Why is Hillary Swank in this movie? A two-time Oscar winner apparently took a left turn in her career (what we may want to consider calling “the Cuba Gooding Effect”) and ended up in a B-grade horror flick. Hilary Swank portrays Katherine Winter, a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after her family was killed. She then becomes a world-renowned investigator in disproving religious phenomena. But when she’s called in to investigate the not-too-subtly named small Louisiana town of Haven (featuring such church signs as read “A gentle Lord, but don’t push it.”), spooky hijinks ensue. She didn’t even have the decency to mimic Stephen Rea’s look of “yeah, I’m slumming. What of it?” portrayal of Father Costigan, her one-time friend/mentor. No, she seems to be really trying, which only makes her efforts all the more sad. (Idris Elba (The Wire) simply makes me happy whenever he’s on screen.)

“The only miracle is that people keep believing.” – Katherine

In this case, the miracle would have been our faith that this religious-themed horror movie would actually payoff. You almost get the impression that some movie executive was actually banking on Christians turning out in droves to see a horror movie trading off their story. Mind you, it’s actually a promising allure. However, I want real creepiness and horror, not boo moments and quick cuts. And The Reaping was simply horror movie by numbers:

-bump moments (check)
-dripping blood (check)
-jumpy camera action (check)
-Priest seeing portents (check)
-sex scene at 45 minute mark (check)
-CGI enhanced shadows (check)
-lone black character, not to mention lone believing Christian, might as well be fitted with a red shirt and volunteering for a mission with Captain Kirk as he goes off to explore the dark crypt alone. (check. Double check. And checked again)
-twist ending (check)

“It’s easy to lose faith … people need to believe in miracles.” –Ben

Sometimes when tragedy visits us, it can cause our faith to break and us to turn our back on the things we once knew and trusted. As a scientist myself, I appreciate the struggle of reconciling the pursuit of scientific facts with matters of faith. In Katherine’s case, as a “miracle debunker” , she discovers that Haven is suffering from what appears to be the Old Testament-type plagues. Hers attempts to be a journey of realizing that science can’t always explain what is happening and that sometimes faith is required to battle some forces that threaten a community. Yes, we saw this done better in the television show, Miracles. And, yes, I say “attempts” in case the first swing of the movie’s mallet to the forehead-like heavy-handedness somehow eludes you.

Why is this happening to us?” We underestimate “I don’t know” as a theological answer, though the scarier prospect might be that we aren’t alone at all. Which is why we continue to look for miracles. They are God’s calling cards. We believe that if only we could have some proof positive of God at work in our lives, in our world, then it would heal our faith and sooth our doubts. What we fail to take into account is that people can see the exact same things, the exact same set of circumstances and evidence, and come to very different conclusions … We can’t go through life solely seeking signs of the miraculous out in order to build our faith upon, nor should we deny them when we come across them.

Katherine: “How do I know? How do we know what’s real?”
Lauren: “Faith.”

We continue to look for miracles, to see some true sign of God’s presence in our reality. Miracles are God’s calling cards. We believe that if only we could have some proof positive of God at work in our lives, in our world, then it would heal our faith and sooth our doubts. We all have faith, good faith, bad faith, or misplaced faith. Likewise, we all go through periods of doubt. When you know something, you can’t have faith in it because there is no need for faith. God is big enough for us to question, doubt, and wrestle with. In fact, He expects us to.

I could go on making spiritual connections with this film: Lauren as the angel of the Lord; Katherine and Ben as the disciples; Father Costigan as an ersatz John the Baptist – but I don’t want to think about this movie anymore than I have to.

Rivers of blood. Frogs. Lice. Flies. Diseased livestock. Boils. Hail. Locusts. Darkness. Death. The biblical plagues are seen through the horror lens has so much potential for a religious horror film, a potential the movie shows no interest in stretching for. Instead it delves into utter nonsense about little known sects and a child who may or may not be the messenger of Satan, reducing the film to a kind of Rosemary’s Redneck Town. The Reaping doesn’t even make it as a horror movie confection.

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