Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm, Part 1
A Guest Critique by Ivan
Hello, everyone. I’m happy with this chance to hopefully entertain you at least half as well as our regular host with my take on the dregs of Real True Christian fiction.
Some info on this movie. It was the first movie made by Cloud Ten Pictures, regular producer of RTC porn, including the Left Behind movies. That this was their first movie shows mostly in the obvious shoe-string budget this movie has. That’s the most enjoyable part of this movie: Watching an attempt at a serious thriller that tells the tale of the whole world being taken over by the Antichrist, made with just enough budget to buy all the extras lunch.
We start with two unnecessary text screens followed by a close-up of a crucifix on a background of pink cloth, which turns out to be a dress worn by your archetypical kindly old lady. The camera pans to the woman’s granddaughter Helen Hannah, who is the semi-main character of this series. I call her the main character because she’s the only actor who shows up in every movie in the series (the Antichrist switches actors in the second film). I append that description with ‘semi’ because her main role in each movie is to bring the male protagonist du jour to Christ so he can advance the plot. RTC fiction FTW!
This is not the most flattering shot to introduce your lead with, but this ‘stare in mild fear and total incomprehension’-look is a good introduction to Helen’s character.
She has that look for 80% of her screen time. (To be fair, so did I while watching this movie.)
Helen Hannah is played by Leigh Lewis who, as far as I’ve been able to find out, played a part in two TV movies before this, once credited as “receptionist” but with an actual character name in ‘To Catch a Yeti’ which has a 2.8/10 rating on IMDB. This makes our proverbial one-eyed woman the most experienced actress this movie filled with blind actors. For comparison, her grandma is played by someone who’s only other listed movie credits are “assistant accountant” for 7 TV episodes and one movie. Most of this movie’s cast was presumably assembled by trawling some RTC church pews for anyone with any experience in the movie business.
Hannah and grandma are watching the news about armies from over 60 nations assembling near the Valley of Armageddon in Israel. Grandma responds to the wars and rumors of wars by telling Helen that ‘everything seems to be falling into place’, which makes her sound like a super villain. But at least she looks and sounds not too happy about it, so I’ll let that slide. What I will not let slide is her followup comment.
“Everything seems to be falling into place, Helen. Who’s fighting, where they’re fighting, and what they’re fighting about.”
Would you mind telling us why they are fighting grandma? Because this movie certainly won’t. We’ll never ever learn why China decides to sink an American carrier with a nuclear torpedo over a fight between Israel and its neighbors. Some of those neighboring countries may be on friendly terms with China and/or Russia. But there’s a difference between vetoing UN resolutions against Syria because you don’t like the precedence of removing despotic leaders with little popular support, and risking nuclear annihilation by joining Syria in an offensive conflict.
Helen tries to reassure grandma that it’ll get better, but grandma already knows it’ll get better, for her and the other RTCs anyway, but is worried about unsaved Helen. But before her proselytizing can begin, Helen is saved by the doorbell. Her husband/boyfriend, I’m not sure which, Bronson Pearl is there to say goodbye to her before he leaves for Israel. It’s dangerous, but as Bronson blatantly exposits, they’re both reporters after all.
Yes, they’re both news reporters for W.N.N., which is completely original and different from G.N.N. which Cloud Ten’s own Left Behind movie would use three years later. And Bronson is not just any old reporter, no, he’s the world famous reporter who, as the framed Time cover in Helen’s house shows, was named Time’s man of the year with the tagline ‘The World’s Most Trusted Man’. I’m sure Bronson covers all the bases and asks all the tough questions too, and is frequently asked “How does it feel to be the most celebrated journalist of your time?”.
I’ll be calling him Buckson from here on out.
Now, you know how a good actor lets you know what kind of person the character they’re playing is, how they can just tell you everything about their character without saying it? Well, the people of this movie realized quickly they couldn’t afford good actors so they did the next best thing: Pick some C-listers who look exactly like the character you have in mind in lieu of acting like them. It happened with the kindly grandma, and here we have Buckson.
