The Reaping

By Stacie Wieland

Grade: C- | After a tragic accident involving the death of her family, once-ordained minister Katherine Winter (Hillary Swank) has exchanged her faith for science. Now a professor at LSU, she investigates religious phenomena all over the world, and has been able to find a logical, scientific explanation for every case she has worked on.

Enter Doug (David Morrissey), a science teacher from the small Louisianan town of Haven who asks Katherine to help explain why their river has suddenly turned an eerie shade of blood red. The God-fearing townsfolk, he says, believe it is the first of the ten Biblical plagues, and blame a young girl for its appearance. To find out what is happening, Katherine must face the demons of her past and come to terms with her lost faith.

This film’s purpose is, one guesses, to scare people into handing over their money, much like the genuine religious spookiness of “The Exorcist” more than thirty years ago. But where the classic pea-soup-spewing horror film of the ‘70s succeeds, “The Reaping” falls short.

The acting is sub-par at best, except, of course, moments of Swank’s work (despite the sinking feeling that accompanies the desire to see her challenge herself once again). And Haven’s mob mentality is about as exciting as watching the field of zombies from the original 1968 version of “Night of the Living Dead” inch toward the camera.

The special effects seem to be hurriedly thrown in at the end of the movie for a bit of the old razzle-dazzle, but leaves the audience holding its breath in the hopes that something better will come along, though it never does.

Finally, in true horror/thriller fashion, the ending is jarring and abrupt, leaving it wide open for a sequel that is, somehow, even worse than the original.

Considering the fact that the film has been straddling the number five spot at the box office since it opened, this fate is all but written in stone.