April 12, 2007

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The Reaping (R)
Rain of toads, bloody rivers, lice and all the other Biblical plagues whip townspeople into a lynch mob frenzy in the bloody but boring devil movie The Reaping.

Katherine (Hilary Swank) is a former minister who has turned skeptic of the supernatural after a tragedy that took her husband and son. As the movie opens, we see her prove that the visions received by faithful in a Latin American town are due to toxic chemicals under the church where they seek healing. A science teacher in a small Louisiana town asks her to come check out a phenomenon there — the rivers have turned red with blood, as in Exodus. Katherine and her debunking partner Ben (Idris Elba) head to Haven, where teacher Doug (David Morrissey) is one of the few people who doesn’t want to solve the bloody river problem by killing Loren (AnnaSophia Robb), the young girl who was found next to her dead brother in the river where the blood started.

Though “kill the devil girl” doesn’t seem like the best means of environmental cleanup, support for the Loren-killing grows as more plagues descend upon Haven. Katherine, despite her insistence that there is a rational explanation, grows increasingly creeped-out by the goings-on. She finds herself seeing (or maybe not?) Loren during dreams (or are they?) that leave her thinking there is more to the town than appears.

I like a good devil movie — ones where good and evil fight, directly or indirectly, via biblical means. Sadly, The Reaping is not a good devil movie. It is a movie hung entirely on its CGI plagues (look, dying cows!) but not particularly concerned with subtleties of good and evil or with creating doubt. We expect a twist in The Reaping and we get one, but it’s so faint a twist as to be unextraordinary. You never feel terror, never get a sense that evil could lurk anywhere, never are awed at the mighty powers of either good or evil. In fact, the only awe I ever felt was in seeing a CGI locust and thinking, aw, they’re kind cute. D

Rated R for violence, disturbing images and some sexuality. Directed by Stephen Hopkins and written by Carey W. Hayes, Chad Hayes and Brian Rousso, The Reaping is an hour and 38 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Warner Bros.