This movie review was originally posted on the old Media Observers site sometime in 2014.
I had it posted over on Resist Studios, but I’ve decided to put it back on Media Observers
The other night while scouring through Vudu and Amazon Instant Video, an interesting movie caught my attention. Since I’ve been taking time to experience the visual representation others put into Christian stories, “The Remaining” caught my eye. Once again, despite my theological disagreements, the plot of the movie reeled me in.
“The Remaining” was released in 2014 and written and directed by Casey La Scala along with Chris Dowling. La Scala is a producer for the upcoming “Amityville: The Awakening,” but he’s directed an obscure movie known as “Grind” in 2003. “The Remaining” is produced under Affirm Films, a Sony Company and the same studio which brought us “When the Game Stands Tall.” I was a little surprised to find out Sony, or at least a division of Sony, was into producing, as they call it, evangelical Christian entertainment.
“The Remaining” is about the end times as prophesied in the Bible. Well, based loosely on prophesies in the Bible, but generally speaking, the movie focuses on a group of friends thrust into the commonly mentioned seven year tribulation period immediately after the Rapture during a wedding reception. These friends are Tommy (Johnny Pacar), Jack (Shaun Sipos), the groom, Dan (Bryan Dechart) and our bride, Skylar (Alexa Vega). Skylar is introduced as our first supposed Christian left behind. Also part of the group of friends is Allison (Italia Ricci). Later we meet Sam (Liz E. Morgan) and Pastor Shay (John Pyper-Ferguson). After the disturbing rapture event, our distraught, skeptical and confused group of friends find themselves experiencing at least two days of horror as they are forced to decide whether or not they want to choose eternity with God or remain unbelievers.
While leaving a few things out, that’s the movie in a nutshell. There are a few unique things I enjoyed about the movie, but while I didn’t harp on theology in my “Revelation Road” review, I feel compelled to do it for “The Remaining.” First, I want to mention a few things I enjoyed about the film.
I thoroughly enjoyed the special effects and the look of the Demon Locusts. I also found the visualization of the rapture intriguing. If I didn’t mention it before, the movie takes a pre-tribulational rapture viewpoint. As a reminder, I disagree with this view of the end times, but I overlooked it to experience another artist’s take on the visualization of this traumatic experience in forthcoming history. In this movie, when the believers are raptured off the Earth nothing fantastic happens, no glowing lights, no energy balls, no vanishing bodies and clothes left…nope…none of that. Their bodies just slump over and their eyes turn a ghostly greyish white color. The remaining people are able to watch this happen and take their pulse in order to determine the raptured are dead. Later, Pastor Shay explains, “God simply took their souls and left their mortal bodies behind.”
I also found it interesting the movie took a more horror, suspense and thriller approach to this popular subject in Christian media. Almost immediately after the rapture, the characters find themselves at the mercy of horrific supernatural creatures bent on singling out and killing anyone who reads a Bible, talks about God, even cursing his name, anyone who listens to talk about God and finally anyone who chooses God. I thought this was an interesting visualization of the Demonic Locusts, but I felt it was a glaring misrepresentation of what the Bible says the Demon Locusts will do. So with that, let’s move into my problems with the film.
First, while the pacing of the movie was great for film, it skipped over a large number of important factors from Jesus’ breakdown of the last days and the book of Revelation. I know some people like to argue it’s largely unknown how things will play out, but for those who believe in a future tribulation period, there are several key components that are often pivotal to this narrative and these were missing from the movie:
- Obvious Birth Pangs leading up to this last short period on the Earth
- To be fair, there were some internet videos the characters watched talking about weird weather and strange mass animal deaths.
- Tyrannical Government
- Turmoil on the Earth in the form of War or general unrest.
- Famine, sickness, disease, etc.
You’re probably wondering why I’m being a little nitpicky. Well, because of the sequence of events in Revelation, granted I understand some will argue there is no real sequence in Revelation, but to the contrary, if you look closely you will see it. Let me explain: This movie jumped from the rapture, which it takes a pre-tribulational position for, thus the rapture is the catalyst for everything, to the fifth trumpet with whiplash speed. Almost instantaneously after the rapture the first angel blows his trumpet as seen in Revelation 8:7. This is evident from the hail although the hail was lacking the fire and blood and did not burn up a third of the earth nor all the grass. Reading and studying Revelation, you get the indication there is some time between these trumpets as opposed to how the movie shows the trumpets blowing almost consecutively until the story reaches the fifth. The trumpet blasts sounds like an ethereal trumpet noise or loud blasting noise heard all over the world. After the first trumpet, the second trumpet as seen in Revelation 8:8 is heard, but not specifically seen since this happens in the sea and the characters are on land. The same can be said for the third trumpet as seen in Revelation 8:10-11. The fourth trumpet is possibly represented by nightfall but you only really find out this trumpet was blown once you meet Pastor Shay and he overhears the characters watching a video of one of the Locusts attacking Skylar who was distraught she was left behind and carrying a Bible while praying to God.
