Some films sound good on paper, but upon execution they don’t even come close to something that anybody would want to see. The finished film is such a disappointment that not even your average filmgoer or horror fan, who sometimes enjoys the occasional bad film, can get behind it. There’s nothing there that outweighs everything else that makes the film bad. In cases like these, no amount of time is going to change that. The only thing that might be able to happen is that it becomes a film you watch solely so you can make fun of it with friends.
The Warner Bros. Pictures film “The Reaping” tried to be too many things that in the end, it got completely lost. This is very disappointing as the central premise wasn’t really all that bad. It just needed better guidance somewhere along the creative way. And so, 10 years later, which still seems to mystify me with some films, this particular “horror” film, more supernatural horror film, just can’t be anything more than mildly interesting before it completely implodes. Having not seen this film in some time, I was optimistic that it could be that I wasn’t remembering this film that well. Well, like with other instances, I was wrong. There’d been some very good reasons why I hadn’t revisited this film until now.
What’s Plaguing You?
While using religion as a plot element isn’t new, what could be is what angle the film takes to tell a particular story. With this film, it’s tackling what’s a highly debatable issue. Do religious miracles exist or is there a scientific answer for everything? In this case, are these the 10 biblical plagues coming to life or something more natural?
For me, which isn’t that surprising, even 10 years ago, this is primarily what interested me in the first place. I like films that can take on religious beliefs and hopefully mold them into something that’s interesting, fun and just plain good to watch. Sadly, that’s not fully the case here, but it’s certainly one of the best bits about this film, and is likely going to be the only reason you last as long as you do.
Hilary Swank and Idris Elba are professors of something, I don’t feel that was ever fully made clear, and it involves proving that there’s no such thing as religious miracles. The film opens with this and we even hear Swank says, “I’ve investigated 48 miraculous occurrences, with 48 scientific explanations.” Not bad when you think about it. Either of these two could’ve been given some sort of lame job and purpose in life, but they were given this one. Scholars and educators. I can accept that along with the flimsily built relationship they have. Like with the bones of this film, this is another aspect that’s better than anything else this film offers.
However, I still can’t look past how interesting and mildly effective the use of this religious angle is. It’s what kept me going. There was a bit of a mystery being allowed to grow because of this. Sure it seemed to drag a relatively short film and make it seem like nothing happened, but it allowed for me, the viewer, to have some doubts. Like with Swank and Elba, you’re just following the strange evidence. You are probably fully expecting it all to reveal that nothing supernatural was at play. That it was all just a small town that’s overly superstitious, and behaves in some kind of hive mind like way.
If it weren’t for what happened after about 55 minutes of the film, then I’d probably be okay with this less than stellar film. But the story took an unexpected left turn. It tried to throw all these twists to fit the supernatural aspects, and eventually I became confused. I was’t sure what the hell was happening, and following the path towards the intended conclusion wasn’t possible. Again, if this film hadn’t taken this turn, it could’ve very well been an okay mediocre film that wasted a decent idea.
Oh The Horror!
I’ll never understand why some films are considered horror films. Nothing about them suggests that that’s in fact what they are. Some may have slight traces of these types of necessary elements, but they’re usually drowned out by everything else that the film most definitely is. If only even those elements could’ve been better handled, then this film might’ve achieved what it set out to do.
This film isn’t scary. I don’t believe it was ever meant to be scary. It’s more of a psychological thriller with supernatural elements driving the plot. That being said, it makes the fact that this film had a few set ups that were meant to elicit scares, but really only ended up showing which playbook writers Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes were reading from, even sadder. They were wasted opportunities that could’ve yielded a much deeper sense of fear than was even achieved in the finished film. Perhaps the reaction I had could’ve been one that moved beyond doubt. At times in this film, it seemed like my sense of reality was being played with. It’s, again, one of the reasons I loved the whole exploration of religion and miracles versus what’s just scientific fact. Even Swank’s character had her moments, but nothing ever fully swayed her until it was too late. Much like with the film itself.
If this film achieved anything, which it barely even did that, it managed to be a tad disturbing. Sacrificing children, devil worship, and of course, the hanging children that Elba finds towards the end of the film. Disturbing. However, the reason why they weren’t even really that disturbing is the fact that I’m not easily shaken by things. Which, now opens us up to a broader conversation, but I don’t feel like having that one at this time. The reason is mainly because I barely noticed what was meant to bother me. I’m pretty certain I wasn’t even fully paying attention by any of these moments. It’s really unfortunate as it could’ve easily helped to unsettle me and get me deeper into some kind of altered psychological mindset, and really make the finale all the more exciting and worth it. Or, it could’ve just given me something more than I ended up with.
Remind yourself with the original trailer:
Originally Opened: April 5, 2007
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes
Starring: Hilary Swank, David Morrisey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb and Stephen Rea