Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Hopkins|
|Music by||John Frizzell|
Colby Parker Jr.|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
The Reaping is a 2007 American psychological horror thriller film, starring Hilary Swank. The film was directed by Stephen Hopkins for Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and Dark Castle Entertainment. The music for the film was scored by John Frizzell.
Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) and colleague Ben (Idris Elba) investigate claims of miracles. In Chile, they examine the corpse of a priest who remains in pristine condition despite being dead for 40 years. Eventually they discover that toxic waste helped preserve the body.
In Louisiana, Katherine receives a call from a friend, Father Michael Costigan (Stephen Rea), who says that his photographs of her have developed burn marks that when assembled, form a sickle-like symbol "?", a possible warning from God, which she ignores. She meets Doug Blackwell (David Morrissey), a teacher from the nearby town of Haven, who asks Katherine to find out why Haven's river has turned red. The locals believe this is a biblical plague caused by a girl, Loren McConnell (AnnaSophia Robb), who they believe killed her older brother in the river.
They travel to Haven, where Katherine sees the river is entirely red. Katherine and Doug come across ruins of an old church, which Doug explains was destroyed one hundred years ago by several hurricanes, forcing the entire town to relocate. Meanwhile, Ben witnesses dead frogs seemingly fall from the sky. Doug invites them to spend the night at his house, where he reveals he comes from a long line of only children. That night, their dinner becomes rotted with flies instantly.
Katherine and Ben get a call asking them to come to a nearby farm, where they find that the cows are dying of some unknown disease. Ben begins to question whether the events could actually have biblical causes, but Katherine remains unconvinced. The owner of the farm tells them that the McConnell family would be visited by people who appeared to be Satan worshippers, and that he possibly saw them making a sacrifice of some kind. Later that evening, Katherine tells Doug why she left the church; five years ago, she was an ordained minister. While doing missionary work in the Sudan with her husband and daughter, the locals sacrificed her family, believing they caused a drought. Katherine then has intense dreams that she and Doug have sex.
Katherine goes to talk to Loren. Loren remains silent the whole time. Katherine notices that her leg is soaked in menstrual blood. Katherine helps clean her up and has a vision of Loren turning the river red. Loren's mother appears, asking if Katherine is there to kill Loren. Before she can explain, Loren attacks her and Katherine runs away. Ben and Katherine examine Loren's brother's body, finding the sickle-like symbol branded into his lower back. Test results prove the river contains human blood. The citizens, meanwhile, are shaving their children's heads, due to an outbreak of lice. Ben and Doug try to get the mayor to evacuate the town, but he and his staff are afflicted with boils.
A posse gathers to kill Loren to try to stop the plagues. Katherine calls Father Costigan, who explains that he has researched a satanic cult which sacrifices every second-born child once they reach puberty to create a "perfect child with the eyes of the Devil" to bring them power. He believes that Loren is the devil child. He also states that an angel, who cannot be harmed by the cult, will destroy them. He insists that Katherine is the angel, as the term is sometimes used to mean servants of God. Suddenly, a supernatural force burns Costigan's room, killing him. Katherine returns to the McConnell house, where she finds the cult's sacrificial chamber. There, Loren's mother says that Loren is "his servant" now, then kills herself. Outside, Katherine finds locusts everywhere. As the townspeople arrive, with Ben and Doug in tow trying to stop them, Loren causes the locusts to kill the posse. Doug runs away and falls in the river; Katherine locks herself in the house; Ben hides in a crypt, where he discovers skeletons and bodies of sacrificed children. He calls Katherine when Loren appears outside.
Katherine finds Ben dead. She confronts Loren. Katherine is about to kill Loren, when suddenly she says something that Katherine told her own daughter in Sudan. Katherine asks how she can tell what is real. Loren answers "faith," and shows her a vision of the truth. The cult, which actually encompasses the entire town and Doug, are shown trying to kill Loren since she has reached puberty. Loren escaped and her brother Brody stabbed her, but her wound miraculously healed, and Brody died. Katherine realizes that Loren is the angel God sent. She also sees that Doug killed Ben. The townsfolk surround them as Doug tells her that only an ordained servant of God like Katherine can kill Loren. He reveals that his family recruited the entire town into the satanic cult, believing that God had abandoned them because of the natural disasters. He invited Katherine to investigate the plagues because they hoped she would join them, since she had turned her back on God. Katherine refuses. Suddenly fire rains down on the town, killing the satanists.
As they drive away, Loren says that Katherine is pregnant. Katherine realizes that the dreams she had of sex with Doug was actually Doug having drugged and raped her. Since this is her second child, Katherine realizes that her son, fathered by Doug, is the prophesied demonic child.
Filming for the movie took place in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana with many scenes shot in an abandoned WalMart store. Swank convinced the producers to move the film's setting from New England to Louisiana. When Hurricane Katrina occurred midshoot (August 26, 2005), the production of the film was suspended for one week. Many scenes were shot at Ellerslie Plantation near St. Francisville, Louisiana. The DVD special features record that the producers considered shooting in another city, but decided that Louisiana needed the economic benefit of the movie being shot there.
Before and during the making of the movie, skeptic investigator Joe Nickell was consulted. The type of skeptical investigations by the movie's main character in the first part of the movie is roughly based on Nickell's investigations of claims of the paranormal since 1969.
The film was originally scheduled to play in theaters on August 5, 2006, then November 5, 2006; it was then switched to March 30, 2007, (the date featured on the above poster), and then to April 5, 2007. It was finally released on April 5, 2007, to coincide with Holy Thursday.
The score was originally written by Philip Glass, and went as far as the recording; however, the producers were not completely satisfied and decided to give it another try. John Frizzell was then brought in to compose a new score.
The film received negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 8% based on reviews from 133 critics. with the consensus stating: "It may feature such accomplished actors as Hilary Swank and Stephen Rea, but The Reaping also boasts the apropos tagline "What hath God wrought?". It's schlocky, spiritually shallow, and scare-free."
Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe, the Mayor of Concepción, Chile, formally objected to the producers of the film over its portrayal of the city in the opening scene. She pointed out that rather than being the dirty underdeveloped tropical city as shown in the movie, Concepción is an industrialized city with many universities and was surprised that such inadequate research of the setting had been carried out for a high budget movie.