Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Reaping (2007)

I mentioned when I talked about The Orphanage that I usually find that stylish films are trying to hide a crap plot. That's happened to me a lot, but I was really thinking about The Reaping when I wrote it.

It's not completely fair to call The Reaping's plot "crap." It's actually really interesting up to a certain point. It's a mystery story -- why is this small town in Louisiana experiencing plagues like the ones in Exodus? -- and as long as Hilary Swank is trying to figure it all out, it's good. Like I also said in that Orphanage review, my favorite horror movies are actually mysteries, so The Reaping starts off on the right foot.

Spoilers below

Where it starts to come undone is the over-the-top solution to the mystery. Swank plays a former minister who's lost her faith and now spends her time debunking "miracles" all over the world. So when she's called in to explain what's going on with the plagues in Haven, Louisiana, we're not quite sure if this is going to be a supernatural story or one with a mundane explanation. That's actually one of the cool elements of the mystery, but it works against the revelation. The movie tries so hard to stay grounded during the first couple of acts -- and succeeds, even amongst rivers of blood and skydiving frogs -- that when it goes all Omen and Rosemary's Baby at the end, it's jarring.

Even so, the movie manages to follow its own internal logic throughout, so I never felt betrayed by the revelation. Everything makes sense and flows out of what we've learned before, it's just that it's too much. It's too supernatural.

I think The Reaping might would've worked better as a novel. It really is a fascinating story, but seeing the last act played out onscreen with a bunch of special effects turns it into a different kind of movie. If I'd had to create the last act in my head, I think I would've been into it more.

And it's really too bad, 'cause I looooove Hilary Swank and she's all serious and kick-ass in this movie. Really, really too bad.

Two out of five flesh-eating locusts.

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