Deep in the dark world of Haven, Louisiana lies the beginning of ten biblical plagues, starting with rivers turning to blood and a little girl thought to have killed her brother. The town calls in Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) to investigate. An ordained minister turned disbeliever, Winter is known for her skill in scientifically disproving “miracles.” As Winter finds it harder and harder to deny the workings of God and the devil in these incidences she fights to save the town and a little girl from The Reaping.
The Reaping is a film with strong religious turmoil, questioning the difference between faith in one’s beliefs and believing what one is told. While the acting is top notch, the film itself straddles between being a horror film and a suspense mystery. There are some pace issues in the first half of the movie and an attempt was made to fix this by splicing in gory flashbacks from Winter’s past, but they fall just short of meeting this goal and tend to make the first half choppy. Once the momentum of story picks up these flashes drop off and actual “present day” horror takes its place.
The story itself is smooth, well thought out, and well written, with a sufficient amount of twists and turns that once the credits roll there would be reason enough to watch it again. Unfortunately for its advertisers, The Reaping is probably more of a girls’ horror film, not because Swank is the main character, but because events don’t quite turn into a blood bath and there’s a lot of problem solving and maternal pulls toward the “demonic” girl in question. That being said, Swank absolutely carries the film and wonderfully portrays a female character that, for once, isn’t driven by fear and doesn’t ask the supporting male characters to save her. As her logical, scientific, well-fleshed out character should be, the sight of red liquid doesn’t make her hyperventilate and grab the nearest man for protection. Granted she’s no Lara Croft or Wonder Woman, but it is always nice to see females on screen not being damsels in distress.
The thought of Hilary Swank anymore thrusts Million-Dollar Baby right to the forefront with her southern accent and ready to punch shoulders. It’s been fifteen years since she showed her face in the Buffy movie and it seems like that’s about the most horror/thriller anyone can remember with her in it. With The Reaping Swank has to reset everything that most people will know about her and “act” like someone else. The Reaping isn’t about the good ol’ girl, or the girl next door, or the sweet and innocent, and that is a breath of fresh air.
While The Reaping isn’t the best horror film, it does draw on more realistic events and possibilities, and is equally enjoyable for its intelligence and spooky special effects. Even though it is promoted as a horror flick and “terrifying”, The Reaping actually and strangely nestles itself somewhere between The Exorcist and Silence of the Lambs. If you like your popcorn flicks and using your mind at the same time, this is an indulgence into the horror genre, but if you were expecting to be blown away and tossing for lack of sleep at night, turn back now.
The DVD features for The Reaping aren’t bad, although they fly just as under the radar as the film itself. There is a nice scientific/religious look at the original Egyptian plagues from the Bible, a Discovery Channel type bit that sits separate from the film and doesn’t even mention the movie. Personally, when it comes to special features, I love these factual interviews and shots of actual relics and books. It puts things into perspective and give more details about the reality of the events than the movie (which we are all aware is made for money not for accuracy). While the movie 300 was based on the graphic novel, there were still extras on the disc to tell about the factual details in what took place. With The Reaping, even though the story is about a town in Louisiana, the nice touch is to include the reality (or at least the Biblical reality) of these ten plagues. The extras also briefly discuss the fact that Hurricane Katrina happened while they were on location for filming and there was some discussion about whether or not to continue with the movie at all.
The disappointments with the extras come into play with the fact that there is no audio commentary from Hopkins, Swank, or anyone else, not to mention that there is nothing in the way of special effects extras or how-to’s. A big problem seems to be that while there aren't many extras (only four) there are at least five previews and a commercial at the beginning. Thank goodness for satisfying the advertisers before the viewers who, by the time it hits DVD, already paid to see the movie.
This release would have been okay with just four extras if one of them were a commentary track. Is it too much to ask for a director or actor to sit down for a few hours and actually watch their own movie? If we have to watch it, then so should they. Besides, The Reaping isn't so bad that it doesn't deserve an audio commentary. If it was bad, at least explain yourself, justify your actions, anything, but don’t leave us hanging on to four extras, with only one of them a really good one.