Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Horrible Non-Horror! Left Behind: The Movie

There are some types of people I find endlessly frustrating and equally amusing. We’ll call them psycho doomsday religious folk.
Sometimes they stand next to me on the subway, ranting and raving about how children are turning to iPods and homosexuality because they’ve forgotten the word of Jesus. Shame on all of us for not remembering how that nice young crucified man so detested iPods and homosexuals.
I have no problem with faith. We’re all entitled to believe or not believe whatever we wish, however silly it may seem to others (like me). But there are some aspects of religious zealots (namely the mass unwarranted judgment imposed on others) that truly irks me, including the concept of today’s gloriously awful feature, Left Behind: The Movie.
To begin, you have to adore any film that adds “The Movie” after its title. Because it’s already assuming a certain level of stupidity from its audience. Honestly, I find it adorable.
Quick Plot: Our story opens at 6PM in Jersalame. Then the credits roll and the new time card reads ‘6:03PM.’ 
Am I crazy, or is that hilarious?
Anyway, Kirk Cameron plays Buck Williams, a reporter, despite all associations with his name reminding us of cowboys or porn stars. On his returning flight, something wacky--or Langolier-ish--occurs when a bunch of passengers simply vanish, leaving their clothing and relatives behind. This appears to be a global phenomenon, one so dramatic that martial law is immediately declared.
So who disappeared, and who...dramatic piano tones...was LEFT BEHIND (the movie)? Hint hint: all empty clothing may have included a crucifix.

See, the Christians were rescued before the upcoming (7 years, according to some characters) rapture, leaving their loved ones alone and doomed. Unless they start reading the Bible, like goofily named pilot Rayford Steele. Meanwhile, a slick Russian politician slithers his way into world power minutes after Kirk Cameron has a religious epiphany in the UN bathrooms. 

Oh, and a bunch of stuff explodes along the way.
Here’s the thing about Left Behind: The Movie: the extras are way more entertaining than the film itself. Take, for example, a featurette wherein actress Janaya Stephens enthusiastically  announces how this is “the biggest and most ambitious Christian movie ever made.” Then just imagine her sadness at the $200 million plus gross of The Passion of the Christ (a real horror movie if there ever was one).
We also get to hear red carpet interviews with a few Hollywood stars (including the guy from The Michael Landon Story!) which is mostly useful for learning what actors are also scary and religious (Lacey Chabert, Hunter Tylo, Demonic Toys’ Tracy Scoggins). By far my favorite part though is Stephens' stiff reading of “The producers knew they would have to go big.”
Cut to a bunch of things blowing up.
Yes, dear Hollywood, that is how you reel in the rowdy teens and convert them via Kirk Cameron. Poor Kirk. I’ve never seen an actor in more pain than watching the former Mike Seaver pretend (I won’t call it acting) to be a non-believer. It's a relief when his character (Buck Williams, say it without laughing please) finds God because finally, Kirk can at least play his type and draw out some form of believability.
Lessons Learned
The UN’s no picnic
When you meet Kirk Cameron, the best thing to always say is ‘Nice hair!’

Beta fish will be left behind
One sign of showing your Christian solidarity is to remove your scandalous nose ring. Jesus hates those
The best place to have a religious conversation is a very clean public restroom
My biggest beef with Left Behind (it’s a movie) is its painstaking dullness (despite “big” explosions). The antichrist gets nothing special other than awkward slo-motion (but not really slo-motion, it’s fast slo-motion which somehow seems sacriligious). The rapture is saved, presumably for parts 2 and 3. The fact that they’re streaming on Instant Watch is even more frustrating. Now I HAVE to watch them, and not in order to save my soul.

So do I, from a bad film perspective, recommend Left Behind: The Movie? If you’re the type of person who finds yourself chuckling at Sunday mass, then perhaps. More importantly, I can’t urge you enough to watch the featurettes on the “Special Edition” DVD. Hey, they even toss in a scene from a Gary Busey Christploitation! That alone might make you a believer.


  1. I saw this - wish I'd watched the extras now! I also recommend Judgement - Christian sci-fi along similar lines but with Mr T!

  2. Wow, you know Hunter Tylo? :) Not gonna tell the very loooong story of some friends I had as a kid who practically worshipped her. I'll get into what you accurately call "Christploitation"! That's a very cool word. Did you make that up?

