Not a bad movie, just one that misrepresents itself too often.
Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) is a expert skeptic called in to debunk “miracles of God” with scientific explanations. When a man named Doug (David Morrissey) arrives from a small Louisiana town called Haven, he comes with a strange request: prove that our local waterway hasn’t been turned to blood. Along with her former assistant Ben (Idris Elba), Katherine is persuaded to investigate the water, but the entire town seems convinced that a 12-year old girl name Loren (AnnaSophia Robb) is “the Devil’s child” and the cause of it all. After more plagues of Biblical portions start to occur, Katherine begins to suspect that both science and God may be sitting this occurrence out.
The Reaping isn’t a bad movie. From beginning to end, it hints at Exorcist-like phenomenon as it moves along from one clue to the next. The problem lies in attempting to convince audiences that the real story is one of faith while at the same time handing out enough special effects to convince anyone this is real “wrath of God” type stuff. Killer insect swarms, fire from the sky, pestilence, you name it, it’s all here. The second problem is a bit of a twist ending that sounds terrible at first until you think about it, then you’ll wonder, “Why is that even a problem after what we just saw?”
Of course, to get all of this off of the ground, there has to be some previously unheard of secret prophecy that everything must conform to. Again, not the most convincing stuff, just enough to move the plot along. The entire production has the feel of the recent remake of The Omen, but the pushing of special effects onto the story makes it feel like John Constantine is working the case from the other side of the film and may meet Swank in the middle at some point. The result is two movie styles that are blended so poorly that they become a distraction.
Hilary Swank sells her main character with relatively little effort, and the little girl is more than a little creepy. There’s a mystery buried within the thriller, too, all of which moves the story but seems to conveniently forget certain elements. If you dream about walking in the desert and wake up with sandy feet, you expect either Freddy Krueger to jump out next or wonder if Wayne Campbell has been talking to Jim Morrison again, but can even a skeptic dismiss that kind of evidence? By the time everything clicks and assuming you kept up, it’s hard not to feel a bit cheated and manipulated, because you really didn’t get what you were promised.
(a two skull recommendation out of four)