Dir. Stephen Hopkins. 2007. R. 96mins. Hilary Swank, Idris Elba, David Morrissey, Stephen Rea, AnnaSophia Robb.
Ex-missionary Swank turned her back on God when he allowed machete-wielding Sudanese heathens to sacrifice her hubby and daughter. Now she’s a professor of atheist studies at Louisiana State University, and thus far too busy debunking miracles to heed a panicky phone call about some ancient prophecy from her former priest (Rea).
Along comes this tall feller from down on the bayou (Morrissey) asking if she’d please take a look at the river back home and explain why it’s turned to blood. Swank demurs until he adds that the townsfolk blame a 12-year-old girl (Robb) for the hemoglobin glut and may soon lynch her.
Soon Swank and her Bible-believing assistant (Elba) are wading around crimson sycamore groves and witnessing shoddy CGI replays of the biblical ten plagues of Egypt. Adamant that there’s a rational explanation for everything, Swank tries to domesticate and protect the feral, menstruating swamp waif who the yokels say is the devil’s spawn, but wavers in her lack of faith somewhere between plagues eight (locusts) and nine (darkness).
A haphazard mash-up of The Omen, The Wicker Man (the remakes, not the originals) and just about any other ancient-prophecy schlock you could mention, Reaping leans heavily on fright chords, cat scares and other mechanical thrills, though there is something fun about the perpetually escalating daffiness of its plot and dialogue. And the scene in which Swank offers a daisy chain of “scientific” explanations for the original ten plagues is the funniest comic monologue we’ve heard since God busted Job’s balls from inside that whirlwind. (Opens Fri; click here for showtimes) —Cliff Doerksen