Reaping, The

dir: Steven Hopkins
[img_assist|nid=765|title=Hillary Swank fights against increasing irrelevance|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=337|height=500]
Despite continuously implying the opposite, this crapulent movie is proof positive that there is no God, benevolent or otherwise. No God would subject his believers or even his deniers to a movie as poor as The Reaping with any intention past convincing people that He / She / Shmoopie doesn’t exist.

A town deep in the Southern swamps called Haven is having some strange events occur that seem like they’re out of the Old Testament. A patented disbeliever, who used to be a servant of the Christian God, spends all her time disproving phenomena that look like miracles. Katherine Winters (Hillary Swank) is the Doubting Thomasina required by such a setup, and the highly serious flick’s lead. She lost her faith when her husband and young daughter were killed by, I dunno, a machete-totting wildebeest, when they were performing God’s missionary position work in some nasty section of Africa.

When someone pretending to be all nice and wholesome and Southern (David Morrissey) comes to her for help in explaining the town’s strange occurrences, of course she feels compelled to go to the Louisiana boondocks in order to debunk the superstitions of the surprisingly clean and well-adjusted townfolk.

I can’t claim to know anything about such a region of the world, and I’m sure it was probably filmed in Canada anyway, but the lady ghostbuster has to be wrong from the start: of course the supernatural is involved. How else to explain the possession of viable teeth by all the extras?

The idiotic plot, which gets further explained by a pointless Stephen Rea cameo playing some strange priest dragooned by the filmmakers to explain to Katherine and us the great unwashed what is going on, spends all his time on the phone explaining the truly idiotic plot in case anyone still has hope of meaning or substance in the flick or their lives. He is then killed for no other reason discernible apart from there no longer being any reason for him to keep collecting paychecks once the truly ludicrous exposition is done.

It boils down to this: the town thinks the phenomena are all due to the presence of a little girl (AnnaSophia Robb). Katherine thinks there are natural explanations for everything. Most of the town seem hell bent on killing this girl, or at least messing up her hair or forcing her to wash her feet, because they believe she is the spawn of Satan. Katherine of course wants to protect the child, but then she begins to suspect: Is there something more going on? And, did I leave the iron on at home before I left for work today?

Of course, things aren’t quite what they seem. We find out the true horror of what’s going on, once we realise that the film’s makers are on powerful hallucinogens, and cannot keep the stupid story straight in their own heads, let alone represent it to us in any coherent fashion. When the plot reveals what's really going on, it makes every single thing done by the townsfolk for the preceding hour and a half utterly nonsensical. It makes the ending nonsensical too. It makes you wonder whether you should drive a stake through the cinema screen or your DVD player so that it cannot inflict this damage upon you again.

The ending is literally a fire and brimstone ending, which is exactly the kind of thing you want in a so-called Biblical thriller. This comes way after even the vague slow-down-for-a-car-crash curiousity has waned for the viewer. To get there we have to sit through each of the plagues Angry Old Testament God sent to plague the Pharaoh at the behest of Moses in the story of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, except now there being visited upon these gentle, humble hicks.

Same plagues, same order. Why they’re occurring here is a reason too stupid and too groan-inducing for me to spoil for you, gentle reader. Suffice to say, you’ve vomited more coherent and sensible dialogue than most of what pops up here.

Look, it’s probably not a total waste. Films like this appeal to certain demographics that are uncomfortable with the emphasis on love and forgiveness of the touchy-feely New Testament hippie Jesus crap. They want to get in touch with the muscular, butch side of religion, where evildoers and lesbians are all punished with harsh trials, tribulations and torments. Where the bad guys literally roast in the cleansing holy fires of God’s displeasure.

For those kinds of people (and I have to admit, part of me loves this kind of trash), The Reaping is pure pornography. In such a context, plot, believable motivations, acting and coherence are of less than secondary importance, don’t you think?

That must be why horsefaced Hillary Swank puts in crappy work here. That she is the possessor of two Academy Awards for acting, and not knitting is not a problem: the issue is that she should be able to get better roles than this. She’s tolerable. Her co-star David Morrissey, whose Southern accent sounded like his throat and British accent were choking on a hefty catfish, is just terrible. What the hell is he doing in this film? This film should have had actors like the less successful Baldwin brothers, ultrabimbo Tara Reid and maybe a former wrestler or two. Swank must have been paid a shitload of money, or they must have driven a dumptruck full of puppies and ponies to her door in order convince her to be in this, because there’s nothing of merit for her here.

The flick has a twist ending that is less a twist and more a relief that the flick is over. If it results in a sequel, then Angry Old Testament God has every right to bring down a rain of fire in order to kill people stupid enough not to walk out of theatres playing it. The Reaping Part II has to have someone else play the lead role, and come out on direct-to-DVD, and sit comfortably on the shelves next to Curse of the Komodo and Komodo Versus Cobra, and maybe something with Boobs in the title, like The Boobs Witch Project. Yes, that works for me.

1 reason viewers will be struggling against the urge to punch their grandmothers in the face after watching this out of 10

“There's one more plague left Doug, you know which one comes next” – The Reaping.