The following review and/or rant was originally posted the old Media Observers. Due to funding issues I had to close that site down, but I pulled various articles and reviews of relevance from it to put on other sites since I felt some people found them informative and/or enjoyable. The initial version of this review/rant was posted back on December 3rd, 2014. Originally I had revived this post on Resist Studios, but I have chosen to remove it from that site and put it back on Media Observers. The one I’m posting here has some minor revisions, some new screenshots and graphics, and some minor grammatical corrections although I’m sure I did not catch everything. Additional thoughts and information are added at the end of the original post complete with the original comments which include statements and commendations on my review from Mr. Gabriel Sabloff, the director and writer, and Mr. Sean Paul Murphy, the writer. I’m saddened that I’m losing their genuine interaction with me, but since this article was one of the more popular ones on Media Observers, I felt I should try to preserve as much of the original as I could. Please enjoy and feel free to comment.
On to the review/rant:
With the possibility of a Genesis to Revelation comic project forthcoming under my Resist Studios banner, I’ve become more and more interested in various Christian produced stories. Since I already pay an $8.00 a month subscription to access free movies on Netflix I started scouring their library for any relevant material. Let me caveat this with two things. 1) I’m not doing this to rip anyone off when I do my stories, but the gamut of Christian based stories goes back deep into Christian history. Thus considering they all come from a singular source, the Bible, they’re going to have similar elements. 2) I’m going to write this in spite of my disagreements with some of the eschatological views exhibited in the Revelation Road saga. It’s not meant to be an attack on anyone or any view in any way. Some of my disagreements may come forth, but I will try to keep it to a minimum.
Revelation Road is directed by Gabriel Sabloff and produced by Pure Flix Entertainment, a company founded by David A.R. White, who also happens to be the main star of the series. The company uses its talents and resources to embark in the mission of movie ministry. You can find out more at their website.
Revelation Road starts with the first installment, The Beginning of the End, which introduces us to the main character of the series, Josh McManus (David A.R. White). If you go anywhere, Netflix, IMDB, Amazon, etc. and read the description of the movie it can be a little misleading. The Beginning of the End starts the Bible based end time sequence, but you spend most of the time in this installment experiencing Josh’s initial road to salvation. He gets involved in a confrontation with a murderous biker gang known as the Barbarians led by Hawg (Brian Bosworth). In the process Josh saves a local well respected Christian named Frank (Ray Wise) and Frank’s granddaughter, Beth (Noell Coet). Another notable actor is Steven “Sting” Borden, yup for you professional wrestling fans, that’s Sting. Steven Borden plays a member of the biker gang named Junkyard. Eric Roberts also makes an appearance as Sheriff Jensens . Andrea Logan White, wife of David A.R. White, plays Cat the daughter of Hawg. Apart from Josh and Hawg, Cat and Junkyard seem to be the secondary main characters of The Beginning of the End.
I felt the acting and story for The Beginning of the End was good for a low budget independent film, but knowing two sequels exist, I wanted to see where the entire storyline would go. So I stuck with it and in doing so I had a few surprises. One came in the form of their visualization of the rapture. Despite my eschatological disagreements with their view of the timing of the rapture, I found the representation of the rapture both interesting and visually stunning. I had never seen it done this way in a movie or television show before and to be honest I cannot say I entirely agree with the visual representation, but I just found it fascinating. If you’re familiar with the concept of spirit orbs then yeah there it is. Granted, none of us on this temporal and physical side of creation can truly attest to the visual witness of what would happen should someone receive their glorified body right before our eyes. So while spirit orbs are usually considered occultish and something we should steer clear of, it’s plausible this could be how this whole event goes down. This is all in theory as I haven’t cracked open a Bible to break it all down for this review. I could imagine some theological ramifications with that visual expression of the rapture, but I feel it’d be dishonest and slanderous to accuse Pure Flix Entertainment of some type of hidden malice regarding it.
If you want to spoil it for yourself here is a low quality video I found on Youtube of the rapture scene.
The other issue I have with The Beginning of the End is the fact it took too long to get to the final act and then when it does you’re left with a “To Be Continued” screen. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the build up between Josh and Hawg, but by the end you never get to the climax of their portion of the story. Instead you get it at the end Revelation Road Part 2. Also on a side note, I assume the natural phenomena happening around the cast during these events are supposed to be the birth pangs mentioned in Matthew 24 as the world gets closer and closer to rapture, called the Event at the end of The Beginning of the End. I don’t want to sound to critical, but I did feel this aspect of the story could have been explained a bit more so Non-Christian viewers not privy of Christian eschatological views could understand better. I understood the creators needed to establish Josh’s journey to Christ, but I also feel they could’ve better set the stage for what’s to come. With that said, I don’t think The Beginning of the End is a good watch on its own. I can only imagine the frustration some people had watching part one without the ability to go straight to part two. However, since both films were released fairly close together in 2013, I don’t think it hurt the story and message too much. Just be aware you will want to at least watch parts 1 and 2 in one sitting or fairly close together as they both seem like one move put together.
