Reaping, The (2007)

Rated: R
Grade: BDBB=B
Budget: $40 million
Box Office: $25 million US, $37 million int’l, $9 million DVD

Directed by: Stephen Hopkins, who has made The Life and Death of Peter Sellars, some 24 episodes, Lost in Space, Blown Away, Predator 2, and Nightmare on Elm Street 5.
Starring: Hillary Swank, David Morrissey, AnnaSophia Robb, Idris Elba, and Stephen Rea.

An ordained pastor who lost her daughter to superstitious violence in Africa and lost her faith now travels the world debunking miracles by finding the scientific explanations behind them. Called to a small town to investigate what looks like the ten Biblical plagues, the locals try to enlist her help in killing the young girl who seems to be responsible for it all. I've tried to avoid plot spoilers, but I may not have succeeded.

Entertainment Value: B
For whatever reason, this is the second horror movie about phenomena debunkers we’ve watched. 1408 was average, this was better. I generally stay away from horror movies, but this was pretty interesting, mostly because of the theological content.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sexuality D, Violence F, Language B, Illegality D
Part of the plot centers on a young girl’s first period and there is one scene with some fairly graphic sexuality. The language is actually PG except for one F word. But the real issues here are violence such as a suicide, ritual sacrifices, lots of scenes of scary knives, and an end scene with great violence. Also, the depiction of the ten plagues entails some fairly gruesome images of livestock, for example.

Significant Content: B
The clear main theme here is science versus the supernatural and the loss of faith. Otherwise, it’s a movie with real depictions of God and also of evil, although, in the tradition of such movies, there’s also a lot of non- and extra-Biblical gunk, too.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
One defect with the movie is that a lot of it was told in a way that made it difficult or even impossible to follow coherently. Another problem is that several of the plot elements didn’t really add up, such as the sex scene and developments with the priest. Also, the ending was quite good up until the last 30 seconds or so of it. But the movie is really useful for discussion, and I think quite Bible friendly.

Discussion Questions:
~The main reason for many people’s loss of faith is a major disappointment they blame on God. Why do people react this way? Compare Swank’s character and Ben in regards to the impact of events on their faith. Have you ever been tempted to give up your faith because of something bad you blamed on God? Has your faith been strengthened by something miraculously good that happened? Can we credit God for good things without blaming Him for bad things?
~The DVD extras have a discussion of the possible science behind the ten plagues of Egypt. Do these explanations trouble you or reinforce your faith? How might a scientist approach something more fundamental such as the resurrection of Jesus?
~Do you think this movie winds up affirming the existence of supernatural phenomena or affirming skepticism?
~What does this movie have to say about religious hypocrisy? What will real religious hypocrites look like? Do you think they’ll carry Bibles and quote them?
~How does Ben’s presence in the movie as a Christian affect your attitude toward the events and credibility of the movie? Does his answer to the question about why he helps Swank satisfy you?
~Is this movie pro-occult or pro-God? How does the ending affect your answer? Consider Christian principles like redemption and grace as well as judgment.
~“When God performs a miracle such as the plagues, He is sending a message.” How can we decipher catastrophes from God as opposed to just naturally occurring? What should we do when the message is ambiguous?
~The “prophecy” governing events in this movie is pretty weird. Can you think of any real examples of people believing and following strange beliefs like this?
~What is the Bible’s pattern regarding first-born and second-born? Consider Cain and Able, Esau and Jacob, Adam and Christ, and Passover.

Overall Grade: B
It’s not the most plausible of plots, but it’s still a pretty interesting movie, although Jeffrey Overstreet thought it was totally worthless.

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