Sunday, April 15, 2007

Geeks Guide to the Theater: The Reaping

"The only miracle is that people keep believing." - Katherine Winter (portrayed by Hillary Swank

This movie had "B-class horror film" stamped all over it and its singular actress with mass name-recall seemed to prove it. But I wanted to watch The Reaping because I wanted to know how they would murder the Bible's teachings on the 10 plagues this time around. I guess it's just like not being able to help but want to witness a tragedy in the making. Thus, one boring Sunday afternoon, I managed to convince my sister and cousin to watch it with me. Despite my natural aversion to horror flicks, I still paid the fee to get the bejeezus scared outta me.

I haven't done any cinemaholic criticisms for a long time. Too long perhaps that I sat rooted to my seat during the opening scene. On-screen, this oldish, unkempt guy woke up at the middle of the night because he felt something was wrong. It turns out, all his pictures of this woman Katherine (Swank) were burning. Her faces were obscured by the scorch marks. And then! He realized that if he places all his pictures together, it forms a kind of pattern : a sickle turned upside down. Whoa! Okay, wait just a minute...

So early in the movie, the story was already down on its knees begging us to accept that this non-descript man which turns out to be a priest, instead of calling the fire department or running out of his room death-scared, found the brain power to leap into the conclusion that it actually was a message and that if he just finagle it a bit, he'd see something otherworldly. Like in 20 seconds flat.

I hate improbable scenes like this. It would probably impress Paris Hilton, but give credit to the non-automaton part of the population with functioning brain cells, won't ya? But I'm glad I stayed because, it got better from there.

The next scene showed us Katherine Winter in Southern America investigating the miraculous non-decaying body of a priest who died 40 years ago. A progression of brief scenes led us to the resolution that the reason for the "miracle" was a mixture of chemicals improperly disposed by a nearby company, resulting to the non-decomposed body and a slew of "possessions" in the masses (due to the hallucinatory effect of the gases).

She presented this to her class in Louisiana where she stated: "I've investigated 42 miraculous events with 42 very scientific and logical explanations." She teaches students her belief that there are no miracles, and therefore, no God.

Not bad now, and some of my brain cells were engaged to how the story will play out. It was not long then, when she was approached by a small-town Math teacher who asked for help to solve a mystery in their town. In the little county of Haven, a whole river turned into blood and the townsfolk are afraid that it is the first of the biblical 10 plagues wreaking havoc.

New York, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Manila... Why God will choose to manifest His anger in a small town in the outskirts of Louisiana out of all the sinful cities in the world was definitely a puzzler. But I quelled my rambunctious inner critic and decided to stay with the plot.

This is where it all unravels as Katherine, along with her colleague Ben, tries to make sense of the plagues dropping on them one by one like irritant frogs from the sky. All the weird manifestations seems to be emanating from a wisp of a girl and it was soon that the whole town was in a rage to kill her, innocent-looking as she may be. They are convinced that she is the Devil Incarnate and she is the source of all evil plaguing the town.

Katherine as it happens was an ordained pastor in the past, losing her faith only when she lost her family during a mission. She is now perfectly in time to save this little town from being destroyed. And by helping the small town, she saves the whole world (as per usual)! But she was shown as quite unsure how to help. Gut feel tells her the child is innocent, but the proofs she gathered shows that the girl might be at the center of satanic events.

In a whirlwind twist of events, the epiphany comes when we realize that perhaps the greatest evil is not wrought by innocent hands but by the continual fear and loss of beliefs of the people around her. And yes, we get the whole slew of the 10 plagues up to the death of all first-born children.

I have to stop here because it would ruin the movie for you, if ever you plan to watch it. I would recommend it with only the slightest of hesitations. It is NOT the world's greatest movie on the plagues, but it is enough to bother you. And that bothersome feeling usually leads to introspection and hopefully will lead to the question I asked myself after finishing the film:

Is my faith strong enough?

That's the end-all and be-all of it anyway.

Happy Harvest, everyone.

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