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Movie Review

The Reaping

MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing images and some sexuality

Review coming from Staff Writer: Chris Monroe

Average (for its genre)
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Supernatural Thriller, Horror, Religious
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
April 5, 2007 (wide)
Copyright, Warner Bros.
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Relevant Issues
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Biblical plagues

How can we know there’s a God? Answer

What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer

What does God say? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

Miracles of the Bible




Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer

Demon Possession and Influence—Can Christians be demon possessed? In what ways can Satan and his demons influence believers? Answer

THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

What is the Occult? Answer

Is Jesus Christ the answer to your questions?
Discover the good news that Jesus Christ offers
Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?
Why is the world the way it is? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) Answer
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Featuring: Hilary Swank, AnnaSophia Robb, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, Manolo Cardona
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Producer: Erik Olsen, Steve Richards, Bruce Berman
Distributor: Warner Bros.

Hilary Swank. Copyright, Warner Brothers.See our interviews with the cast and crew of “The Reaping”—GO

“What hath God wrought?”

It almost goes without saying that “The Reaping” is based on the principle that whatsoever you sow, that you will also reap (Galatians 6:7). This “Supernatural Thriller” from Dark Castle Entertainment is a movie that excites, scares, thrills and horrifies, but what it also does is see justice done for both the good and the evil. And while its delivery is primarily shock and awe, this sensationalized entertainment does not fail to include important story elements like character development, unexpected twists and turns, believable drama—and the concept of faith in God woven throughout it all.

Katherine Winter (two-Time Academy Award Winner, Hilary Swank) works as a scientist traveling the world to demystify what others claim to be genuine, supernatural miracles. With a track record for scientifically explaining every miracle she has set out to discredit, Katherine is more than sure she can tackle yet another phenomenon, this time in a small town “in the heart” of the Bible belt. But when her tried and true tactics are brutally tested, her situation becomes life or death. Having abandoned her belief in God years ago after suffering a tragedy as a missionary, Katherine is not only in a battle of faith versus science, but also in a personal, inner struggle confronting her doubts about God.

While this film might fit into the horror genre, the creators of this entertainment are billing it as a “Supernatural Thriller.” One of the reasons for this is that they believe it is smarter than your typical horror film. But another reason it seems different is because of the limited graphic violence, although some brief moments are depicted. The director, Stephen Hopkins (“The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” “Lost In Space,” “Predator 2”), says, “Our goal was always to frighten people through atmosphere and ideas, rather than just simply outright gore.” Overall, the film seeks to thrill you by keeping you on the edge of your seat (in between the times you are jumping out of it) rather than just making you sick with violence.

The film is rated R, and the reasons for that involve some violence already mentioned, some disturbing images, an instance of the F-word, and a brief sex scene with no nudity. The violent instance is presented in various short flashbacks where a young boy is killed. Another instance shows some tough guys from the town being attacked by a swarm of locusts. The disturbing images involve a glimpse into a room full of dead children and a setting in a basement where occult practices take place. These instances occur sporadically for “atmosphere,” while it’s the action and suspense of the movie that are intended to scare you (i.e., Katherine is in a house by herself and slowly walks down into a dark basement).

The Christian elements involved in this production are certainly done on purpose. The supernatural events that happen in this small Bible belt town named “Haven” are taken directly from the Old Testament (Exodus 7–11) where God caused ten various plagues to hit ancient Egypt. One of the characters in the movie even makes a comment about how these supernatural events are like the ones in the Old Testament. (Something to note here, however, is that there have been some references to the New Testament in regards to this movie, specifically in the book of Revelation where similar supernatural events occur—but there is nothing inherent in this movie that points to that.) Either way, the creators have acknowledged that they are working directly with Biblical concepts. (See interview article)

Another Christian element that was purposely added into this film is the character of Ben (Idris Elba), Katherine’s fellow scientist and co-worker who helps investigate miracles. The twist here is that Ben is an outright Christian, complete with cross tattoo, cross necklace—and a testimony of how God saved his life to boot. It’s a deliberate juxtaposition to Katherine’s character and provides a way for her beliefs (or lack thereof) to be discussed. Throughout the movie, Ben is presented positively, too, as a respected associate, friend, and support to Katherine, offering her comfort and encouragement at a moment when she is terrified.

