Reaping
Um, excuse me … Has anyone seen my agent?

Theatrical Release Date: 04/06/2007
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea

Wait . . . wait . . . tell me if you’ve seen this one before: newly ordained minister loses family in a tragic accident and loses the ‘Jones for Jey-zus’ in the process. Now a skeptical, professional myth-buster, this ex-preacher makes a good living debunking miracles around the world until faced with a miracle that refuses to be busted.

Personally, we’ve seen this movie about five hundred times before, and frankly, you’re better off investing in a subscription to Netflix and renting one of the classics in this genre. But if you simply feel the need to be REAPED of your precious time and hard earned cash then by all means go see this movie.

Hillary Swank plays Katherine Winter, the cynical yet good intentioned
minister-cum-professor sent to Haven, Louisiana to investigate the strange phenomena plaguing the idyllic town.

Anna Sophia Robb, who was killed in “The Bridge to Terabithia” only to be resurrected in this film, plays the mysterious child at the center of this controversy. As events unfold, we find that- shock of shocks- these seeming miracles are at the center of an insidious conspiracy, where nothing is as it seems.

The morals to be REAPED from this film are probably familiar to you, but if you were raised in an exceptionally sheltered household, here are the basics:
1) Don’t go to creepy, small towns in the Bible Belt.
2) When you see something bad happening, walk away from it, not towards it. Don’t go poking your nose into other people’s business.
3) Black men have no place in horror films, unless they harbor a serious death wish.
4) Watch out for creepy little blonde kids.

And that’s about it. Now you don’t have to go to the movie. Oh, you’re still interested? Fine, read on.

There are some redeeming aspects to this film, albeit small in stature.

For one, the acting is relatively solid. Swank delivers the type of performance we have come to expect from her, and Robb continues to deliver good performances, laying the groundwork for a potentially successful film career. The two of them make this film almost believable at times.

The cinematography and use of lighting are also well done, setting a nicely dark and eerie tone. It was a smart choice to pick the bayous of Louisiana as their backdrop; the cloying small town secrecy, old tumble-down manses, and religious fervor could make just about anything creepy.

And at least you do get to witness all ten plagues before the movie is through with you. They could have easily pussied-out and stopped before the firstborns were REAPED (and no, misusing the word REAPED never gets old).

Alas, for every strong point there is some weakness in this film. While the actors do their best with what they are given, the characters still come across as tired archetypes: the bible-thumping mayor; the concerned, exposition-spouting priest (Rea); the devout, patient assistant (Elba); and the attractive but mysterious local (Morrissey), whom harbors secrets of his own. The special effects were decent, but a few of the plagues were woefully anti-climactic (10 frogs a plague does not make). Atmosphere will only take you so far.

A few scenes were genuinely chilling, but far too often the director resorted to the use of obnoxious, overdone sound effects to try to spook the audience.

Perhaps the worst part is that the film simply isn’t very scary. The true test of a horror film’s effectiveness is how many bruises Elizabeth Edgemont is left with after Audrey Hess begins to thrash about in the throes of mortal terror. Elizabeth emerged from this film unscathed, a pleasant surprise for her but a bad sign for Ms. Swank and Company.

We give this movie a 2 out of 5. Elizabeth was tempted to be nice and give it a 3, but Audrey had a good point- this concept has been done better many times over. So go rent one of those. If you stumble across this on Showtime in a year or so, watch it then- when it’s FREE. If you still feel the need to see this one in theaters, just don’t say we didn’t warn you.