It takes a biblical plague for Hilary Swank to re-discover her faith in The Reaping, but it´s going to take a lot more for audiences to enjoy this film, effectively termed “biblesploitation” by Variety´s Justin Chang.
Swank stars as a college professor and miracle debunker enlisted by rural schoolteacher David Morrissey (with a godawful Southern accent) to come to his town of Haven and check out their new river of blood.
After a watchable and mostly coherent first hour, which would have made a nice X-Files episode, the film spectacularly crashes and burns as it attempts to convince us of the biblical implications, spewing religious propaganda and pandering to a Christian audience.
Effects are widely variable, producing a couple memorable scenes (the blood river and a locust plague) and awful others (a fiery finale and entirely unconvincing CGI cows – perhaps they wanted to make the suffering animals look as fake as possible to avoid controversy).
Pic is also full of inconsistencies; my favorite: Swank refers to the blood river having a pH level “off the chart”, suggesting that the river is not blood, which would have an easily identifiable pH level.
Later on, after receiving lab results, she confirms that the river is, in fact, human blood, ignoring her earlier statement; a case of incompetent writing misleading the audience. The same could be said for much of the rest of the film.