There was a time when the idea of a Christian-themed horror film would be laughed at by genre fans everywhere. Many still do giggle as they read a synopsis or watch trailers for faith-based movies and assume the worst when it comes to anything Bible oriented. Directors like Scott Derrickson are doing their best to change that pre-conceived notion by successfully giving audiences scares that do more than just award you a momentary jolt. They leave you with something to think about after the credits role.
Directorial newcomer Casey La Scala aims to do the same with his passion-project "The Remaining." Many will recognize his name as the producer of notable films like "Donnie Darko," "A Walk to Remember," and others. He is also involved in the latest chapter of the infamous "Amityville Horror" franchise entitled "Amityville: The Awakening."
Equal parts disaster film and end-of-the-world supernatural thriller, "The Remaining" focuses on a group of friends making their way through the aftermath of the Biblical Rapture. For those who somehow haven't been exposed to the "Left Behind" movies either by seeing or hearing about them, the Rapture is a worldwide event talked about in the Book of Revelation where Christians are suddenly taken up to Heaven when Jesus Christ returns and seven years of horrific Tribulation begin.
Basically, God turns his back on the World and gives it over to the Antichrist and his minions to do with as they will. There are plagues, natural disasters, and other catastrophic events which unfold as the clock to Armageddon counts down. Many people will realize what's going on around them who were taught the Truth but never truly believed what they were heard. They will form factions who will help lead others to make a decision to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ or turn their backs on him.
In "The Remaining," the events of Revelation are accelerated to keep the action moving forward at a break-neck speed. By no means am I a scholar or student of the final book of the Bible, but just remembering as I was instructed, the things that take place in a couple of days in the movie transpire over a period of years in scripture. As a piece of Christian fiction designed to make an impact on viewers within an hour and a half, I think "The Remaining" accomplishes its task quite well.
It's safe to say this isn't your parents' (or grandparents') Rapture movie of the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. People don't just disappear off the face of the Earth leaving their clothes and accessories lying in piles where they were once standing. Their souls depart from the body, which is left slumped over steering wheels, dinner tables, or collapsed in the middle of sidewalks and streets. They look as if they've suddenly just died. The eyes of the taken are glazed over with an eerie white film.
Backed up by Sony Pictures, "The Remaining" actually had a budget to work with. The visual effects all look great and keep the audience from being distracted by inferior CGI. The images of jumbo jets crashing into buildings and monstrous chunks of hail hitting the ground as people scramble for safety are believable and frighteningly effective.
Aside from a couple of genre favorites, the cast of "The Remaining" is made up of faces actors won't immediately recognize. This helps to keep audiences detached from familiar faces that would take them out of the viewing experience. The two actors many sci-fi and horror fans might identify are those of Alexa Vega and John Pyper-Ferguson. Vega played Carmen in the "Spy Kids" films and also appeared in "Machete Kills," "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," and "Repo! The Genetic Opera." Pyper-Ferguson is seen in cult classic shows like "Alphas," "Caprica," and "Battlestar Galactica."
Although at times it felt like the plot and message of "The Remaining" began to slow things down a little too much, I give props to Writer / Director Casey La Scala for trying to inject as much character and story development into the movie as he could. Some might feel that it's a bit too "preachy" for their tastes. I think the engaging journey from one place to another, frightening sequences of impending peril, and the tense race against time more than outweigh any lags in action due to narrative or pushing of doctrine.
"The Remaining" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror, violence and destruction throughout, and thematic elements. There are definitely some scenes which rival those in films like "The Conjuring" or "The Last Exorcism." The demons reminded me of the Dementors in the "Harry Potter" movies. Aside from some minor bloodshed, the violence is comparable to what we see in "Transformers," "G.I. Joe," "Star Trek," and countless other teen-oriented horror films.
While it's not perfect, "The Remaining" brings Christian horror one step closer to being as good as any mainstream genre film coming out in theaters these days. It successfully marries elements of creature features and supernatural thrillers to create a unique take on what is a common subject in faith-based entertainment. Those who don't frequent scary fare need to be warned. This is a much darker take on the Rapture than what we've seen in the "Left Behind" or "Revelation Road" movies.