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Movie Review

The Remaining

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of terror, violence and destruction throughout, and thematic elements.

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Faith-based Disaster Supernatural Horror Thriller
1 hr. 23 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 5, 2014 (67 select theaters)
DVD: January 27, 2015
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Relevant Issues
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The Rapture

Book of Revelation


God’s Story Online home
Do you understand God’s Story? Take a multimedia journey through the Bible, from Creation to eternity. Hear and read an exciting summary of the Bible’s most important records, in chronological order.
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
more »
Director: Casey La Scala—Executive Producer of “A Walk to Remember” and “Donnie Darko”
Producer: Affirm Films
Distributor: Sony Worldwide Acquisitions
CanZion Films

“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.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—Great movie loved it. Best one of it’s kind. Hopefully, there will be more like this that actually goes by the Bible.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jane, age 27 (USA)

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)

Positive—My husband and I thought this movie was excellent! We tented it twice from Redbox. It isn’t in Redbox anymore, so I want to buy it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Teresa, age 52 (USA)
Neutral—This variation on the theme of Apocalypse is much better than any other literal interpretation of the Bible prophesies. It is a bit slow, but shows disparity of those who are left behind. There is too much unnecessary drama between characters, but at least they act as professional actors, and not like extras in “Left Behind”.

One more thing I didn’t like is the fact that Skyler’s mother, a Christian woman, with obvious signs of plastic surgery, is shown first to be raptured… not a good message. Other than that, and the reason for “average” moral rating, is that movies like this make not-Christians think that the Bible was used as a script for the movie, thus providing them with the excuse not to trust the Word of God.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Vladislav Valentinov, age 37 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Neutral—I have seen just the trailers of this film, but don’t like the way the producer and director interpret the rapture of the Church. People just falling dead because God takes just their souls to heaven?
—David R., age 62 (USA)
Negative—No 144,000? And if demons are targeting new believers in the film, where is the power of God being used to protect them from these demons, as it says in the Bible? I would much rather have seen demons being deflected off believers or prevented from coming near them and the glory of God enveloping the post-rapture believer with comfort and peace throughout this process… as it will be during the end times. It specifically says, in the book of Revelation, that for a period of time the locusts (or demons) will be allowed to torment unbelievers in an effort to get them to repent and come to Christ for healing, but no one will repent.

I usually take a liberal view of movies that are allegories of Bible characters or parallel in some way to Biblical themes. Although, when it comes to movies based directly on the Bible (such as this one, and “Exodus: God’s and Kings and Noah”), I have to take a step back, look at the film critically, and keep myself from getting too excited about it. The one thing that I do not want to do is defend a Bible-based movie when my brothers and sisters in Christ, and the Bible, are saying there is something majorly off about it.

The special effects looked better than usual for a Christian movie, but I hesitate to say that this movie is one.
—Luke, age 32 (USA)

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