Katherine Winter (Swank) is a former minister who lost her faith and now debunks miracles through scientific analysis. However, when a child is killed in a small Louisiana town, Katherine finds herself faced with phenomena not as easy to explain.
This is Hilary Swank’s second foray in as many months into theoretically more ‘commercial’ projects. This time it’s religious horror, a genre with a respectable pedigree. But for every Exorcist there’s at least one Exorcist sequel, and perhaps Swank might have considered fellow Oscar-winner Halle Berry’s experience on Gothika before signing up.
The premise isn’t without potential — Swank’s spiritually disillusioned heroine is an interesting figure for our times, if one that requires some suspension of disbelief. She travels the globe, a world authority on dissecting seeming miracles and revealing them for what they truly are (mostly viruses, apparently). So even when director Stephen Hopkins — responsible for a large chunk of 24’s first season — gets things off to a flying start, pitching her into a particularly nasty bleeding-eye situation in Africa, it’s still not enough to distract from the rather silly notion of a ‘professional debunker’, even one with a related sideline as a college lecturer.
As the action shifts to the isolated backwater town of Haven, where a child’s death has seemingly prompted all manner of strange phenomena (a river of blood, dead fish and frogs), proceedings take a turn for the traditional as Swank finds herself shacked up in a remote, dilapidated mansion with a taciturn possible love interest (David Morrissey). He’s given to the odd portentous pronouncement —“I come from a long line of only children…” — and in hot pursuit of an enigmatic angel/devil child (an effective AnnaSophia Robb), who may or may
not hold the key to the mystery.
Twin-brother writing team Chad and Carey Hayes (House Of Wax) come up with
a handful of mild jumps, while Hopkins’ up-close and intimate camera style creates a degree of tension, but as Haven succumbs to what appears to be a revisitation of the Biblical ten plagues and Katherine is ever more at a loss to explain it all, the screenplay fatally veers into absurd melodrama, any sense of peril lost amidst unintentional laughs, building to a crushingly lame and confused denouement. The impressive cast do their best to bring a sense of conviction to the piece, but it had to have been blind faith that brought them into such an unholy mess.
A horror that invokes memories of The Exorcist, The Omen and Rosemarys Baby; unfortunate, since those memories only emphasise how flawed this is.