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</script></div>{/googleAds}Goodness gracious, what a mess. The entire time I was watching Stephen Hopkins's new film The Reaping, I kept asking myself, â"Why the hell is Hilary Swank in this?" Swank has accomplished much in her career already, and her choice to do films like this seems like a huge step backwards. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm with Nicolas Cage who, quite sternly, told reporters during press junkets for Ghost Rider that there was a place for all kinds of art when it comes to films, whether it is pop culture stuff like Ghost Rider or Oscar-winning stuff like Leaving Las Vegas. I couldn't agree more. But the caveat is that the pop culture stuff has to be good (I'm guessing the upcoming Grindhouse will be a fine example). Trust me, folks, The Reaping is not good. Not good at all. It doesn't come anywhere near either pulpy horror fun or highbrow theological thriller. Instead it settles for a half-baked script and performances that fall somewhere squarely in between. Wanna know more? Let's dive in...

As written by Carey Hayes (who also penned 2005's god-awful House of Wax remake), The Reaping is never quite sure what it wants to be. It's too pulpy and stereotypical to be taken seriously, and too talky, slow moving, and philosophical to be enjoyed for its cheap scares and gore. Swank plays an ex-missionary who loses her faith after her family is brutally killed. She becomes a Scully-like debunker of biblical theories and events, until a trip to a small town called Haven in the South starts to make her question whether her beliefs are on the right track or not. You see, the entire town has been beset by the Ten Biblical Plagues. Yes, those 10: flies, locusts, boils, rivers of blood, etc. Along with her true-believer sidekick Ben (Idris Elba), she seeks the help of a local named Doug (David Morrissey) to help her get to the bottom of both the plagues, and the creepy young girl (AnnaSophia Robb) who the town believes is the cause of it all.

Now, amidst the mess of stereotypes that seem like they were dropped in from O Brother Where Art Thou? there are a few (pardon the pun) saving graces. AnnaSophia Robb, in particular, is turning out to be quite a winning actress and is giving Dakota Fanning a run for her money in the â"go-to child actress" category. Robb has already turned in memorable performances in films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Because of Winn-Dixie, and Bridge to Terabithia. In The Reaping, she delivers just a few lines of dialogue but is able to bring a surprising level of creepiness to her role. She's the main bright spot in a murky, convoluted, and unintentionally silly movie.

Swank seems lost and out of place here. Aside from being the most beautiful she's ever been in a movie (although where does a 9-5 college professor type get such a sculpted, chiseled body like that?), she seems horribly above the material and lost in a thankless role. The same could be said of David Morrissey, who has the charisma and screen presence for roles far greater than the run-of-the-mill one he's given here.

There's no doubt that The Reaping has some scary moments, some cool F/X, and a good level of Southern-gothic atmosphere. But amping up the soundtrack for cheap thrills while waxing poetic about theological nonsense doth not a good movie make, my friends. The Reaping tries to be The Exorcist, but comes closer to the level of a late-night cable feature.


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.78:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish.

Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; featurettes..

* Featurettes
o The Science Of The 10 Plagues: The Search For Explanations (16:00)
o The Characters
o A Place Called Haven (05:00)
o The Reaping: The Seventh Plague (01:00)

Number of Discs: 1 with Slipcase Packaging