Hell Plaza Oktoberfest
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2007 (2007) - Warner Bros.
For the most part, the big Hollywood studios have no business
trying to make horror movies. Sure, there are some pretty
incredible exceptions. The Exorcist
and Jaws spring
immediately to mind. And I have nothing against studio movies.
In any given year, you can count on the studios producing some
fun blockbusters, a few really funny comedies and several
quality dramas. But if they produce one genuinely scary horror
movie, it's a minor miracle.
This doesn't stop them from trying, of course. Part of the
problem is that although horror movies can be profitable,
they're rarely megahits. So the budgets for these studio
creepshows tend to be modest, resulting lately in some chintzy
digital effects and more often than not, one relatively big star
anchoring a cast of much cheaper talent. Case in point: The
Reaping starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank.
plays Katherine Winter, a debunker of supposed miracles who turned
her back on God after the death of her husband and daughter. As
presented here, she seems to be kind of a female Indiana Jones
specializing in religion. She's asked to investigate the tiny
Louisiana town of Haven after the water in the local river
supposedly turns to blood. Folk think this is the first of the ten
Old Testament-style plagues that will be visited upon them and are
eager to lay the blame on a small girl (AnnaSophia Robb) whom they
suspect murdered her brother. 'Cause she might just be, y'know, the
spawn of Satan.
Very few religious horror movies have worked. There's The
Exorcist, of course, and the original version of The
Omen is fun. But there are a lot more clunkers in this
subgenre than winners. Stigmata,
End of Days, pretty much any
movie about demonic possession that isn't written by William Peter
Blatty. The Reaping is no
exception. For awhile, it's simply boring. Not much happens except
for the usual unearned scares that studio horror movies revel in.
You know 'em... the audience jumps because they've been startled
into awareness by the sudden appearance of someone or something and
a burst of intensely loud music, not because they're invested in the
story. In the final act, The Reaping
turns aggressively stupid. As usual, the atheist protagonist
discovers the error of her ways and returns to the lord. As usual,
there's a whole lot of noise and bad special effects to take the
place of suspense and hammer you into thinking you're frightened.
And as usual, there's a litany of last second plot twists that
aren't particularly surprising unless this is the very first movie
you've ever seen.
Warner's DVD looks and sounds just swell, and it damn well better
considering the movie is only about six months old. Extras are
limited to a quartet of brief and non-illuminating featurettes. The
Science of the 10 Plagues is an In
Search of Historic Jesus style documentary that
essentially just reinforces Hilary Swank's monologue offering
scientific explanations for the Biblical plagues that befell ancient
Egypt. The Characters is one
of those quick featurettes where the actors attempt to justify why
they bothered to make this movie in the first place. A
Place Called Haven examines the locations and sets. It's
the most interesting one on the disc but it doesn't have much
competition. The Reaping: The Seventh
Plague is an in-depth sixty seconds on the filming of the
big locust scene.
I didn't expect a whole lot from The
Reaping. Studio horror movies are usually pretty weak
anyway and Hilary Swank, while an interesting actress, has dubious
taste in big-paycheck assignments. Even so, this was worse than I
thought it was going to be. I'm really tired of atheists being
forced to admit how wrong they are in movies and even more sick of
sweet-faced little girls being depicted as tools of evil. If you
reap what you sow, somebody must have spread a lot of fertilizer
before they planted The Reaping.
Film Rating: D+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/C-
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