The second installment of Revelation Road bares the subtitle, Sea of Glass & Fire. Although I know this is a phrase directly out of the book of Revelation, I’m not sure how the subtitle pertains to the second portion of the story. In this installment we finish up with the rivalry between Josh and Hawg as Josh tries to get to his family immediately after the Event which ended The Beginning of the End. Hawg is in hot pursuit with his biker gang, the Barbarians, and in the process the creators dive into some back story regarding Hawg, Josh and Cat. It seems like Junkyard (Steven “Sting” Borden) takes a back seat here although he was always present in Hawg and Cat’s past. Frank’s granddaughter, Beth is still around and after having a salvation experience plus meeting God who gave her marching orders in Revelation Road pt 1, she attaches herself to Josh as soon as she sees him in The Sea of Glass and Fire. Afterwards, the two are forced to face down a trap put in place by Hawg who uses his daughter Cat as bait. At this point Cat chooses God over trying to make her father proud and unfortunately something traumatic happens. This catapults Josh into facing his past and understanding God accepts us all, flaws and all, when we willingly come to him. This revelation and new outlook on life influences his final confrontation with Hawg. Which also influences Hawg’s outlook on the world as well, but to be fair I’m leaving a lot of story out because I feel this should be experienced on its own.
Lastly, The Black Rider: Revelation Road pt 3 was released in October 2014. In this chapter it is two years after the Event, again otherwise known as the rapture. Josh is sort of a Mad Max style Nomadic Christian Warrior, but he’s primarily in the business of helping people. He’s not going around like Mad Max just trying to survive on his own and committing random acts of violence against would be villains, no he’s actually helping people. For instance, the story opens up with him trying to save a kidnapped girl during a high speed chase. During which she’s stabbed by the kidnappers after she attempts to help Josh out by kicking a guy out of the speeding van. Also during the chase the real spiritual horseman, the Black Rider makes a temporary appearance which startles the kidnappers into causing an accident. Josh manages to grab the young wounded girl named Emily played by young actress, Cristina Cibrian and due to her injuries he’s forced to take her into what appears to be a red zone marked on his map to get medical attention. Once there he’s forced to embark on a mission to find the Shepherd, played by Robert Gossett in order to find a doctor believed to have left with the Shepherd. Thus Josh’s mission to find the Shepherd in order to save Emily begins the adventure of the third installment.
Speaking of the appearance of Death, the black horse rider also known as the Fourth Horseman, this was its only scene in this movie. After he assists in the high speed chase, it maintains its manifestation at the end of the road for Josh to glare at then disappears out of sight never to show up again. However, this doesn’t mean the Fourth Horseman will be without an appearance in possible future Revelation Road installments. I think the primary reason for him appearing was the ambiguity between possible sightings of the actual Forth Horseman and the name people give to Josh as the Black Rider due to the color of his car and his outfit.
With the appearance of the Forth Horseman, I was gently reminded by Mr. Gabriel Sabloff in the comments that this is the Third Horseman of the Apocalypse. Please forgive this mistake, but I wanted to keep it genuine since I’ve voiced some gripes and I was in error regarding a particular factoid here. Correction, this is the Third Horseman. Therefore, after the appearance of the Third Horseman, it’s safe to say in The Black Rider we start to get a glimpse at more eschatological theology. I won’t give away who the Shepherd turns out to be, but as mentioned before there’s an ensemble of questions as to whether the Shepherd is actually Josh himself or if Josh is The Black Rider who never loses a fight hence the name of this third chapter of the saga. It’s also in this installment where Josh almost has a period of back sliding, but he’s talked down by new character, Sofia. Sofia is played by the beautiful, Hilty Bowen. Rest assured there are no lustful shenanigans going on between the two. In The Black Rider Sofia is the second main character and Josh helps lead her to Christ during their adventure which again leads to her talking him down before he gives into his anger instead of relying on the power of God. After Josh overcomes his hurdle, they meet the Shepherd. The Shepherd brings in more supernatural experiences, many of which I agree will happen when these times are upon us.
