. I absolutely loved when we realize that McConnell is the innocent offspring in a town full of satanists, and that Katherine is not the angel but rather one returned to faith to help the young girl. The teacher seeking Katherine’s help was obviously evil all along- I’ll have to think of a nickname for that kind of archetypal character- so it came as no surprise to me to see he was in charge of the whole cult. The final twist in the last scene of the movie I WILL NOT spoil for you, but I can say that this isn’t the first horror movie to pop in the whole Rosemary’s Baby technique right in the last scene. Whoops, spoiled it!
Final critique: Again, I liked this movie and it was a perfect level of scary (…or not) for 11 AM. It’s more of a suspense, so the scare score should be pretty low anyway. Even still, I think this film could have used more scare. There were plenty of times when a shadow in the window could have worked wonders. I didn’t love the whole background plot of the death of Katherine’s family: tribal sacrifice in the Sudan was a little far-fetched for me. I think small town Louisiana could have been a little more, well, small town Louisiana in accents, costumes, etc, but it still had that southern feel. Lastly, the tagline, while a quote from the Bible, is kind of stupid. This is a good movie for a relaxing but suspenseful watch, recommended for those who scare easily.