• The Reaping's harvest is a mixed bag.
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: Hillary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea
DVD released: Oct. 16, 2007
This biblical plagues tale is far from immaculate, but neither is it the complete abomination most critics deemed it upon its theatrical release. Theology professor Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank), whose faith was squashed by the sacrificial murder of her daughter and husband while the family carried out missionary work in Sudan, now gleefully debunks alleged religious phenomena. Summoned to the tiny Louisiana backwater of Haven, where Something Mysterious is afoot, Winter sets out on a Skeptics R Us road trip with her assistant and plunges headfirst into a river of blood. Literally. The local river has gone blood red, and all the fish have died and washed ashore. While investigating and shacking up in a nice guy's plantation house, she witnesses a series of apparent plagues — the cattle die off; the kids get head lice; locusts descend. While Winter goes down her list of possible explanations, the local populace is all too willing to be swept up in the apocalyptic signs and channel their rage at a young girl — isn't it amazing how often it's a young girl? — who seems to be connected to the events. The Reaping at times reminds of various other works: The whole premise is rather X-Files; the scenes in Sudan and the ravings of the priest (played with expert skittishness by Stephen Rea as the character attempts to warn Winter of some bad Signs) bring to mind The Exorcist; the glimpses of the little girl evoke Don't Look Now and, if we want to get especially cynical about it, the remake of The Wicker Man; and the scenery and culture of rural Louisiana make this a suitable companion piece to that recent hoodoo movie, The Skeleton Key. The first two-thirds of The Reaping successfully engage, however. The plagues are well-choreographed, and it's always fun to watch skepticism collide with the hysterical will of the masses. But what tension the movie sows in the early going is squandered on a complete fumble of an ending that goes insanely over the top with biblical mumbo jumbo and pyrotechnics. // DVD notes // If you care to go there, a featurette explores the plagues.