Logic vs. faith
In a world where religion and science appear to be mutually exclusive, it’s hard to say which will win in an all-out duel. Can all miracles and “acts of God” (or the devil) be explained rationally? The Reaping intends to find out—and it does a decent job, at least at the beginning, of casting a shadow of doubt on either side.
Hilary Swank plays Katherine, a former woman of the cloth who lost her faith after her husband and daughter were murdered in Africa. These days she spends her time debunking miracles around the world and lecturing about them at LSU. Her TA, Ben (Idris Elba, The Wire), plays her counterpoint—he found faith after being shot multiple times and living through it.
Most of the action in The Reaping takes place in the small Louisiana town of Haven, “the most well-kept secret in the Bible Belt.” The sleepy town wakes up a bit when its river turns red, and Katherine and Ben are called in to investigate the so-called “plague.” When they get there, they find that the fish have all died. Then come the frogs.
To Katherine, all of this has a logical explanation. In fact, she has a logical explanation for the 10 plagues in Exodus, too. The town isn’t so sure, and is convinced that a 12-year-old girl, Lauren (AnnaSophia Robb), is responsible. She is the daughter in a welfare family that the town has cast aside.
Flashbacks of her daughter make the whole Lauren situation difficult for Katherine. And the appearance of religious symbols (beyond the plagues) tests her atheism. Swank does the best job she can with her shaky character, and she basically makes the film watchable. Not that the other actors are bad—it’s just that the story is a bit thin.
Another weakness to the film is the special effects—at times they seem overused and just distract from the story. For instance, when the livestock are plagued, the cows look terribly fake. The locust scene, on the other hand, is breathtaking.
In these days of horror films galore, The Reaping ain’t bad. It avoids most of the usual clichés and offers, at least, a few scares. Oh, and it’s been left wide open for a sequel, so you can bet on a Reaping II.