With that comes my other theological issue with the movie. I understand some people are simply church goers and not really believers. Some people believe there is a God and a Jesus and that he died for our sins, but haven’t put their trust in him…meaning they don’t believe in Jesus. They don’t have faith in him and what he did for him or enough trust, they accept evidence, fact, or the possibility he exists and go through the motions of the religion of Christianity. It’s a bit confusing, I understand, but there’s a difference here, and it’s often evident by the person’s lifestyle, etc. Check out Matthew 13: 18-23 to help better explain what I’m saying here. With that said, according to scripture and despite what rapture timing you take, the Christians or believers are largely persecuted by the unbelievers, the Anti-Christ figure and the tyrannical government. While I’m sure supernatural entities will take part in this, the Demon Locusts had a specific purpose. Thus, upon hearing Pastor Shay’s explanation of who and what these supernatural creatures are who attacked them, I felt a little disappointed. According to Shay, they are the product of the fifth trumpet as he quotes scripture, and since the fifth trumpet comes after the fourth you have to assume the fourth already happened. However, there is no evidence of it happening because the days should be shortened and the nights should be shortened. Both of these passages are found in Revelation 8: 12-13 and Revelation 9: 1-11. So here’s my point and contention, as mentioned before, the Demon Locusts of the Abyss in the movie attack believers and anything or anyone mentioning God, singing hymns and praises, praying, talking about current events from a Biblical perspective and anyone who, after the rapture, makes the decision to trust and start a relationship with God. In the process of doing this, they also seek out and burn Bibles, well to be fair, if the person they attack is holding a Bible it will be found burned at the location of the attack. This is pretty evident after the second sighting of the Demon Locusts and the subject of conversations during their sighting. It becomes more obvious after Tommy and Dan risk their lives to get antibiotics from a car in hopes of saving Skylar. During their adventure, one of them turns on the radio where a conspiracy theorists in talking about the government deceiving the people into believing the rapture was a disease. At that point the Demon Locusts show up to attack them.
Which brings up another issue. The believers had no ability to contest the Locusts through the power and authority of Christ. This disappointed me greatly. One random character confronts them yelling, “The Power of Christ compels you!” However, he’s quickly cut down. To be fair, it’s possible the creators simply wanted to use the Locusts as a stand in for these Tribulation Saints to show their faith in sacrifice as upon the realization developed the Locusts were only after those who made the choice to turn to God arose, many still chose God and thus chose a physical death to gain eternal life.
In the Bible, the Locusts attack unbelievers, and I quote from the NET Bible, Revelation 9: 4-6, “They were told not to damage the grass of the earth, or any green plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their forehead. The locusts were not given permission to kill them, but only to torture them for five months, and their torture was like that of a scorpion when it stings a person. In those days people will seek death, but will not be able to find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.” Granted, there can be some controversy over who these people with the Seal of God are. Pre-tribulation proponents and dispensationalists will argue they are only direct physical descendants of Abraham, in other words people of Israel, while some may argue they are general believers, since we are grafted into the olive tree and share in the promise of Abraham. This would also include those who believe and are born into physical Israel. (For more see Romans 4, Romans 11, and Galatians 3: 15-29, emphasis on verses 23-29.) I don’t want to get too bogged down with an essay about who the people Sealed by God are in the end times, I’ll save that for my Resist Studios blog.
However, this brings up another issue. The Demon Locusts in this movie just outright killed people. They sought to kill the believers, but if a non-believer crossed their path they had no qualms about killing them too. According to scripture, however, the Demon Locusts are only allowed to cause extreme pain in a person for five months, not kill them. See Revelation 9:5 and Revelation 9:10.
I understand some movies, even Christian movies are designed to visualize certain aspects of a situation and certain things don’t translate well. I also understand the goal of this film was to cover the experience of these few friends as they go through this event before making their decisions about their relationship with God. The movie did not focus on various aspects of Christian end time eschatology, however, I just didn’t appreciate the need to fast forward to the fifth trumpet just to bring in the Demon Locusts for dramatic effect, horror, thriller, action and then, misrepresent what the Bible says they will do.
So this brings me to my reason of things left out. According to scripture, we won’t go from the beginning of the tribulation to the fifth trumpet in 2-3 days. The Seven seals alone indicate a longer period from the beginning of this time to the trumpets. The Fifth seal seen in Revelation 6:9-11 indicates Christians killed during the tribulation because of their testimony and standing on God’s Word. Granted, one my argue this is what the movie is showing, but you have to get to the Seventh Seal before the Seven Trumpets are even blown.
Despite its different scriptural interpretations, I don’t want to leave the impression I hated the movie. I actually enjoyed it for what it is. I’m generally not a horror fan, but I respected the genre they used. Often times Christian movies are too squeaky clean, even ones covering the final days of the world before the return of Christ, a time, which according to the Bible, will be a horrific time for those on the Earth. Fair warning, there are one or two graphic killing scenes, but not gratuitous, they generally serve a purpose.
As far as the acting and story goes, I’ve seen reviewers call it cliché and complained the dialogue was weak. I found myself discussing this with my wife, and once again feeling annoyed by the hypocrisy in the television and film business. If the film had mocked God, not offered Jesus as a solution but left God ambiguous or had characters waving their fist at him and constantly asking, “What kind of God would allow this evil to exist?” If the film didn’t present death, or in other words the afterlife as a “promotion,” as one individual complained regarding the film’s presentation of death in Christ. If this was probably just some vague horror story where supernatural creatures are suddenly taking over the world and God was never mentioned in a positive light despite the hopelessness around the characters, everyone would love it. Instead you have characters quoting the Bible…which they would do naturally if they went to church and found themselves in this situation right out of Biblical Prophecy. You have characters discussing the supernatural, faith, trust, and expressing their understanding of it all. While this may seem like weak dialogue to some, I found it well done. No wonder the critics hated it.
As far as the plot goes, it’s difficult to critique a plot I believe will one day become reality, minus the theological issues I’ve brought up. However, the storyline about most of the characters facing the ultimate choice about their final place in eternity was done pretty well.
Overall, I’d recommend the movie, but would recommend it be watched analytically concerning the theology presented.