The Reaping

Not a moment too soon: Hilary Swank goes to Hell.

Those two age-old foes—science and blind faith—tango yet again in this noxious slice of biblical horror about a series of Old Testament plagues being visited upon a Louisiana bayou backwater. Hilary Swank stars as the resident nonbeliever, an ordained minister–turned–university professor recruited by a rural schoolteacher (David Morrissey) to convince the locals that there's a perfectly rational explanation (global warming?) for why their once-crystalline lake has turned into a crimson tide pool. In short order, frogs rain from the heavens, bad CGI cattle drop dead in their tracks, and hideous boils break out on human skin, until Swank starts to wonder if maybe she was wrong to turn her back on the Lord after her husband and daughter were killed on a missionary trip to the Sudan. (Cue over-exposed flashbacks of ooga-booga tribesmen.) Two years ago, Paul Schrader's uneven but compelling Exorcist prequel used the trappings of a genre film to explore complex questions of belief (or lack thereof) in a seemingly godless world. For Reaping director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2), the plight of post-Katrina Louisiana and war-torn Africa is just another special effect in a bag of shopworn tricks, and the only real curse is on anyone unlucky enough to buy a ticket.

 
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