As with the Rapture, so Too The Remaining: The Best Stuff's Gone from the Get-Go
- Shawn McEvoy Managing Editor, Crosswalk.com
- 2014 4 Sep
DVD Release Date: January 27, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: September 5, 2014
Genre: Christian horror/suspense
Run Time: 83 minutes
Director: Casey La Scala
Cast: Alexa Vega, Shaun Sipos, Johnny Pacar, Italia Ricci, Bryan Dechart, Liz E. Morgan
It's being billed as the "faith film to scare the hell out of audiences." (Hmmm, is that really a good match?)
And at one point following 'the Rapture,' a character says, "I am a good person, just not a churchy-good person, not a sit-in-the-pews kinda girl. Guess I blew that one." (Sounds like you're still not getting it. Like, at all).
And then there's the footage, the point-of-view. What begins as something of a found-footage, first-person, shaky-cam handheld sort of scenario is gradually told to us through more of a wide-angle observational way. ("Which character shot that?" I asked myself more than once).
Stop me if you're feeling any sense of disconnect yet.
That's how most of The Remaining feels: un-scary, un-sure of its theology, in-consistent in its methods.
Coming out in advance of this year's reboot of Left Behind (surely you've noticed how similar movies tend to come out in pairs?), The Remaining hopes to offer a "Christian horror" thrill with a message via another take on the Rapture and those it, um, leaves behind.
But several issues are immediately evident, starting with the always-prevalent problems in trying to pair Christians and horror. Go too far to one side, and horror fans won't appreciate the preaching. Too far to the other, and most religious types won't want to experience the fright or the gore. In this movie's case, the scares are minimal. Even the token "made you jump" moments don't hit home. And the movie's monsters? The giant locusts with scorpion tails who rise from the Abyss in Revelation 9:2-3? Well, they're everywhere, but we never really see them. This film may have the weight of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions behind it, but a big budget it does not.
The second issue is the characters. We meet our crew of 20-somethings at the wedding of Danny and Skylar, but I couldn't tell you the names of the rest of their entourage without looking them up. Reason: they're just not that interesting. These young actors and actresses (including Alexa Vega of Spy Kids fame) are given lines to memorize that advance the movie's message, but fail to bring much life or meaning to them.
And that brings us to the message itself: what is it? That you should go to church more often? That you should have told your girlfriend you loved her at some point during a 7-year relationship? (incidentally, this notion of "7 years" pops up more than once, and I couldn't help but see it as a nod to the Tribulation). That your pastor may not really believe any of the things he's preaching from the pulpit each week? (that might be the scariest part of the whole movie, honestly). Or is it a real, genuine, indirect-but-decent sermon on John 12:25 ("The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life") and Hebrews 13:14 ("For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come")?
Answer: all of the above. But as we've already chronicled most of what fails in The Remaining, let's look at what it does well in getting to the meaning about faith, life, and home.
Director Casey La Scala (Grind) couldn't keep his film from boring me despite it's 83-minute run time, but he also couldn't hide the fact that under all the uninspired acting and (lack of) special effects he had a clever blueprint. Take the way his settings/scenes unfold. Our first stop is a wedding that's not in a church. And, it's during the celebration of this picture of the union between God and his people when the Apocalypse begins. Planes fall from the sky. Those who are left do less looting and rioting than mourning, questioning, seeking answers. This choice intrigued me. Somehow, it felt legit.
Next, the "action" moves to a church where there has been no belief. That's right - the local pastor has been left behind, having witnessed his family being raptured (in this Rapture, the Lord does not call home body and soul; bodies remain below as empty shells. Also, all children are saved, though the film does not name an age of accountability for sin). Pastor Shay (John Pyper-Ferguson, She's the Man) is the most interesting character in the film, coming to belief and choosing to pastor now "for the first time in my life," but as the old horror trope goes, his interestingness means he may not last very long. The entire mystery of the movie seems to be for the characters to figure out why the monsters attack anyone who seems to have a genuine faith epiphany.
Finally, the story moves to a hospital where there is no medicine, where science can no longer be of any assistance to humanity. And from there to a military compound, where strength in numbers and weapons would appear to grant security, but the very grace and time to reflect that they provide prove detrimental. Or do they? If a character wishes to live as long as he or she can on Earth, then yes. But, why would that be your goal during such times? And by extension, why would that ever have been your goal?
As it is with the Rapture, so it is with The Remaining: after it happens, you realize most of the quality was sucked out to begin with, but a scant few elements worth holding on to remain. That is to say, if you can sort through everything to consider the notion of what it would really look like on Earth if much of the population ceased using their bodies, and the puzzle that those left would have to figure out ("Why wasn't I taken?" "Is there any way to God now?" "Why isn't the word 'rapture' in this Bible?" "Why do these films only take place in America?"), and what it really means to live, then there is value. But to get to it, you have to sit through some pretty intense anticlimax (oxymoron intended) and mixed messages first, and a promise for thrills that never materializes. Better to just chat over coffee. Or chocolate-covered locusts, perhaps?
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Language/Profanity: some yelling at God, but no cursing
- Drinking/Smoking: Some shots of a wedding reception where drinking may be presumed but not made obvious
- Sex/Nudity: One character's dress is peeled off in the back to treat her injuries, as it is, the top of her underwear is seen; one male character films another standing at a urinal (nothing is seen); and another male character is de-pantsed, revealing his boxer shorts
- Violence/Crime: half of the world's population falls "dead," and their bodies lie everywhere; monsters attack, mostly unseen; one character is stabbed through the back and out the abdomen by a giant stinger;
- Religion/Morals/Marriage: the bride's parents say they would have preferred the couple had married in the church, but didn't want to push; SEVERAL philosophies of what constitutes a 'good person' (or a worthy-to-be-raptured person, or a 'Christian' person) are discussed, some of them discarded as the characters learn more about faith; characters discuss why it takes other characters so long to commit in marriage to their significant others, with lines like, "When you find 'The One,' you act on it"; lines like "I went to church, I did everything right" and "the good are gone, the bad are left" are everywhere; characters pray; characters learn that the demonic monsters are drawn to kill anyone who displays genuine faith
Publication date: September 5, 2014