While the premise of "The Reaping" concerns the 10 Biblical plagues, the film itself is plagued by supernatural horror movie clichés: swarms of cheesy dialogue, a rain of implausible plot twists and overwhelming darkness in place of actual scares. A solid cast and abundance of Southern atmosphere can do only so much to keep apocalyptic silliness at bay.
As with many other Satanic-themed thrillers, the hero here suffers from a lapse in religious faith. Former minister Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank, "Million Dollar Baby") gave up on God and turned to debunking alleged miracles after the murder of her husband and daughter.
A science teacher (David Morrisey, "Basic Instinct 2") from a small Louisiana town hires Katherine to deduce why a nearby river has suddenly turned blood red. The townspeople are quick to blame a little girl (AnnaSophia Robb, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), who they believe is touched by the Devil. Once other Biblical terrors, such as lice and boils, visit the town, Katherine must question her devotion to scientific fact and consider killing the possibly possessed child.
A stock heroine like Katherine may be beneath the talents of a two-time Oscar winner like Swank, but the actress brings an admirable strength and conviction to the role. The supporting cast largely follows Swank's dedicated lead, particularly a likable Idris Elba (TV's "The Wire") as Katherine's loyal partner and an intense Stephen Rea ("V for Vendetta"), as Katherine's onetime mentor.
Director Stephen Hopkins ("Lost in Space," TV's "24") uses the swampy locations to good visual effect and stages a pre-climactic locust attack with flair.
The confident acting and style put "The Reaping" above supernatural duds like "Stigmata" or last year's awful "The Omen" remake, but it's nowhere near a genre classic like "Rosemary's Baby."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times