Another interesting character that appears a few times throughout the movie is Father Costigan (Stephen Rea), a priest whom Katherine has known since she was a missionary in Sudan. Father Costigan’s involvement in Katherine’s life helps instigate her thoughts about God, but in the end he seems to represent a version of faith that is dead and gone. The point seems to be made that any choice Katherine may make to believe in God again will be new and fresh—and not in a traditional, formalized religion. However, Father Costigan is instrumental in Katherine’s journey of faith.

“The Reaping” operates as a typical suspense/thriller/horror film (sans some typical gratuity) and melds in a significant dose of Christian themes and ideas. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you like this kind of entertainment, as a Christian you can find it much more gratifying than most movies of its kind.

Director Stephen Hopkins. Copyright, Warner Brothers.See our interviews with the cast and crew of “The Reaping”—GO

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

aViewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—Great movie! Fairly clean for an R-flick. It’s good, edge-of-your-seat entertainment, and despite the approximate hour and a half run time, everything is developed quite nicely and doesn’t feel too rushed. I recommend it for everyone looking for a fresh thrill ride.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Jacob Keenum, age 20
Positive—I saw “The Reaping” in theaters with my brother. The movie kept me in suspense the majority of the time. The acting was superb! I liked the fact that the Bible and the plaques were NOT made fun of, but taken seriously! I really liked Ben… he was my favorite. We all need friends like him, even though Swank’s character lost her faith, Ben still remained her friend throughout her ordeal and until his death. Also, she lost her faith, but she ended up getting it back at the end of the movie. I really liked that!
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Aleshia Horner, age 19
Positive—I really liked this movie because it is unique in the way it portrays the Christian faith. It makes viewers reevaluate stereotypical judgments and generalizations about the church, making a distinction between true faith in God and “church culture,” by pointing out that while organized religious structures can be flawed or hypocritical God is faithful, loving, and unchanging. It speaks against turning away from God because of hurts from the church or because of unjust suffering.

In the beginning the main character turned from her faith because her family was killed and she believed that God did not help her. Throughout the movie it is revealed that her family was murdered and many other horrible things happen because of satan, against the will of God. The movie shows how God loves and forgives her despite her mistakes, how he has a plan for her life, and how he does bring judgment on evil people. It shows a fresh start on faith that has been destroyed and focuses on portraying spiritual warfare as real and serious and God as the almighty power (unlike some movies that equate good with weakness or innocent naivety).

It is a bit offensive at times (imagery etc.), and does portray traditional religious rituals to be somewhat defunct or to have lost real spiritual, personal meaning—but the motive of this portrayal does not seem to be to scoff at Christianity. It seems only to be saying that Christianity is about something much more important than “tradition” or one churches chosen way of thinking/practicing. For Christian audiences the movie could have stated these viewpoints much more obviously/bluntly, but the way it was done it gets non-Christians to think, instead of blowing it off as an evangelical flick with a motive.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Cristin, age 19
Positive—From the filmmaking point of view: This movie is excellent!!! The visual effects are magnificent, absolutely amazing, the music pretty scary, the plot is very interesting, not the same lame and boring story of a tipical horror movie. All the time you are trying to understand what’s happening.

From the religious point of view: Well, I think this movie, at the beginning, discredit some things about the religion and the miracles, it tries to explain everything with science. But, you can’t blame the main character (Hilary Swank) I mean, the poor lady lost her husband and her daughter, and she just was trying to help others, and spreading the word of God. That’s why she turned into a women of science. It all begin when she is called to a mysterious town, where strange things happen, the water had turned red, and she is supposed to solve the mystery, according to her, everything had a cientific explanation, but according to people, everything was caused by a mysterious twelve years old girl.

