The Reaping Stephen Hopkins

While The Reaping isn’t as bad as its trailers and TV spots might suggest, there’s no denying that it lacks the skill or credibility to sell its anti-atheist agenda. For one thing, Hilary Swank is constantly straining for emotions that just aren’t on the page. Her role as an ex-missionary who now debunks supernatural phenomena is constantly presented with things that don’t arouse excitement, meaning she is forced to do all the heavy lifting that should have been done by the script. For another, the allegedly frightening biblical plagues she’s brought in to dispel (taking place in a Louisiana town where the locals are notably suspicious) are obvious CGI fakery, shattering the illusion of reality and killing the potential fear. AnnaSophia Robb is brought in as the stereotypically spooky kid who’s supposed to be the cause of the trouble and of course, there is Idris Elba’s religious black sidekick who’s there for colour commentary and general expendability. But mostly, there’s a threadbare script that gets progressively more ridiculous as it tries to justify its non-logic and blah aesthetics under the guidance of the director of Predator 2. That this is Stephen Hopkins’ finest film to date says nothing for his latest effort, which might have had some jolt or potency in other hands but here is allowed to peter out in a shock climax that’s more risible than disturbing. Though you’re not overtly offended by it (save for its flippant dismissal of superstitious Africans), there’s very little to inspire faith in the narrative and arouse the fear of God in your breast, all of which ought to be a prerequisite for a film about the wrath of Yahweh. (Warner)