While her choices aren't always that memorable, you have to give Hilary Swank credit for her sense of adventure. A double Oscar winner for 'Boys Don't Cry' and 'Million Dollar Baby', she's still found the time to turn up in such genre movies as 'The Core', 'The Gift' and now 'The Reaping', a religious-themed chiller, with '24' director Stephen Hopkins behind the lens.

Scientist and lecturer Katherine Winter (Swank) devotes her life to debunking supposed miracles around the globe. So far she's had a 100% success rate, and says that the only miracle is that people keep believing. But Katherine wasn't always so dismissive: once an ordained minister, her faith collapsed after the murder of her husband and daughter in Sudan some years previously.

Katherine receives a call from former colleague Father Costigan (Rea), saying that she's in danger, and at the same time school chemistry teacher Doug Blackwell (Morrissey) arrives at the university where she teaches asking for her help.

Blackwell lives in a Bible Belt town called Haven, where the locals are living in terror. The town's river has turned red following the death of a young boy and almost everyone believes that his sister (Robb) is responsible for both.

Intrigued by the story but convinced there's a scientific explanation, Katherine travels to Haven with her assistant Ben (Elba). But the case is anything but open and shut, and soon after their arrival more strange things start to happen.

This is ludicrous but watchable hokum, not on a level with 'The Omen' or 'The Exorcist' but better than some of what's offered up these days in the name of horror. Hopkins gives the whole thing the feel of a TV movie with a bigger budget and Swank gamely throws herself into the role. Most impressive of all are the visual effects, which involve biblical plagues - dead frogs, locust, lice, collapsing cows and lightning all make an appearance - and give the film a bit more interest than an unhinged man chasing teenagers with a farming implement.

But Hopkins proves himself a sinner by rushing the storyline. The twist is revealed far too quickly and the ending comes around too suddenly afterwards. A pity, because there was more tension and terror to be wrung from the storyline and the final scene cliffhanger could've hung off the cliff in a more memorable manner.

There could be a sequel; if you're a horror fan chances are you'd sit through it.

Harry Guerin