However, not to give too much away, we also learn of an organization called ULC which seems to be the New World Order of the Revelation Road saga. We don’t get a deep glimpse at them, but we find out they’re going through the former U.S.A. and forcing various towns’ people to take on new identifications, new ranks, and classifications. This is primarily occurring from the work of two representatives of the ULC who sort of speak in an eerie unison in which they finished each other’s sentences or share the same train of thought. They both have a triangular shaped whirlpool like mark on their forehead which I suspect represents the Mark of the Beast aka 666. They were after the Shepherd and after a forced confrontation with him they backed away threatening to tell their Chairman about Josh and Sofia who have now allied themselves with the Chairman’s mortal enemy, the Shepherd. To prevent misleading you, we never see the so-called Chairman in this movie. He’s only mentioned. Nevertheless, by the end of The Black Rider Josh fulfills a portion of his calling and a familiar character returns leading us into anticipation of Revelation Road part 4. Unfortunately, at this point there’s very little information from Pure Flix about the fourth installment other than requests to stay tuned for more information on their facebook page.
So what are my final thoughts?
Personally I liked the story. Mainly because I found myself metaphorically falling out of my seat at first, then feeling refreshed just to see Jesus mentioned in a positive light and to see characters freely speaking about Him and holding conversations about Him. It was especially fulfilling to witness conversations in this particular genre where the unbeliever doesn’t always win the philosophical contest with rampant unanswerable questions and mockeries. I think decades upon decades of indoctrination by secular entertainment makes it feel awkward to hear and see Jesus freely talked about in a movie and or on television. I liked this very much; however, before I move on I need to go on a tangent. Seeing the positive mentioning of Jesus forced a long issue I’ve had with the double standard in secular entertainment come to the surface. They scoff at, mock and belittle Jesus and Christianity. They enjoy glorifying the failures of Christian individuals, but the moment you have a story like this where Character A quotes scripture to Character B or speaks about moral and spiritual absolutes you hear people, even Christians running around calling it, “too preachy, or too cheesey” or they attack the quality of the film due to it’s low budget production, if it is low budget. Frankly, I’m tired of this. Mainly because I’ve been indoctrinated into that thought process and I felt myself fighting with it while watching this each time a character talked about Jesus in an attempt to witness to another character. I felt my inner dialogue arguing with itself starting the complaint with, “Ugh too preachy!” Yet the spiritual side of me, heck I’ll just say it, the Holy Spirit say to me, “Why are you saying that?” Then I thought about all the atheistic views pushed through the fable of Evolution in science fiction, action, drama, hospital shows, you name it, it’s there. I thought about how martial arts movies and television have no qualms about mentioning Buddha, Confucius, Taoism, etc, and how the Japanese write stories around all their Shinto deities, how the Hindus will do the same, etc. So I immediately told myself to suck it up and go through the deprogramming process in order to enjoy the emotional, spiritual, and edifying experience of watching people speak positively about God in an apocalyptic sci-fi action movie and actually use the name Jesus Christ in a good way for a change. I thoroughly enjoyed my deprogramming and it was a much needed experience since the majority, nearly 95% of my creative projects to come are influenced by my Christian Faith. I need to get over the awkwardness of characters talking about God and the superstitious self inflicted restraints I and so many others put on ourselves when we write or view Christian fiction. End tangent.
Speaking of self inflicted restrictions, I have my reservations about the visual representation of Christ, I understand to tell the story an actor stand in is needed. Nevertheless, I wished it were more historically representative of what Jesus, or Yeshua/Joshua, Christ looks like. I doubt he’s Caucasian with olive greenish eyes, granted Bruce Marchiano is part Syrian and has played the role of Jesus in the Visual Bible among other Christian projects. To be fair he did a good job, I just feel it’s time we get over the Eurocentric outlook of the ancient world and start growing up a little and admitting certain things like Jesus and the disciples more than likely had a dark complexion to their skin. I will leave this little rant at this because I don’t want to take away any good Bruce Marchiano and Pure Flix did in the movie, but I wanted to make that point.
Moving on, generally I liked the whole approach. Often times Revelation based entertainment focuses on a geo-political world scale or bounces between individual characters and geo-political world scale events or drops the individual character on a geo-political world scale event. Revelation Road didn’t do this because it stuck with the experiences of Josh as he went from not believing Christ would accept him to believing and being a new Christian to his pit falls to actually fulfilling a portion of God’s plan for his life. With the exception of miracles, the appearance of Death and visions, you get backdrop hints about what’s going on at the world scale. I felt this was a very good way of approaching the story.
