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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Stephen Hopkins
Cast:
Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea, William Ragsdale, John McConnell
Writing Credits:
Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, Brian Rousso (story)

Tagline:
Thousands of years ago there was a series of bizarre occurrences that many believed to have been the Ten Biblical Plagues. No one thought they could happen again. Until now.

Synopsis:
Hilary Swank stars as a paranormal detective who investigates religious occurrences. Her latest case: a town where the 10 biblical plagues are in full force.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$4.565 million on 2603 screens.
Domestic Gross
$25.117 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 10/16/2007

Bonus:
• “Science of the Ten Plagues” Featurette
• “The Characters” Featurette
• “A Place Called Haven” Featurette
• “The Reaping: The Seventh Plague” Featurette
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


The Reaping (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 16, 2007)

Winning two Best Actress Oscars doesn’t mean the performer in question only makes great movies. Hilary Swank proves that with 2007’s The Reaping, a flick for which she definitely will not win her third Academy Award.

Atheistic LSU Professor Katherine Winter (Swank) debunks purported religious miracles. In a weird occurrence, a former acquaintance named Father Michael Costigan (Stephen Rea) finds burn marks in all his photos of her. He believes that this portends something nasty for her, but she won’t hear of it.

In the meantime, she learns of a rural Louisiana town called Haven in which the river appears to have turned to blood. The residents fear that this is the first of 10 plagues heading their way, so teacher/”town brainiac” Doug Blackwell (David Morrissey) asks her to determine the nature of this incident. To further complicate matters, the folks in Haven think that 12-year-old Loren McConnell (AnnaSophia Robb) caused the unpleasantness. After some reluctance, Katherine heads to Haven with cohort Ben (Idris Elba) to debunk the “plague”. The rest of the movie follows all the events that greet her.

As you watch Reaping, you might think an overly ambitious recent film school grad directed it. The flick throws out every overused modern horror movie technique one can imagine. Shaky hand-held camerawork for “realism”? Check. Jerky quick-cutting? Check. Stylized colors and weird visual effects? Check.

Effective story-telling and an engaging tale? Nope, and all the attempts at cinematic edginess can’t make us forget the lack of quality filmmaking on display here. Like I mentioned, you might expect this kind of shoddy work from a neophyte director, but Stephen Hopkins has decades of experience. No, he’s never really distinguished himself; I do kind of like his Predator 2, but I can’t say Hopkins has made a really good flick.

Nonetheless, I expect more from him than the awkward, barely coherent Reaping. As a modern-day revisiting of Biblical plagues, the flick had some potential to become at least moderately intriguing. However, its sheer predictability overwhelms any possible positives. The characters are thinly sketched at best and come straight out of stock personalities. We know exactly what they’ll do and where they’ll go well in advance, as the tale provides precious few surprises.

And it wastes quite a lot of talent. I don’t know if Swank deserved either of her Oscars, much less both of them, but I do think she’s a good actor. She goes on cruise control here, however; she knows she’s slumming and doesn’t bother to wake up for the part.

At least she gets something to do, unlike the absolutely ill-used Rea and Robb. The former barely merits a cameo as the priest who warns Katherine, while Robb – so good in Bridge to Terabithia - is asked to do little more than stand still. A mannequin could’ve played the part.

The main problem with Reaping remains the storytelling – or lack thereof – and reliance on cheap filmmaking gimmicks. The plot brings out events in an awkward manner, especially when it deals with backstory. We get very clumsy exposition that appears for no reason other than because the movie requires it; those elements develop in an unnatural manner. And as I already mentioned, the use of all the now-cliché movie techniques distracts way more than it enhances.

All of which make The Reaping a dud. At only 99 minutes, it should zip by pretty quickly, especially since the tale must cover a lot of ground in that relatively short period of time. Instead, the film crawls. It never threatens to engage us and presents a turgid, tedious experience.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C-

The Reaping appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Perhaps the presence of about 140 minutes of video footage was too much for a single-layered DVD to handle, as Reaping looked less impressive than I’d expect.

Sharpness occasionally took a hit. Though daylight shots showed pretty good definition, other scenes tended to be somewhat soft and fuzzy. The lack of delineation never seemed terrible, but the movie sometimes lacked the anticipated crispness. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, but I noticed mild edge enhancement through the flick. I also discerned a grainy quality that I thought resulted from compression artifacts.

Just like every other modern horror flick, Reaping went with a stylized palette. It tended toward a desaturated look that favored a sandy appearance much of the time. It also threw in some heavy reds for effect. The colors appeared fine, though some of the thicker hues could be a little too dense. Blacks were somewhat muddy, while shadows tended to appear a bit murky and opaque. This wasn’t a bad transfer overall, but it didn’t look as good as it should have so I gave it a disappointed “C+”.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Reaping proved quite satisfying. All those plagues meant lots of uses for the different speakers, and the soundfield took good advantage of them. From swarms of insects to thunderstorms to fire to other nasty elements, the various pieces showed up in logical spots and meshed together smoothly. The movie used the spectrum in an encompassing manner that accentuated the action.

For the most part, audio quality was solid. A few lines sounded a little flat, but dialogue usually seemed natural and concise. Music displayed nice definition and range, while effects were lively and dynamic. Those elements showed good reproduction along with deep, tight bass. The audio of The Reaping did well for itself.

In terms of extras, we get four featurettes. Science of the Ten Plagues lasts 15 minutes, 59 seconds as it mixes movie clips with comments from Professor of Old Testament Terence Fretheim, Chair of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion R. Joseph Hoffmann, paranormal investigator Joe Nickell, epidemiologist Dr. John S. Marr, material sciences Professor Colin Humphreys, and Director of the Benfield UCL Hazard Research Center Professor Bill McGuire. The program looks at scientific explanations for the Old Testament plagues that the Bible purports afflicted Egypt. The movie offers a quick synopsis of these theories, but they get greater exposition here. This makes for an intriguing view of famous events.

Next comes The Characters, a six-minute and 59-second piece. It includes notes from director Stephen Hopkins, producers Joel Silver and Herb Gains, writer Brian Rousso, and actors Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba and AnnaSophia Robb. This featurette examines the different roles in the film. Basically the comments just reiterate information you’ll find in the movie. A few minor tidbits emerge, but it’s not a particularly useful program.

A Place Called Haven fills five minutes, two seconds with info from Rousso, Swank, Hopkins, Silver and production designer Grace Walker and location manager Peter J. Novak. The program looks at the movie’s sets and locations as well as the effect of Hurricane Katrina. It’s a quick but decent overview of those topics.

Finally, The Reaping: The Seventh Plague goes for one minute and eight seconds. We hear from Elba as he talks about how much he hated working with insects. There’s not much here, though the short chat is moderately interesting.

On the “Special Features” screen, you’ll find an Easter egg. Click right from “Main Menu” to find a three-minute and six-second clip. This piece tells us that Robb was inspired to write a story called Back Seat Swamp during the shoot, and we hear that tale. It ain’t great, but it’s more entertaining than The Reaping.

A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Michael Clayton, Gametap, I Am Legend, Return to Haunted Hill and Believers. No trailer for Reaping appears here.

Hilary Swank needs a new agent. She might have two Oscars, but they apparently can’t save her from witless dreck like The Reaping, a scare-free and barely watchable horror tale. The DVD offers surprisingly mediocre picture quality and only a few minor extras, but the audio works well. A good soundtrack can’t redeem a bad movie, though, so I can’t find any reason to recommend this flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.625 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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0 3:
22:
31:
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