Doesn’t that face look just right for a tough, manly journalist, so serious, competent and masculine that it becomes a self parody? He certainly looks more like the sort of character Buck was supposed to be than Kirk Cameron does. Then again, Buck’s character actually was a whiny narcissist so in a way Left Behind cast that role pretty well.
Buckson isn’t about the be scared of by grandma’s tales of this being the end of the world. He points out that she was saying the same thing during the Gulf War, which displays a degree of self-awareness on part of this film that I wasn’t expecting. Though I’m not sure if the message is supposed to be “Don’t cry wolf to unbelievers.” or “Don’t worry about unbelievers mocking your previous failed doomsday predictions, they’ll be sorry once it happens for real.”
Either way, our two lovebirds say their teary yet unconvincing goodbyes and we go to the intro: A montage of stock footage of suffering and violence inflicted on people (real footage of real people, most of whom deserve to go to hell by RTC standards, but for now the images of their misery will be used to show how badly RTCs must suffer) while some mediocre Christian singer bleats about the Rapture. There’s a lot of both these things in this movie.
I personally like to think that the script writer who was tasked to copy the Left Behind books and change just enough to be safe from lawsuits was as confused by the passage of time as the Slacktivist was. So he went for the nuclear option of keeping the passage of time clear in his version with this running tally. But this bookkeeping backfires spectacularly. Often I’m still confused about the passage of time. And when I’m not confused, knowing the exact time elapsed just highlights how ridiculous the plot is.
Okay, the movie opens really proper with a soon to be familiar sight, stock footage with Helen the news reporter talking over it, explaining that these are all current events that all match ancient Biblical prophecies (or modern day RTC boogeymen) without explicitly saying or noticing that they match. Because Helen is still an unsaved heathen and she apparently never listened to a word her RTC grandmother said.
Right now she’s speaking about how a regional conflict in the Middle East has grown into the opening stage of World War 3 in a matter of weeks, to the despair of all global leaders. Naturally this news station does not bother to explain why all nations of the world are entering this conflict against their better judgment, but they do say that while the crisis has been developing for about a month, it is obviously just an offshoot of the 4000 year old conflict. Sure, those Muslim neighbors of Israel have only been Muslims for about 1500 years. But this conflict is just an offshoot of the Israeli’s war against the Canaanites, as is universally accepted by all secular news agencies.
We cut to Buckson in a tent with the Israeli high commander, bend over a rough map of the valley. Although this explicitly isn’t an interview, the Israeli commander nonetheless seems to be seeking Buckson’s approval. If I hadn’t seen the prologue, this scene would have made me think Buckson is the supreme high commander, and his general is trying to urge him to order the army to stand and fight. I guess such a deferential attitude comes naturally when talking with the World’s Most Trusted Man.
The general gets to say his “We Jews have suffered such horrible persecution” bit, so the film makers can keep pretending they really love Jews although the rest of their movie shows Jews as the Antichrist’s cheerleading squad.
With that out of the way, Buckson is called by his cameraman to start his report. Whew, we almost had 90 seconds of film that wasn’t supposed to be news footage. Quickly back to RTC-talking-points-news, where Bronson specifies he’s standing in “Modern-day Israel,” because secular viewers are so obsessed with the Biblical Israel that they’d need the ‘Modern-day’ qualifier.
We get some stock footage of burning and ruined buildings that are supposedly bombed Israeli cities, and a press conference in a cheap-looking hallway with an American flag in the background that’s supposed to be the Pentagon where a “Pentagon Spokesman” literally promises those who attack Israel an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
But after all that run-for-the-hills reporting, Buckson has some hopeful news: European Union president Franco Macaluso, a universally respected leader, has announced he will travel to Jerusalem to broker a peace.
Gee, a charismatic leader of an international union of nations who promises peace for Israel in a movie about the rapture. Can you guess what role he’s going to play? Here’s a hint, he shares his first name with a 20th century Spanish dictator, a tyrant of the caliber of, say, 20th century Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. They might as well have called him Franco Pyrenees.
