My feelings about this Easter/Passover supernatural cheese (from the allegedly upscale horror production team Dark Castle, in which Joel Silver and Robert Zemekis are somehow enmeshed) are pretty much in line with Sleestak, the dauntless blogger of Thatsmyskull.blogspot.com: Cool, The Reaping is finally coming out. Now theaters can stop running that damned trailer over and over again all the time.
Hilary Swank plays, if you can imagine this - and despite her two Oscar wins, you really can't - a sort of a cross between Lara Croft-Tomb Raider and the late atheist Madalyn Murray-O'Hair (but in revealing halter tops and hip-huggers jeans, Ms. Swank looks a lot more like the former). Her Katherine Winters is a university professor who travels the world, using high-tech forensic science (yes, loads of product-placement for Apple laptops and Nikon gear) and her big, non-threatening African-American assistant (yes, guess who's going to die?) to disprove alleged miracles. Her vendetta against God arises from Katherine being a onetime missionary who lost her husband and daughter under horrific circumstances to pagans in the Sudan.
Now the mythbusters are summoned to a Louisiana Bible-Belt village called Haven, apparently being smited by nothing less than the Ten Plagues of Egypt, beginning with the bayou turning to blood and livestock dying. Prof. Winters is sure it's a matter of microbes, but plague follows plague, with the lab results offering no answer. The churchgoing villagers blame the Biblical punishment somewhat obscurely on a swamp-dwelling single mom, and her semi-feral kids, and Katherine, despite her lack of faith, believes that a ritual murder will take place if she doesn’t stop it.
There is no shortage of boo! jump scenes. Some are effective, some are just the usual state-of-the-art digital spookhouse special effects one watches with mild detachment of wondering how much hard drive space they took up. The visuals here interleave most nicely and atmospherically with the on-location Louisiana shoot (The Reaping crew persisted in using the state’s swamps despite the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina). But the Raiders of the Lost Ark f/x blowout climax is strictly Playstation, and the somewhat irritating trick-double-trick-triple-trick ending makes one suspect that the Warner Brothers audience focus-group surveys to map out the script included some representative Satanists, just to hedge their bets at not alienating anyone.
Well, on the bright side, no more trailers for this thing. And as for the locusts, frogs, boils, hail, deaths of the firstborn etc., the Good News is that any further Bruce Almighty sequels won’t be able to borrow that overdone gimmick. Can I get an Amen! out there?