    For the life of me, I just can't. I'm probably one of the few people that believes that Christianity gets a very bad rep for this prime, juicy example of ignorance and high fulootin' (the very things God *actually* frowns upon). Maybe if Kirk Cameron spent more time actually reading the Bible and not finger pointing with his passive aggressive media products, some would take him more seriously.

    I think that's all I should say.

  3. Oooooh thanks Chris! Considering how gleeful Gary Busey praying made me, i imagine the effects will be tripled following the power of the T!

    Ashlee: I think it was Uncoolcat (via twitter) who put the Christ in Sploitation. Love the idea of it. I get offended not so much by Christianity, but, as you say, the attitude so many quote unquote people of faith get off on when judging other people. The idea that even the nicest fundamentalist essentially thinks that I'm going to hell is rather offensive.

    We talked a little about this on the last Girls On Film podcast when we were discussing the modern classic, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. It has a graet attitude about itself and shows its titular character in a wonderful way. Jesus is rather awesome. It's the people that put words into his mouth that piss me off.

    Oh, and I was a huge Days of Our Lives fan back in the day (of GREATNESS) and used to read me some Soap Opera Digest when my mom was buying groceries. Tylo was always on the covers, then her name stuck after the whole Aaron Spelling lawsuit thingy.

  4. I can't believe I haven't checked this film out yet....
    Excellent review, my friend.

  5. Emily, I think we would've been bosom buddies with all the soap love I had back in the day.

  6. Holy jesus and I thought I was great at finding cheesetastic slop.

    Well done.

  7. Enjoy Andrew!

    Ashlee, Days of Our Lives made life worth living in the mid-90s. Always nice to know there are others whose lives were made better by soaps.

    Cortez, if someone was assembling a kickball team based on ability to find delicious cinematic cheese, you and I would totally be picked first! But then we'd fake injuries to go watch bad horror films. People should be aware of our priorities.

  8. I remember, as a library worker, the utter INSANITY that the book series that inspired this "cinematic classic" generated. It was like this was the adult "Harry Potter" for a while, but much more in-your-face preachier... and less "EVILSATANICMAGIC!!!". Strangely, we also got the movies in our workplace... and they never seemed to circulate as much as the books did. Now I'd have to check on timelines of releases, but maybe it's because the movie came along as the big main series was wrapping up. I dunno. But it's kind of sad when Willie Aames is getting more checkouts for his "Bibleman" stuff than "Left Behind: The Movie" is. Still, you describe such an astonishing panorama, you may tempt my nerve to check it out. ... If for nothing else than the explosions.

    P.S. I also remember during the "tweener" days of G4 Television, they once reviewed a "Left Behind" computer game. Nothing says fun like essentially herding souls, and converting sinners! Screw those "Halo" and "Mario" games!

  9. Gonna bag my day job and see if I can nail the rights to Left Behind: The Fotonovels. That way, you can be prepared to rapture away and leave behind a handy how-to guide for less Godly friends amongst your socks, shoes and unwashed underwear. Sort of an ecclesiastical "I went thataway!" for the the spiritually dim.

    On that note, how do people whoof off into the great beyond? Is it showed on screen? I just picture the old Calgon, Take me away! commercials.

  10. I remember I had some religious friends who brought me out to a Bible retreat for a day (I think) to watch this movie. The production company was circulating it among Church youth groups prior to its official release. That had to be the most inane advanced screening I've ever attended. Good thing baptists make good camp food. The burgers were divine.

    Also: Jesus hates Bluray.

  11. Mikey: I don't really play computer or video games, but following that Simpsons parody, I seriously do want to test my skills at electronically converting sinners. Seems so fun. I had a friend whose religious relative bought her the book series for Christmas back in the late '90s, during, I guess, the heyday of Left Behind. Perhaps Kirk & Co. were just a few years too late to truly capture the souls of ticketbuyers(/library card holders).

    Damocles: Basically, it's The Langolies. A weird flash happens and suddenly all the Christians are gone, but their clothes and accessories are right there as if their bodies just evaporated. It's actually an interesting sight the first time you catch it. I'm guessing the filmmakers would've loved to use some wacky CGI for soul risings, but most of the budget simply HAD to go towards those explosions. Plus Kirk Cameron's hair products.

    Zed: OBVIOUSLY Jesus hates Blu Ray. Did you even READ the Bible? It's right after he goes on that diatribe about nose rings, Muslims and homosexuals. He does, however, adore a good juicy burger.