On day two (clearly marked) we open with a different reporter, introducing W.N.N.’s new worldwide network of electronic billboards. This inventions will serve as an excuse for this movie to paste their clips over any flat surface in stock footage of crowds and pretend it’s a shot of a crowd watching W.N.N.
Back to the important reporters. As Helen asks around in the TV studio if there’s been any word from Buckson yet, we get to hear some terrible line readings from the extras, and this exchange:
“[Buckson]’ll be alright Helen. Jim and I have our whole church praying for him.”
“Thanks Susy. Looks like we’ll need all the help we can get.”
Poor acting aside, I kinda like this conversation. Rapture-bait Susy says she and her friends are praying for Buckson, and not in a “I pray he regrets disagreeing with me” kind of way, and unsaved Helen reacts friendly, thankful for the thought even if she doesn’t believe it will help. This is a reasonable and realistic interaction between an Christian and a non-Christian.
I’ll give you some time to savor that scene. Believe me, you’ll be wishing for more of such reasonable interactions, badly acted or not, before this movie is over.
Well, Suzy’s prayers worked (of course they did), because Buckson is back. He contacts the studio again, but he’s got bad news, which he naturally only shares in the form of a live TV report: Tel Aviv has been hit with a chemical weapon. Despite him being in the middle of the desert, Buckson found out about this, gathered several different shots of footage showing people (not really) urgently fleeing and interviewed the Israeli general about it before anyone else at W.N.N. even heard about the attack.
And while bombs are literally exploding around Buckson, he gets another scoop because he’s also the first to give the breaking news that a US carrier has been sunk by a Chinese sub. We immediately get treated to stock footage of a wrecked ship that looks nothing like an aircraft carrier, while Buckson tells us that they have no confirmation on what weapon the sub used. Yet the moment Buckson stops talking, Helen continues about the nuclear device that was used to sink the carrier. Wait, when did that confirmation come in?
This is what I mean about my confusion with the passage of time. W.N.N. shows interviews and edited footage from multiple angles from events that just happened. A report will start as breaking news, and end up as commentary made hours after the fact with no visible transition of time. We know on which day each report airs thanks to the text screens, but at what time of the day anything takes place is anyone’s guess. The stock footage flipping between day and night shots doesn’t help.
But after reporting that the US is now involved in a nuclear conflict, W.N.N. does the sensible thing and lets Helen interview “the head of nuclear research and development at the UCLA“ to calm the audience with the simple facts from an educated expert.
*Snort*. Yeah, he looks like a professor all right. Five bucks says that suit is rented.
“Dr. Horne […] how many nuclear weapons are there?”
“Well, consider the atom bomb that fell on Hiroshima […] we would have the equivalent of 700.000 of those bombs. To put it more dramatically, that would amount to 4 tons of TNT for every man, woman and child in the world. It’s like having your own Oklahoma City truck bomb all for yourself.”
Thanks for that cool, detached expert opinion Doc. In related news, the UCLA fired Dr. Horne at the advice of their PR and legal departments.
Because your entire audience fleeing to the street in blind panic is bad for your ratings, Helen cuts away from Dr Doom. Sadly, the breaking news isn’t any better: The Chinese ministry of defense has been bombed by the US. The correspondent specifies that it happened 90 seconds ago, but he already had time to edit together footage from four different angles. It’s also only been less than 2 minutes since the sunk carrier was announced, so the US has retaliated in less than 30 seconds.
Keeping up the breakneck pace of escalation, the second this reporter in China ends his item, Helen tells the viewers that NORAD just reported ICBM launches, accompanied by stock footage of way smaller missiles launching.
The good news just keeps pouring in, as W.N.N. has a perfect live feed, i.e. the usual 1960-ish stock footage, of a nuke going off over Kamchatka. They do not yet know who is responsible but I don’t know who it could be except the US, seeing how the other nuclear powers either can’t reach there, aren’t in the conflict or are on Russia’s side. Now we know why NORAD had footage of the missile launch: They shot first and were reporting their own launches.
