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April 6, 2007 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | April 6, 2007 |

The Reaping begins with Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank), a quasi-science-type-person, and her lackey Ben (Idris Elba) traveling to someplace in South America, where the local populace has gone all twitterpated because a monastery appears to be doling out miracles via hallucination. Kathy and Ben’s little inspection reveals that the government has been doing some shady toxic waste disposal under the building, causing all this nonsensical religious euphoria. It turns out that ol’ Kathy is a professional religion-debunker who has her own chair at Louisiana State University; she travels the world investigating miracles and making sure anyone who believes in them feels like an idiot.

And right away, The Reaping establishes its black-and-white, disingenuous dichotomy of human nature, in which all Christians (and by extension, anyone with religious affiliations) are sub-humanoid peasants without the basest common sense, and anyone with the slightest bit of scientific acumen is a sanctimonious, narrow-minded materialist hellbent on mocking the unwashed masses (then again, she did remind me a lot of Richard Dawkins).

And right away, I wanted to punch this movie in the face.

Anyway, Katherine and Ben are solicited into traveling to some tiny Louisiana hamlet whose townsfolk are distraught to find that their reeking backwater has turned into blood. Since this is a small town in Louisiana, where everyone talks like Huey Long, the town denizens think that the plague is God’s response to some local, menstruating hellspawn (don’t ask). Katherine has increasing difficulty ascribing the subsequent appearance of frogs, flies, and batshit cattle to logical scientific phenomena. The real truth, as it happens, is far more convoluted than a cranky deity; I won’t spoil it for you, but it does involve Katherine’s loss of faith, a cult, and a really, really tacky reference to Hurricane Katrina.

It isn’t just the baldly ignorant characterizations that make The Reaping suck, it’s the fact that it completely fails to capitalize on what might be the easiest of horror tropes — Satan! Most American audiences will at least have some familiarity with the more frightening aspects of Christian Arcanum (seriously, if you wouldn’t lose your shit seeing the sea-serpent Rahab coming at you, you’re made of sterner stuff than I), but the best that director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2, Lost in Space) and twin writers Carey and Chad Hayes can do is hash out a few Egyptian plagues via poor CGI and crib openly from Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. For poor, two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, who’s given nothing to do but hold a straight face in the midst of this ridiculousness and flaunt her polite brand of sex appeal … well, it’s just embarrassing.

The Reaping, in addition to being a bad film, comes close to insult in its many feats of condescension, i.e. wantonly dumbass portrayals of Christians, Southerners, atheists, the Sudanese, priests, and Katrina victims. In actuality, the only people likely to be incensed by this movie, though, are those who actually sit through it; The Reaping is a mess of odious offal, unscary and only unintentionally funny, and it bears no resemblance to the weakest mimicry of characterization, not to mention entertainment.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.

Why Hath God Wrought This Dumbass Movie?

The Reaping / Phillip Stephens

Film | April 6, 2007 |

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