Reaping, The (UK - DVD R2)
Our Scott McKenzie wonders if the profanity filter will censor Hilary Sw**k...
Hilary Swank plays Katherine Winter, a former Christian missionary turned miracle debunker, who is called to the small Louisiana town of Haven to investigate a series of apparent religious incidents. Following the death of a child, events in the town appear to be replicas of the ten plagues, starting with rivers of blood. Along with her trusted assistant, she has to dig deeper into the lives of the townsfolk if she is to get to the bottom of these events and come to terms with the tragedy of her past.
Soon after I started watching The Reaping, I realised it had a lot in common with Fragile, another supernatural thriller I recently reviewed. Both feature a strong female lead that is thrown into a situation where she must confront things she doesn’t believe in and learn more about herself in the process. It may have a bigger budget, bigger stars and better special effects, but the structure and ultimately the effect on this viewer was pretty much the same.
What also struck me about this movie is that it is surprisingly pro-faith and pro-religion. Its thematic counterpart Stigmata was very much anti-religion, while being pro-faith at the same time, and we are used to seeing religious organisations represented as the perpetrators of shadowy conspiracies (for example The Da Vinci Code). However, without trying to give too much away, the bad guys are a Satanic off-shoot of Christianity and it makes me wonder why this movie hasn’t been picked up and waved around as promotional material by the Bible belt as much as The Passion Of The Christ was.
Christian flag-waving aside, is The Reaping any good? It’s okay I suppose. As a weird-happenings-in-a-small-town movie, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. Strange things happen and our heroes investigate them but always remain two steps behind the bad guys until the final confrontation where the big twist is revealed and we get the setup for a sequel. The main problem for me was that while a movie about the physical manifestation of the ten plagues sounds pretty exciting, the plagues themselves aren’t that exciting until we get to fire falling from the sky. Hilary Swank’s sidekick wading through a river of blood watching a few frogs fall from the sky isn’t exactly edge-of-the-seat stuff.
Hilary Swank is always watchable but she hasn’t exactly got the material here to show off the acting range that earned her two Oscars. Her character is a typical heroine on a journey of discovery and presumably to keep the running time down, she accepts the supernatural events a little too quickly for someone who is supposedly a staunch atheist. She does share good chemistry with Idris Elba, who plays her God-fearing assistant Ben, and their scenes together contain the most enjoyable dialogue. British actor David Morrissey plays Haven resident Doug with one of the oddest accents I’ve heard in a movie in a long time. Mind you, I’ve never been to Louisiana so maybe everyone there talks like that.
It’s pretty obvious that a large amount of the budget that didn’t go on securing the services of Ms Swank was spent on the special effects, most notably the swarm of locusts and the final confrontation. Everything up to that point is fairly unspectacular and I was left with the feeling that the director realised he still had a lot of money left as he came to film the final scenes. The Reaping is the type of film I might choose to watch if I’ve seen everything else at the cinema but there’s nothing incredibly good or bad about it to make it memorable.
The Reaping comes with a 2.40:1 anamorphic picture. The movie itself is quite colourful, more than you might expect for a story of dark goings-on in a small town. The colours are well represented and the lighting is appropriately bright and harsh during the flashback scenes set in the desert. Where the picture is a bit of a let down is in the detail. It can be fuzzy and lacking in detail, most of all during the darker opening scenes set in Chile.
Dolby Digital 5.1 is the only audio option and it works pretty well in all aspects of the soundtrack. Music plays a big part in setting the tone for the movie and it sounds good, without any interference. Effects like big high pitched notes telling the audience when to be scared may be horror movie clichés but at least they sound as clear as you could hope for. The surround channels get their best workout during the later scenes where thunder crashes from speaker to speaker.
The disc opens with a trailer for 300 and a promotional piece for Warner Brothers’ high definition releases. ‘The Science of the Ten Plagues’ featurette contains interviews with scientists who discuss the reasons why these seemingly religious events may actually occur. Some of the reasons are mentioned by Hilary Swank’s character in the movie so it’s really just a little more information to back this up for those who are interested.
‘The Characters’ features interviews with the principal actors where they discuss their motivations and thoughts when they first read the screenplay. ‘A Place Called Haven’ shows how the people of the small town where the movie was filmed helped out with the production and gave their new Hollywood friends a warm welcome. ‘The Seventh Plague’ is a very short clip of Idris Elba talking about working with real locusts.
The Reaping is about as average as Hollywood movies get—enjoyable enough to keep you watching but forgettable once you’ve taken it out of your DVD player. The transfer is decent enough not to put you off watching it but the limp set of short featurettes isn’t enough to genuinely enhance the viewing experience. My advice is to give it a rent if you’re stuck for something to watch. You won’t regret it but there’s a chance you might not remember it either.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 20th August 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Arabic, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian
Extras: Science Of The Ten Plagues Featurette, The Characters Featurette, A Place Called Haven Featurette, The Seventh Plague Featurette
Easter Egg: No
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: Hilary Swank, Anna Sophia Robb, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, Manolo Cardona
Genre: Horror and Mystery
Length: 99 minutes
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