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Warner Home Video presents
The Reaping (2007)

"I know how hard it is for you to talk to me. To remember."
- Father Michael Costigan (Stephen Rea)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: January 11, 2008

Stars: Hilary Swank
Other Stars: David Morrissey, Idris Elba, Annasophia Robb, Stephen Rea
Director: Stephen Hopkins

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, disturbing images and some sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:39m:16s
Release Date: October 16, 2007
UPC: 012569736702
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C DA-A- C+

DVD Review

Add Hilary Swank to the list of Best Actress Oscar-winners whose career appears to take a dramatic turn for the worse, post-award. While not as prevalent as the apparent curse Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winners face (they simply disappear from the Hollywood radar altogether), this plight on top female performers can eventually prove just as career-debilitating. The paycheck offered Swank for 2007's The Reaping must have been full of zeroes, as this sad excuse for a horror film never gets off the ground, and Hilary practically sleepwalks through nearly every minute of it. Warner Home Video didn't waste much time in snatching this from theaters and unleashing it upon the unsuspecting masses via DVD.

Katherine Winter (Swank) is an Atheistic Professor at LSU who specializes in analyzing religious miracles. Out of the blue, an old friend, Father Michael Costigan (Stephen Rea) calls Katherine to tell her of mysterious burn marks that have appeared all over her photos. Katherine is skeptical until she travels to the town of Haven, Louisiana, which is full of residents who believe they have just witnessed the first of 10 plagues: a river of blood. She meets Doug Blackwell (David Morrissey), who enlists her help in discovering what's caused this strange occurrence. Many of the townspeople blame this on a 12-year-old girl named Loren McConnell (AnnaSophia Robb). With her past haunting her more now that she's learned about Loren, Katherine does what she can to find the truth behind this plague.

Call me old fashioned, but I like my horror films with at least a little bit of tension, scares, and even some blood and gore. Unfortunately, this jumbled, Exorcist: The Beginning wannabe (I thought I would never make such a comparison) is a lost cause from the outset. Director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2) isn't exactly chopped liver, but you wouldn't know it from the complete lack of style and focus on display here. His technique is one of overabundant hand-held-camera work, and numerous jump cuts. Unfortunately, the only thing even remotely scary about both of those concepts is their appearance in so many of these so-called horror films that Hollywood churns out on a weekly basis. If even a bit more time had been spent on developing an original, finely-tuned screenplay, this film might seem like more than just an elongated music video starring an Oscar-winning actress.

There isn't a single actor here that seems to be having any fun whatsoever. Swank looks completely lost at all times, just going through the motions of reciting her lines and looking befuddled. David Morrissey (Basic Instinct 2) is easily the front-runner for this year's Worst Southern Accent Award. He also never allows his character to rise above its inherent predictability. Granted, the ability to telegraph the character's true intentions is the screenplay's fault, but Morrissey could have sold it a bit more. Robb, who was so effective in the amazing Bridge to Terabithia is criminally underused here, and there's really no one else in the cast even worth mentioning, including Stephen Rea.

This is a project that never had a chance from the start. It's one of the countless examples of Hollywood green lighting a completely unoriginal idea, based solely on the notion that an award-winning star will carry it to a box office windfall. Perhaps someday, these bigwigs will catch on to the fact that there has to be something to draw in audiences other than a household name. Until then, ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Reaping.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: We have a choice between a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation on one side of the disc and a full screen one on the other. The former is easily the transfer of choice, but both options contain crystal clear, detailed images throughout. The overly-stylized visuals rely heavily on a vast array of colors, and these transfers exhibit a wide color palette that never suffers from bleeding or other blemishes. Print flaws are virtually nonexistent, as there's very little grain and dirt.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also very impressive, featuring aggressive surround usage and tight, deep bass. The realistic sounds of swarming insects and raging fires surround the viewer, while other ambient sounds are always realistic. Dialogue is always crisp and clear, seamlessly working itself into the overall mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Michael Clayton, I Am Legend, Believers, Return to House on Haunted Hill
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras consist of some trailers for other Warner Home Video releases and four featurettes. Science of the Ten Plagues is a 16-minute piece that gives us a small-scale theological study of the film's religious themes with such experts as Professor of Old Testament Terence Fretheim, material sciences Professor Colin Humphreys, and Director of the Benfield UCL Hazard Research Center Professor Bill McGuire.

The Characters runs for seven minutes and focuses on the dynamics of the individual roles in the film. We hear from director Stephen Hopkins, producers Joel Silver and Herb Gains, along with other cast and crew members.

Next, we get A Place Called Haven, a five minute look at the locations and sets via discussions with production designer Grace Walker and location manager Peter J. Novak.

The last featurette is The Reaping: The Seventh Plague. This lasts just over a minute and is a short sit-down with Idris Elba, during which he discusses his hatred for working with insects.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Hilary Swank becomes the latest Oscar-winning actress to appear in a Hollywood dud, namely The Reaping. This "horror film" is almost completely devoid of any actual scares, and its story is practically laughable. Still, Warner Home Video delivers a solid DVD, especially when it comes to the audio and video presentations.


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