In the years since M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense popularized the term "supernatural thriller," the phrase has become increasingly synonymous with "pretentious crap." When affixed to a script, the description should rightly send any skilled actor running for the hills. Certainly, a two-time Oscar winner like Hilary Swank should know better than to give such a project a second look. And yet, here she is, starring in The Reaping.
Swank should heed the cautionary example of Halle Berry, a fellow Oscar winner who followed up her achievement with a series of career missteps, including the dreadful supernatural thriller Gothika, a movie that looks positively brilliant when compared to The Reaping.
The Reaping's plot takes its cues from that wellspring of innovative storylines, the Bible -- the Old Testament specifically -- and the famed ten plagues sent by God to teach those naughty Egyptians one unforgettable lesson. A few thousand years later, it seems the plagues have returned, this time to harass the unfortunate residents of small Louisiana bayou town called Haven. With all sorts of crazy events of a biblical nature occurring around them, the superstitious southern yokels of Haven are understandably a little freaked out.
Seeking answers, one of them calls upon famed myth debunker Katherine Winter (Swank), a one-time minister (of course) turned university professor. Once a true believer, Winter apparently abandoned her faith after losing her husband and daughter while doing missionary work in Sudan. En route to Haven, she calmly anticipates another open-and-shut case. Upon arriving in the beleaguered town, however, she quickly learns that (surprise, surprise) things aren't what they seem.
As a movie, The Reaping is exactly what it seems: crappy. Though it packs a few legitimate scares, most of the contrived plot twists can be seen coming a mile away. The plot is a shoddy amalgamation of Signs, The Omen and dozens of other superior films of its ilk. As it speeds towards its preposterous conclusion (even by the loose standards of supernatural thrillers), the movie becomes downright laughable.
The Reaping opens nationwide Friday, April 6th, 2007.