"The Reaping" is supposed to be this year's entry into the horror/thriller/lost faith genre, but doesn't quite know where to go. Should it be just a horror flick? No. How about a "lost faith" story? Nope. But it does qualify for being a thriller, in my opinion. The Reaping is as formulaic as it may be; it's still fun to watch. Hilary Swank finally looks feminine despite portraying yet another fearless female. She plays Katherine Winter, an ex-woman of the cloth who turned her back on the Church after suffering personal tragedy, and now spends her time as a professor debunking miracles as myths.
But she runs out of plausible explanations when what appears to be the Bible's Ten Plagues begin to afflict a small town and she is called there to help its citizens. They blame a young girl, Loren McConnell (played frighteningly well by AnnaSophia Robb), whom they accuse of having killed her brother in a river that has now turned into blood, the first plague. Katherine encounters her several times and has trouble getting into an objective frame of mind as she likens Loren, no matter how creepy looking she is, to her own daughter.
During the time I was watching this I notice that some of the plagues could have used a scarier execution. Like, when the frogs fell out of the sky, they were only a few, and oddly, none fell on the characters, just around them. That would have been a perfect eww-gross opportunity. Also, with the frequent references to the eerie wind chimes that everyone in the town seemed to have, I kept expecting to see some connection in the end but it was unsatisfying a mere misdirection. Hilary Swank is a phenomenal actress, there is no question, and she deserves far greater than her role as Katherine Winter gives her to work with. David Morrissey, as Doug, is as bland as he was in 2006's Basic Instinct 2 (Unrated, Extended Cut)And coming off of her wonderful recent performance in Bridge to Terabithia (Widescreen Edition)Annasophia Robb has nothing at all to do but squint her eyes and look suspicious. The amount of dialogue she is given could be recited in full in the span of thirty seconds. It's a haphazard gimmick of a part that no child actor should be cursed with having to portray.
Like Louisiana needed more problems after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it gets ten Biblical plagues in The Reaping, a great-looking thriller that's all beauty and no brains. Director Stephen Hopkins, who's done some good work on television but mostly bad work in features, starts early and keeps the shocks coming thick and fast. The trouble is, they're all tricks of editing and sound effects - nothing shocking actually happens. The obvious intent is to unnerve viewers and keep them on edge, but it will have the opposite effect on some, building up their immunity instead. Katherine's scientific explanation of the plagues in Exodus, whether you believe it or not, is the highlight of this movie. Everything else is just for effect, and enough of it is effective that The Reaping reaps a sow-sow rating. Nevertheless, watch "The Reaping" if you want to pass the time; if anything, it will keep your mind off your present life.