God works in mysterious ways. So does the Devil, who uses mad cows and the Internets to scare the bejesus out of Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) when she’s summoned to a backwoods Southern town to investigate a series of strange happenings. An atheist for reasons that are as unimportant to the filmmakers as the nature of the character’s line of work, Katherine travels to Haven, Louisiana to witness a river inundated with blood and dead fish and—holy Magnolia!—frogs falling from the heavens. Is there a scientific rationale here or is the little girl in the woods, Loren McConnell (AnnaSophia Robb), the devil incarnate? The latest noisy, unnecessary horror flick taking up space at the box office until the next noisy, unnecessary horror flick comes along, The Reaping does not lack for aggressively scary images, some of which may be considered visionary: an overhead of Haven’s red-blood river suggests an acid freak-out; Katherine’s trip up an ordinary staircase is transformed into an avant-garde nightmare by the frightening, impossible darkness; and the hallucinogenic killing of a young boy is staged as a bibilical tableau mort. These are striking burps in what is otherwise a lazy slog of a movie that tries to disguise its utter lack of significance beneath incoherent backtracking, old-school-religion brouhaha, and a soundtrack of traditional soul music (Nina Simone’s iconic rendition of “Take Me To The River” is trivialized during a rape scene that evokes Rosemary’s Baby). Katherine’s lack of faith is never really being tested by the fabulous plagues hurled at Haven, but her sanity is certainly given a workout. By the time you realize the story’s events are nothing more than an elaborate pretext to give Katherine a replacement for someone she once lost, audiences will be screaming baloney.
- Stephen Hopkins
- Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes
- Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea, William Ragsdale, John McConnell, David Jensen, Yvonne Landry, Samuel Garland, Myles Cleveland, Andrea Frankle, Mark Lynch
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