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The Reaping Review

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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 Rosemary’s Baby; unfortunate, since those memories only emphasise how flawed this is.

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