The things turn bad, when more plagues appears, and that girl is the one responsable, apparently she is the antichrist. The little girl was grown up by a satanic sect. I don’t want to tell the whole story, If I do, I will ruin the movie. In the end all turns well, and I think the message is very clear: God never abandon you, even though if you turn your back on him.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Gerardo, age 20
Positive—I rate this movie as excellent FOR ADULTS ONLY! But I think this is a must see. I loved this movie! This is one that will get you thinking, and that’s the best part. It is like the best kind of “thriller.” AND IT IS A THRILLER, but it’s so worth watching. It is an all-around good film. It takes you for a ride, and just when you think you’ve figured it out… you haven’t. God is a central theme in this movie, more than you realize… and it definitely has me re-reading several parts of the bible. Especially the plagues in Exodus, because this gives you a sense of what it was like for those enduring them in the biblical times. What I love about this movie, is that no matter how hard the characters try to disprove God’s existence… they can’t! Never underestimate God! Hang on to your seat, and GO WATCH THIS MOVIE!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Nikki, age 27
Positive—1—Concepcion, Chile, looks more like Haiti or Jamaica; Chile has no black people or dressed like if you live in the Caribbean sea (oh, that ugly yellow hawaiian style shirt, writers influence, I guess)
2—God is nowhere (only father played by Stephen Rea shows on)
3—Ben role was too much 2nd place, biblical references must be introduced, more
4—the end was confused, fantastic, too much “Hollywood”
5—frighten scenes “irrealistic,” mixing courage, dare, with stupidity (a shadow run to unknown woods, you “must” follow it; a deep sound behind a rusty door, you “must” open it, etc, okay, that is “Hollywood”).
6—southern people are “always” the evil? this can’t happen in, for example, New England?
7—anyway, it is very decent, compared with other things.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Luis (Argentina, South America), age 35
Neutral—This movie is DEFINITELY not for kids. It is very intense and scary. Kids under 13 would have nightmares I think. Mine would anyhow. I heard one F-word. The main thing about this film is its intensity. I enjoy this kind of movie, my husband, who is a pastor, did not like it. Lots of references to the Bible and the plagues of Egypt. If you like scary, intense, moody movies, I think you would get a kick out of Reaping. Otherwise, this is not for you. Frankly, I didn’t understand the ending, and neither did my husband. I hate when that happens!!
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Maggie, age 59
Neutral—I wanted to make sure that parents knew a few things before attending this show with their children, thinking that there are some redeeming values here. It was well done and well acted, but don’t think there are any morals at the end of the story. The whole biblical reference is a misnomer. More like taking a tiny bit of truth and misapplying it. The whole storyline is mystical in nature, a far-fetched, fictional creation of someone’s imagination. It has nothing to do with the bible except that it does show the plagues from the old testament. In fact, it takes a child, who is called an angel, and makes her the savior. There are 2 sex scenes that were embarrassing for me to sit through. (actually the second time was a revisiting of the first sex scene) It was blatant, there was no subtlety, and even though it stops just shy of “hustler” style porn, there is no doubt what is happening. There is a child who has blood running down her legs, who supposedly “came of age.” The saddest part is when the woman scientist has finally accepted her relationship with God again and then finds out… well, it ends there. Talk about Rosemary’s baby. *sigh*
My Ratings: Offensive / 3½
—Karen Cook, age adult
Negative—This film is another example of how Hollywood finds it difficult to produce good movies. …The movie is filled with scenes to portray the American South in a negative way. For example the radio station playing with a preacher saying, “Jesus is the bullet in your gun,” or the mother washing her son’s hair out of a bucket in her front yard next to the mailbox. …There is an obvious anti-southern, anti-conservative bias in the movie. The producers made sure include two church sign’s with badly written English in the movie so the viewers can make the implicit connection between the hypocritical, conservative community and Christianity for themselves. Sorry, Hollywood, but in your attempt to show your political liberal biases via the movie medium are pretty simple-minded and make it diffucult to justify spending $10 to see this movie.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Raimund, age 42
Negative—Before deciding to see “The Reaping,” I came to this Web site to read the review and viewer comments to decide if my wife and I should see it. The review reads like a thumbs-up, and all the comments were positive. Wow, were we in for a shock! It certainly wasn’t what I thought we were going to see. You might get the idea the movie has something Biblical or Christian to say up until about the halfway point, then the movie swings way into left field and turns into a typical b-movie horror flick, despite the high budget cinematography and special effects. The priest starts talking about ancient symbols and prophecies in some book coming true, where someone is marked to be an avenging angel and another is the son of Satan or whatever. The ending was a typical cheap set-up for a, most likely, straight-to-video sequel. All the scares are the same, with slow action build up, then something jumps into the scene with a loud booming sound effect to make you jump.

