Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Reaping

directed by Stephen Hopkins

The Reaping poster  
A priest is looking at some photos when parts of them spontaneously combust, forming the image of an arcane symbol that looks something like an upside-down sickle. The woman in the pictures is Katherine (Hilary Swank), a scientist who has forged a career out of debunking religious miracles. She's a no-nonsense person, always ready with a rational explanation for the supernatural.

Katherine and her colleague Ben (Idris Elba) arrive at a small town called Haven in Louisiana to investigate what looks like a river of blood. The locals complain about a wayward family who live in the swamp, close to the place where the river has turned red. The eldest son, Brody McConnell, recently died in mysterious circumstances, whilst his sister, Loren McConnell, runs from people with the nervousness of a wild animal.

The red river is only the start of the strangeness. Soon other things are taking place that aren't as easy to explain away with science. Frogs die, cattle fall ill with an inexplicable ailment, and more. Soon enough things get predictably Biblical.

Katherine feels some connection to Loren McConnell, and we see in flashbacks just why she feels this way, and what caused Katherine, originally an ordained minister, to lose her faith. There are several scenes in The Reaping that seem to take place in the form of dreams, and it's not entirely clear until the end just what is real and what is just going on in her head. So although the film's premise suggests the formulaic plot of a sceptic who is proven wrong, there's always a certain element of the unexpected.

The Reaping is satisfactory in terms of its acting, effects, dialogue and pacing. It develops tension at the right points, although it's not one of the most terrifying horror movies ever made by a long shot. One of the main problems with this movie is the way it takes the concept of a sceptic faced with evidence of Satanism and fails to deal with it in a fresh way. It's a theme that does tend to suggest predictable outcomes in any case. It doesn't help that the characters are extremely stereotypical, particularly the redneck residents of the small town. This film doesn't compare well with classics of the genre such as The Omen or Rosemary's Baby. It's a mildly entertaining movie for its duration, but it's unlikely to blow you away or leave you with anything profound to think about after the closing credits.

Film Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Films


Classification: 15

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Pulse cover    

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson