Reaping, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: -4

Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, Stephen Rea. Supernatural Thriller. Written by Carey W. Hayes & Chad Hayes. Directed by Stephen Hopkins.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Hilary Swank plays a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after her family was tragically murdered by the very people she had been sent to help. She has since become a world-renowned expert in disproving religious phenomena. But when she investigates a small Louisiana town suffering from what appears to be the biblical plagues, she realizes that science cannot explain what is happening and she must regain her faith to combat the dark forces threatening the community.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Though it features the same problems Pharaoh had to content with, the film lacks any substantial biblical teachings. Its Bible precepts as seen through the eyes of a Hollywood screenwriter always an iffy business. Biblical accuracy aside, the story is a sloppy swipe of The Exorcist, Rosemarys Baby, and The Omen. The key word here being sloppy.

However you feel about the aforementioned films, youll give me they were handsomely constructed and that they raised the questions: Is there really a Satan? Is he capable of possessing a person? Is he able to bring the downfall of mankind? The Reaping doesnt honestly look with any depth at such propositions. Its too formulaic and cardboardish to be taken seriously, and therefore somewhat misleading concerning biblical teachings.

Looking for a joyless spook story complete with deceptive theology, gruesome deaths, and a moping lead who suffers from guilt and bouts of stupidity, this may be your cup of tea. If youre looking for a smart spook flick, this aint it.

Most fans of the horror genre attend these thrillers in hope of finding one that actually scares them usually to no avail. But different people are looking for different types of scares. Some like stories about devil possession (The Exorcist), others like good vs. evil tales (Bela Lugosis Dracula), while still others just like seeing people caught and tortured (The Hills Have Eyes, II). Ill admit that I like to be somewhat unnerved occasionally, but I prefer films of substance even in the horror arena. So, allow me to suggest a spooky video alternative: Signs.

Farmer Mel Gibson discovers crop circles on his land. Soon the world is crawling with hostile aliens. Like Hitchcock, director M. Night Shyamalan builds tension through restraint. Its not what we see, but what we imagine that scares the Jujubes out of us.

Besides being an arm-grabbing suspenseful thriller, Signs is an equally touching family drama. We get to know this broken family as they cope with the traumatic loss of a wife and mother. There is an intimacy in both script and presentation that causes us to care for these people.

Added to the drama and suspense is the storys subtext about a man losing, then regaining his faith. The film also has an intriguing take concerning coincidence in our daily lives. Do things happen by chance or do they serve to develop our nature? While it satisfies with just the right amount of goose bump-causing jolts, Shyamalans film also has purpose. Its about finding our way or finding our way back.

Qualifier for watching Signs: Upon reading Philippians 4:8, you may find my suggestion of a horror film alternative somewhat conflicting. But for me, Signs contained thoughtful lessons. As for the films alien beings, I saw them as metaphors representing the unknown and our struggles with lifes injustices. Some Christians may be suspect of the presentation of the plausibility of alien creatures, but just as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used symbolism in their best books, Shyamalan uses supernatural elements to explore the human spirit.

Im always impressed with Shyamalans work, because he infuses his films with subtext. He seamlessly layers his stories and gives depth to his characters. Few of his characters are there to just further the story. They each have an emotional truth. Signs is the most involving film Ive seen in years from a technical, artistic and spiritual level. Although it is very scary, I found nothing vile or exploitive about this film. For me, it was two hours of passionate entertainment, which also asserted that we are more than mental and physical beings. I left the theater reminded in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Two obscenities (one f-word, one s-word), and five or so minor expletives (damns, hells).

Profanity: One use of Gods name followed by a curse.

Violence: Lots of violent and gross-out visuals as plagues of locusts and other forms of pestilence attack members of the community; we see sick and dying cattle as well as other disturbing images, including putrefying corpses; a young girls life is threatened; murders are committed and the lead finds herself in dangerous situations; the film is full of jolts and shocks; a woman commits suicide by sticking a gun barrow in her mouth we hear the shot; a little girl is killed by a superstitious tribe and sacrificed on an altar. Some blood.

Sex: Two graphic sexual situations.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Social drinking in a couple of scenes.

Other: Among other themes, the film concerns Satanism.

Running Time: 96 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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