Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Writing credits Carey Hayes Chad Hayes
Hilary Swank ... Katherine Winter
David Morrissey ... Doug
Idris Elba ... Ben
AnnaSophia Robb ... Loren McConnell
Stephen Rea... Father Costigan
William Ragsdale ... Sheriff Cade
So let me tell you the saga of Dr. Gore and “The Reaping”. It is a story filled with greed, lust and madness. Well, not really. But it is kind of funny.
I saw “The Reaping” a couple of months ago at a private screening on the Warner Bros’ lot. This was their work-in-progress print and they were looking for feedback. So it was me and about thirty other people checking out the flick. When it was over, a guy bounced to the front of the room and started asking the usual post-screening questions: “How many of you liked the ending? The middle? The beginning? Anything? Bueller? Would you definitely recommend this movie to friends? Would you probably recommend this movie to friends? Would anyone in their right minds recommend this movie to friends?” I had to give some feedback so I told him the frog plague was lacking. In the frog scene in the WIP print, only about five to six frogs fall from the sky. This is hardly a plague of frogs. More like an inconvenience of frogs. I told him my thoughts on the frog situation. He was not interested.
Fast forward to a couple of months later and, thanks to my trusty Plus One, I was able to score tickets to the Westwood premiere of “The Reaping”. It was playing at the Mann Village which is a really cool theater near UCLA. I was sitting near the front with the always cool Poker with Friends. They know how to party. Corndogs and margaritas. That’s all I’m saying.
I was standing up before the movie started to see if I could catch a glimpse of Hilary Swank. One of the funny things at premieres is how the movie starts the second the star is seated. Swank rolled in around 7:30 and took a spot in the middle section. Sure enough, the second she sat down the lights went out and the movie started. As I settled into my seat, I flashed back to the previous “Reaping” screening. I left Warner Bros. wondering if anything anyone said in the post-screening chat was going to affect the outcome of the final movie. I made a note to check to see if I noticed any differences.
Nope. Nada. Nothing. I did not see any substantial changes from the previous version of the movie. There was one change to a bloody gunshot wound scene that made it more tasteful. That was one of the scenes I remember wincing at. Sheesh. Their mainstream instincts got the best of them and they toned down one of the few gory spots. And did they listen to me about the frogs? Did they?! Of course they didn’t. They didn’t listen to anything anyone said.
A small town is afflicted with the biblical plagues. Hilary Swank gets called into duty as a professional skeptic. Swank rolls into town with Stringer Bell, (Idris Elba), as her loyal sidekick. Together they will debunk these crazy stereotypical southerners and their wacky religious ramblings. The town thinks a cute blonde girl is the spawn of Satan. She doesn’t smile so she must be evil. The townspeople want to run a pitchfork through her but Swank is not convinced that’s a good idea. As more plagues start piling up, (boils, lice and a really lame frog plague), Swank needs to take action and figure out what is going on with the blonde angel of death.
“The Reaping” is the definition of mainstream horror. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a horror movie. It’s a Swank vehicle disguised as a biblical thriller. There are a lot of slick “jump” scenes to scare you but that doesn’t pass the horror movie litmus test.
The main problem with “The Reaping” is something that can’t be fixed with editing or any other filmmaking trick. The fact is that the plagues are just not that interesting to watch. The only one that has cinematic appeal is the plague of locusts. That scene was kind of cool. Other than that, how scary is it to watch lice or boils? Not very. Those lice are going to make you shave your head! MOO-HA-HA! Snore. These plagues were kind of cheap, half baked plagues anyway. Forgetting about my precious frog plague for a second, every other plague affected one or two people and then moved on. They should have put some effort into showing more devastation and despair from a town reeling from biblical onslaught. Instead, we get Hilary Swank looking hot and sweaty as the world crumbles around her. They couldn’t waste time on things like horror when they’ve got a release date to make so they can exploit the Easter holiday for all it’s worth. Reap what you sow.
When the movie was over, we waited outside for my Plus One to come out so we could thank him for the tickets. As we waited, Stringer Bell walked out of the theater and was moving towards the row of parked limos. I turned to my friend and said, “Do you want to shake Stringer Bell’s hand? He’s right over there.” He turned around, looked at me and said, “Maybe three hours ago I would have. But after that movie, I don’t think so.” Later I asked him where the movie lost him. “Honestly?”, he said, “the part where the pictures were burning. I looked at that and thought, well, I’m bored already.” But that was at the beginning of the movie, I said. You were bored from the start? “Yeah”, he said, “going to have to try to forget that one.” “The Reaping” had a profound impact on him. It wasn’t good.
As for me, where were my stinking frogs?! Come on! “The Reaping” needed more frogs man! I can’t let it go! A couple of hundred slimy frogs falling from the sky could have saved the movie. Well, probably not but at least I would have been happy.
SCORE: 2 out of 4 bored frogs
Only hot and buff Swanks can save us from evil blonde girls.
Look out Hilary! Blonde in the bushes! A plague of cute blonde girls!