Some use of taking the Lord’s name in vain. One F-word, with other language frequency somewhat mild for a standard rated R flick, although that’s not exactly a redeeming factor. Christian character shown swearing and covered with tattoos. While no actual “nudity,” depending on your definition, there was more than enough flesh shown during the first sex scene, plus it’s obvious what’s going on. This movie was reminescent of “Carrie” (blood running down girl’s leg to show she’s gotten her period, girl with amazing powers) and “The Omen.” (Prophesy, Son of Satan)

We were both incredibly disappointed after seeing this movie. I wish we’d have walked out when it first occurred to me to do so, but I guess I figured the movie would turn around and get better or something. There’s nothing really worthwhile in this movie for a Christian, except maybe for getting an idea of what the plagues might have looked like, but those are nothing more than special effects. Stick to the book of Exodus, you’ll be much better off. I give the movie making quality a 3. It was a good-looking movie with big budget special effects, but nothing amazing going on with the acting, and the same thoughtless scare tactic over and over got irritating quick.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Andy, age 37
Negative—Contrary to what the reviewer suggests, I do not believe christians can benefit from this movie. Have we christians become cheap thrill seekers, or what? In my view, an unwholesome fascination for Satan’s power is present throughout the movie. The satanic cult and the “prophecies” regarding the birth of a child “in the image of Satan,” not to mention the ambiguous ending, have of course no christian basis and can only lead the viewer to forget that Jesus already “disarmed the powers and authorities, made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). In my opinion, sensationalism is most unwelcome when it comes to topics like God, the devil, faith… Likewise, spiritual warfare has nothing to do with what we see in horror movies. This was a waste of time.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3½
—Eric, age 31
Negative—…stupefyingly satanical—a movie that glorifies satan and demonstrates evil power and uses that to get “ticket paying tushes on seats”… The director of this movie was quoted as saying “Our goal was always to frighten people through atmosphere and ideas, rather than just simply outright gore.” Frighten people. Frighten people!!! The kind of frightening that goes on in the movie is not of God. God does not put upon us a spirit of fear. Read the other three negative reviews for this film, because they say everything I want to say. Movies like this use satanical themes to get the adrenalin rushes happening—giving all credit to Satan for his themes and for “thrilling” the audiences. …I too wish I had of walked out. Had I not been with my husband, who wanted to watch it 'til the end. I most certainly would have left. I found myself looking at Hilary Swank in the movie—checking out her hair and clothes—and I was fed up with the evil and satanical themes. …I wasn’t going to give Satan what he wanted, so I didn’t jump out of my seat once—and this movie most certainly does have many elements in it that will make you sick. There was sickening violence depicted in many forms: The voodoo witch doctor was an assaulting, violent character! Need I go on??
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3
—Maria, age 38
Negative—…I kept watching thinking surely it is going to get better that the Christian element would overpower evil, but it did not. In fact, it seemed as if Satan had won as they set up the sequel. The evil and satanic elements in it were so strong, it took both my friend and me several days to get rid of the dark horrible feeling the movie leaves you with. …
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3
—Jean, age 59
Comments from young people
Positive—“The Reaping” borrows from supernatural horror classics such as “The Exorcist,” “The Omen,” and 'Rosemary’s Baby,' but certainly is not comparable. Anyone expecting a true horror film or any kind of point will be let down. However, for those who enjoy entertaining popcorn-movies masquerading as true horror films, this is one of the best. Complete with odd supernatural occurrences, over-acting, a seriously bloated sense of self-dignity, and explosions.

The type of movie that audiences love but critics hate, mindless fun at its near-best. Go see it for a good time. (Content: Violence/gore is heavy, mostly based on Biblical plagues. Sexual activity is present in two scenes, but no explicit nudity is shown. Language is very limited for an R-rated horror film. Only one use of truly harsh language.)
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3
—Chris Sosa, age 17
Positive—I liked this movie. It was really mild for R and had lots of biblical references. It was very interesting. It is a good thriller, and there is absolutely no language! There is a short sex scene though. My favorite part was Hilary Swank's best friend, a Christian man who was shown as really cool and a good solid friend and not a weirdo. See it!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Mag, age 16