I know some will read into this next praise, but so be it. I really liked the representation that Christians do not have to be pacifists. Granted, I could tell this was done from a more Americanized Conservative look on Christians, I felt it did a good job exposing people to the realistic concept of what you would do as a Christian during a home invasion or in the event a group of murderous people just attack your home for whatever reason. I liked this not because I’m a war monger or gun toting nut (as the anti-gun crowd would label me), but because it showed that while we would be conflicted about it, it’s ok, when the bullets are flying to protect your wife and children first. This is especially explored when the Barbarians assault Frank’s house with his wife and granddaughter present in the home. Christian pacifists would have Frank, his wife and granddaughter at the mercy of the biker gang because they may be potential people who come to Christ later, but Frank had no choice but to try to protect his family. Especially considering this same gang threatened his life earlier in the movie. Whether this interpretation was intended by Pure Flix, the same concept is echoed throughout all chapters. It’s even in part 3 where Josh takes a strictly no kill unless you have no choice to kill policy, even when this policy causes further problems for him later on when demented villains continue pursuit of him and Sofia. Overall I enjoyed how this was dealt with. Some may feel it pandered to the more violent based action movies, but I felt if the world turned into a place similar to Revelation Road it’s a reality some Christians may have to face without cookie cutter responses which lack any real depth in dealing with a real life hostile situation.
Although I’m sure future installments will be forced to deal more heavily with Christian eschatological doctrines and viewpoints and although slow to build up to the point of the general story, I liked the fact Revelation Road 1-2 vaguely touched on it and part 3 approached it from an interesting view point. I felt inspired by the revelation Christians don’t have to produce Christian fiction line for line out of the Bible, but can use the source material to come up with unique outlooks still faithful to the source material. This isn’t a story about established historical events from the Bible, but it’s a speculative story about future events. I appreciated their approach as I stated before. This appreciation isn’t about adding to the Bible in order to ignore warnings about adding and taking away from God’s word, this appreciation is about how the author, director and actors used speculative fiction based on their research, study and formed views of a possible sequence of events involving God pulled from the Bible. I thought they did a good job.
Finally, my contention so far revolves primarily around disagreements in the rapture. For those who don’t know, the Rapture is the belief God will take Christians to heaven before he pours out his wrath on the Earth and His enemies. Yes the latter includes those who choose not to believe in God, etc. Revelation Road takes the pre-tribulation Rapture view. This view believes the rapture event will happen prior to a period of seven years in which a variety of things occur leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ at Armageddon. However, there are at least three other prominent views regarding the rapture. I hold to the more Pre-Wrath view of the Rapture which proposes the theory based on Biblical research that God will remove his people out of the Earth just prior to unleashing his wrath. His wrath is not the whole seven year period, but may be at a particular portion of the seven year period closer to the end. Then there’s the Mid-Tribulation rapture view and a Post Tribulation Rapture view. This can become a hefty dissertation on the similarities, differences and expositions from the Bible regarding each view so I will leave it at this. Suffice to say, usually I’ve steered clear of the heavy handed pre-tribulation rapture dominance in Christian media, but for some reason I felt compelled to watch this and I’m happy I did. I enjoyed it. It inspired me to press on with my own Christian influenced stories and stories about the Bible.
Overall, I can’t recall any potholes although I wasn’t carefully looking for any. I found the story coherent, maybe lacking in visualization and acting to some, but it was decent enough to keep me going. I particularly liked The Black Rider because by that point the creators were no longer setting the stage, it was set and they weren’t mincing words anymore…not to say they were before, but the outcome was in your face and I enjoyed it.
Final Thoughts and Information as of 2015
In the past many people found this article while looking for information on Revelation Road part 4, but unfortunately I have none. As of August 8, 2015 I attempted to contact PureFlix Entertainment through their website, but there appears to be some errors in the contact application. I kept receiving “Email Server Problem.” I will try again and see what happens. However, as the comments I post with this should show, Mr. Sean Paul Murphy stated in December 2014:
…BTW, I hear conflicting stories whether there will be another installment of the Revelation Road series. Sometimes I hear that “The Black Rider” is the final installment. However, I think director Gabe Sabloff has already written another script on his own. It’s a changing marketplace. I believe the production company, PureFlix, is going to concentrate on theatrical films after the success of “God’s Not Dead…”
Mr. Sabloff followed Mr. Murphy in the comments later and confirmed the above statement:
…Hopefully, we will start on part 4 soon, which is already written (and completely insane)….
I shot an email out to Mr. Murphy and Mr. Sabloff to let them know the link for this review was changing since I know they each attached it to their personal social media accounts and/or websites, I also asked them about any new information regarding part 4. If they let me in on any secrets and it’s allowed, I will give an update here in some way.
Overall, as of 2015, I still feel the entire Revelation Road Saga was one of the better Christian eschatological movies despite my theological disagreements. I don’t think that will ever change and I really hope PureFlix Entertainment makes a fourth addition to the series and hopefully even finish the entire story line line as well.
Well, thanks for reading and for those of you who re-linked this review since the move from here to Resist Studios and back, thanks as well.
Leroy “BrotherRoy” Whitaker