Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
|Featuring:||Johnny Pacar … Tommy
Shaun Sipos … Jack
Bryan Dechart … Dan
Alexa PenaVega (as Alexa Vega) … Skylar
Italia Ricci … Allison
Liz E. Morgan … Sam
John Pyper-Ferguson … Pastor Shay
Kim Pacheco … Nurse Rachel
Hayley Lovitt … Southern Belle
|Director:||Casey La Scala—Executive Producer of “A Walk to Remember” and “Donnie Darko”|
|Distributor:||Sony Worldwide Acquisitions
“After the rapture, there are fates worse than death.”
With the remake of “Left Behind” coming out soon, it was perhaps inevitable that similar films would hit the market. In this case, “The Remaining” is a disaster/horror based on the same premise: what happens to those who are “Remaining” (left behind) after the rapture.
Now, sometimes, making a Christian film can be a double-edged sword. Secularists will attack and ridicule the film, while some Christians will deride the film for poor theology or bad exegesis. Sometimes it is a no win situation. Therefore, I will review this film first as a movie. Then I will review the film from a theological perspective. The reader can be left to ascertain the value left behind these two.
The movie itself is well filmed and has the look and feel of a horror film, albeit this includes the hand held camera technique which is overused in many horror films today. It is written and directed by Casey La Scala who best known for “Donnie Darko” and an upcoming Amityville remake (or spin off). To that end, this is best described as a horror film. I am not familiar with Casey La Scala’s spiritual journey, but it is worth noting that it was he who first pitched the idea of a “faith based-horror movie” to Sony division Affirm Films. So this movie is rightly classified as a horror film.
The film’s best known star is Alexa Vega of “Spy Kids” fame, as well as some other younger stars. The film therefore relies on its script, visuals, and directing, rather than “star power.” Perhaps that is how it should be. The film opens with a wedding and six good friends. Soon Rapture happens, leaving millions of dead bodies (see notes below) followed by the plagues of Revelation. Together these six friends struggle to survive in an apocalyptic world, finding faith along the way.
From a strictly cinematic standpoint, the film is fairly entertaining and well made. The message is good, but muted and mixed (see notes below). If I were not a believer, I do not know what I would think of the film, but I suspect I would feel about the same way I do now. It is an above average disaster/horror film with neither anything to make it stand out, nor anything to make me dislike it. I consider it a noble effort from an industry that traditionally mocks or even blasphemes Christianity and treats prophecy as a joke or generic theme having no relation to the Bible (I could name any number of Hollywood horror films about the apocalypse—like Schwarzeneggar’s awful “End of Days”). To this end, I was pleased that the film that was respectful to prophecy, even though its interpretation is suspect in some regards. This leads to the greater issue which affects the film’s impact.
Is it Biblical? Well, let us look at the film cinematically. It has always been an impossible task to take seven years of tribulation (the generally agreed upon time frame for the book of Revelation) and squeeze them into a two hour movie. To that end, the director focuses solely upon six characters, with little emphasis upon the specific events of Revelation. This can be considered either good or bad. Cinematically, it is probably a good choice, but it also makes the film more suspect from a Christian view, for there is no anti-Christ, no 144,000 saints, and only two of the plagues of Revelation appear in this film. Let us look at the Biblical issues.
First, Casey La Scala decided to depict Rapture not as the taking of our bodies into heaven, but of our souls alone—leaving behind dead bodies. While this is not an unheard of interpretation of Rapture (Reformer Matthew Poole may have supported the idea), it is one which most theologians will scoff at. Cinematically, it is actually a good idea, as it elevates the film’s “horror” theme, but the film will probably take some backlash for this suspect interpretation. Another oddity is that only two plagues appear in the film. The first is a literal depiction of literal hail (Revelation 8:7) at the first trumpet (incidentally, the Bible doesn’t describe Rapture at the first trumpet); and the locusts of the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9). These locusts are depicted in the film as actual demons who are to torment people, but herein lies the next questionable interpretation. In Revelation 9:4, it is clear that the locusts are forbidden to torment believers, but in “The Remaining” the demons target and torment believers, not unbelievers. Whenever anyone turns to faith, the demons come and kill them. Once again, from a cinematic standpoint, this is an interesting choice as the heroes’ choice to accept “faith” is coupled with knowledge of impending death. It works effectively for the horror genre, but is suspect exegesis.
Now, ultimately, “the Remaining” is a film, not a “Bible textbook,” as the saying goes. It works pretty well and effectively as a horror film, and its theology, although clearly divergent from solid exegesis, is respectful. There is a recurring theme in the film that “being spiritual is not enough,” and faith is required, although the only time that Jesus seems to be mentioned by name is in a radio which is heard playing in the background. The film can therefore be a “conversation starter.” I believe that “The Remaining” is a good effort for a low budget horror film and may be appealing to fans of the genre, although I am not sure that fans of that particular genre will be attracted to it. This is the irony. I personally hope the film succeeds, and I would certainly recommend the film on DVD. It is currently available at 67 theaters across the U.S.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor
Other films on the Rapture
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
Positive—…“The Remaining” is a true supernatural thriller. The conversations with my own teens after watching “The Remaining” led to deep discussions about authenticity, faith, and salvation.
—Mark Matlock, President of Youth Specialties
Positive—…This movie does a great job of drawing you in no matter where you are in life. It makes you think about whether you’re just attending a church or in a relationship with God and the reactions of those who may be left behind. I highly recommend everyone seeing this movie. …
—Mike Nelson, National Youth Leaders Association (NYLA)