Katherine Winter is a professor at Louisiana State University, where she teaches classes disproving miracles, explaining the scientific reasons that the so-called miracles occurred. She is called into a small town deep in Louisiana called Haven where the Ten Plagues of Egypt seems to have begun once again. Katherine has to decide if there is a scientific reason for this to save a young girl that the townspeople believe is a Devil worshiper bringing the plagues herself.
Hilary Swank takes a break from her Oscar baiting work (Freedom Writers, Million Dollar Baby) to take part in this genre picture produced by Joel Silver. The movie is a horror film lifted straight out of the Exorcist files. Swank plays Katherine Winter, a woman who lost her child and quickly lost all her faith in God. Now an atheist, she travels the world disproving miracles and exposing frauds in the name of science. Her partner in these missions is a man named Ben, who is a Christian and hopes one day to find that one true miracle.
The movie opens with a priest, Father Costigan (Stephen Rea), who wakes up to find a picture burning. The picture is of Katherine and the flames burn a line across her face. Father Costigan digs out more pictures, all burned in the same way and he connects them to see that the lines of the burnings form a symbol of an upside down sickle. If this seems improbable to you, just wait, because this movie is just getting started.
Katherine is introduced to a man named Doug, a science teacher from a small town called Haven, who explains that the river on the outskirts of their town has suddenly turned to blood. She does not want to get involved in the mystery until Doug explains to her that the townspeople believe it is the fault of a young 12-year old girl who may have witnessed her brother’s death at that river. Because she lost a young child about the same age, Katherine decides to travel to the town to disprove the girl’s guilt in the matter.
While in Haven (“The best kept secret in the Bible belt”), more of the plagues start to happen while she is investigating. Frogs fall from the sky as they are investigating the river. Flies swarm in to ruin the dinner they are preparing and a disease outbreak kills all the cattle in the area. There is a wide spread case of lice in the local school. One-by-one, each of the plagues is witnessed by Katherine who dismisses them all with an offhand comment. Even with her own strange visions of the girl in the woods and of her own child’s mysterious death, she steadfastly refuses to believe anything supernatural is happening. This might be the biggest fault of the movie because you are expected to get behind a character who is just plain stupid by all definitions of the word.
Ben is a much better character for the audience to relate to. Unfortunately, we are kept at a distance from him as he actually starts to put the pieces together, and are forced to go with Katherine from place to place as she just blindly moves towards the movie’s eventual conclusion. That conclusion is, simply put, absurd. I don’t mean the resolution of what actually caused all the events to happen is absurd. I mean the eventual onslaught of devastation that occurs when all the pieces are placed together is just mind bogglingly stupid. Sure, it looks nice and is meant to bring the audience cheering to their feet, but it is more laugh-worthy than awe-inspiring.
The girl who plays Loren, the 12-year old from the woods, is AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge to Terabithia). She did a great job in her role as the creepy little kid and I would say channeled Drew Barrymore in the scenes’ final confrontation (see Firestarter). All the acting was pretty well done, but at times it seemed Hilary Swank was being forced to give dialogue as if it were read out of a text book. It is not really her fault, but how can you take a person seriously when they just quote facts with very little conviction.
The movie looked good and had some really great ideas, but ideas can only go so far. So many things in this movie did not make sense and, at times, I just thought I was watching a bunch of ideas trying desperately to find a coherent story to latch themselves onto. For one example, Father Costigan was used as a simple plot devise. His part in the movie was merely to convey information and everything that happened to him made absolutely no sense in the context of the story. The script of this movie really didn’t take the ideas in the direction that could have made this a great picture. Instead the movie ended up as a mishmash of ideas that followed a weak script from one plot point to another. As it is, The Reaping is just a missed opportunity.
I really like the cover to the DVD. It comes in a slipcase that looks the exact same as the DVD’s actual case. I have never understood that and usually just throw my slipcase away if there is no difference. The cover simply has the character of Loren with a snake wrapped around her. Understand, there was no snake in the movie. The cover makes it look like Loren is evil and supernatural and it looks really nice, but doesn’t really fit the actual movie. The disc includes both widescreen and full screen versions and the picture and sound quality are both really good.
There are a few special features. The first is called Science of the Ten Plagues. It is a documentary about the original Ten Plagues of Egypt and offers possible scientific explanations for them all. There is a featurette over the characters, with interviews with the cast. There is a feature over the town they shot in, where they talk about filming there when Katrina hit, but making sure to keep the jobs available for the locals affected by the devastating hurricane. The Reaping: The Seventh Plague is just a very short blooper reel dealing with the live bugs used.