They go back to the Penta-hallway where the Spokesman reports he’s mobilizing and sending more troops to the Middle East, while showing stock footage of soldiers getting into transport planes. Great plan, dumbass. Assemble all your troops at the air bases that will be nuked in a few minutes.
But he’s interrupted by a message of the president himself. Well, the voice of the president, over Air Force One stock footage and a presidential seal. We never see his face. The president speaks soothing words to calm his frightened people and BWAHAHA just kidding.
No, the president declares explicitly that he likes mutual assured destruction. And this:
“I have just authorized a counterstrike, the magnitude of which is almost beyond measure. Those who see fit to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people must not be allowed to take control of the world.”
Even if we have to kill hundreds of thousands of their innocent people to make sure.
Since 2 minutes of a still shot of a fake presidential seal is too lazy even by this movie’s standards, most of the speech is accompanied by shots of ‘the viewers at home’, i.e. all the extras that were so terrible they weren’t trusted with any lines. And they still botch it. Even the man and wife with a baby can’t manage a simple “I’m scared, hold me” performance. The emotions I’m getting from these people range from “mild disapproval” to “nodding in faint agreement” with “boredom” in between.
Aww man. There was supposed to be football on, but instead this president guy keeps blathering on about the end of all life on earth.
Ugh, if only changing the channel wasn’t so much work.
Also, all of them remain seated and silent so we can still hear the president’s speech. You’d expect at least some of them to panic, scream, or curse that jingoistic nuke-crazy prick in the Oval Office.
W.N.N. continues its streak of responsible reporting by having Helen point out that any one of the viewers may be the target of one of those nukes, before cutting to a terribly bad actor playing a reporter standing in a street with not a trace of panic from anyone. But halfway through this reporter’s advice to just go home and say goodbye to your loved ones (yes, literally), the rapture strikes and his camera man vanishes, leaving a neatly folder pile of cloths.
This perfect folding is not just a quirk, it happens to all the raptured people, and the news comments on it repeatedly. When a car crashes right besides the reporter (that is, there is suddenly a car next to the reporter, they didn’t have the budget for an actual crash), he looks in to find that the driver has disappeared, her dress neatly folded on the seat and undisturbed by the impact that killed the man in the passenger seat next to her. Glad God had his priorities straight on what to offer supernatural protection to.
Side note: If you really believe the rapture is going to take you away any second, let your unbelieving carpooling buddy do the driving, you selfish prick.
A mother walks up to the reporter with an empty carriage, shouting that her baby is gone, before a plane flies over low with a dive-sound effect, then the footage cuts to static. This scene probably seemed like a better idea in 1998 than it does after 9/11.
We find that Helen was knocked out by a falling light when Jim was raptured while working on the lights above her, because the few seconds before the nukes start exploding is a great time to fix the studio lights. While we’ve never seen Jim, we knew from Susy that they were both fervent church goers who prayed for Buckson, so naturally they’ve both been raptured. Also naturally, Helen doesn’t recognize this pattern even though her grandmother never seemed to shut up about it.
The show must go on, so the news crew wipes the blood of Helen’s face (so efficiently you can’t even see a trace of the head wound itself, as if she was never injured at all) and she cuts to reports from all over the world about these strange vanishings. You know what that means: More stock footage!
It starts out kind of lame, with the British correspondent saying the situation is indescribably out of control, while showing footage of people calmly exiting a building. But they make up for it Left Behind style, with stock footage of crashed and burned vehicles. More stock footage of burning cars, crashing planes, burning buildings… and I’m wondering how many people that the RTCs consider worthy of eternal torment died in the footage used in this RTC propaganda piece.
We also get a panicking crowd in Tokyo, where a “top government official,” and probably the only RTC in Japan, was telling people that “the Battle for Armageddon was actually a fulfillment of ancient prophecy” when he vanished. Will the ace-reporters at W.N.N. check into this ancient prophecy and realize that adherents of that prophecy also believe they will vanish exactly like this man did? Of course they won’t. They haven’t got a clue. One reporter asks “Why were they taken? Why were we left behind?”, but no one says “Hey, wait a minute, Left Behind? Of course!” It’s especially ironic since this movie was made exactly because Left Behind was so popular.
Another oddity: They mention twice that everyone around the world has lost someone, but they never actually mention that all the children are gone. This movie is pretty unclear about it, we saw that a baby vanished right before the plane crash, but later on in the movie we also see some pretty young looking children, and the next movie features a school bus. But it seems unlikely that everyone in, say, Pakistan, China or Venezuela (96% catholic) knows an RTC which means it must be their children that vanished. And if one toddler vanished, why would others remain unless this god is deeply Calvinist? This weird confusion happened in Left Behind too, but that was mostly because the authors kept forgetting all the children in the world were gone, not because they were ambiguous that they all vanished in the first place.
Speaking of stupid things lifted from Left Behind: We get two back-to-back reports, one of mass rioting immediately following the rapture and a police captain describing it as if “a cloud of evil suddenly descended upon us tonight.” Yeah, that’s what a secular police chief who knows nothing about the coverage of the Holy Spirit leaving us at the time of the rapture would say about riots after a justified global panic. But the other report says that all military hostility has ceased when the in-flight nukes vanished, and those armies happily killing each other in Israel just this morning immediately stopped fighting, instantly went back home and are now just patrolling their nation’s borders. So are all people evil bastards thirsting for violence or fervent peace lovers eager to stop fighting? The answer is ‘yes’.
Oh, didn’t I mention the part where all the nukes vanished when the RTCs did? Sorry, I guess that’s because W.N.N. also doesn’t think it relevant to mention until after reporting on car crashes and riots. Because that’s what the viewers whom you’ve told are about to get vaporized in a nuclear inferno care about first, right?
So, lots of stock footage of people crying about “their vanished loved ones,” and I’m sure the makers checked if each of these people was okay with their suffering being used to make an RTC movie. Oh, and we get a logo of W.N.N. after this report with their slogan:
“One world. One network. This is W.N.N.”
That sounds familiar…
When your PR campaign is cribbing notes from Nazi Germany, fire your marketing department!
But at least the logo helps to suggest a time skip in the reporting, unlike the previous bit where hours of developing situations were reported on in about 5 minutes with no visible time skip. So we know we are a bit later as Buckson introduces a pre-recorded message from Nicolea Carpat- I mean Franco Macaluso standing on the Mount of Olives.
As readers of the Slacktivist (or the original Left Behind books *shudder*) may remember, Nicolae’s rise to power was completely unbelievable. The whole world was just begging for his rule after he alphabetically listed the names of the UN’s member states. Then all the world’s leader went into a room for a few hours to make some deals, and a few hours later they were all happy to give Nicolae all the power and weapons in the world. Such a silly and blatant ruse can’t be hard to improve on, low budget or no. So, in all its uncut glory, here is the devious speech of master-manipulator Franco Macaluso:
“My children, I come to you today, not in the name of another, but in my own. Let there be no mistake and no misunderstanding: I was the one who created you, who loved you, and watched you grow.
Today you know the truth. You know that, had I not intervened, you would have destroyed yourselves. My creations. But that intervention has come at a cost. I had to remove some of the children, because they had chosen the way of hate.
But today is the dawn of a new era. An era of peace and prosperity. I am the god of your father. I am that I am.”
…I honestly don’t know where to begin.
Okay let’s… let’s just start with something positive. This movie at least gets that after a world-shaking event like the Rapture, any rise to power should probably be planned with that in mind. Nicolae, you may recall, rose to power while doing his best to ignore anything had happened. His press conferences went something like this:
“People of the world, FYI, that thing were all your children disappeared? That was something with electromagnetism or something. We don’t really understand how it worked, but there you go. Now, with that out of the way, who wants to hear about my awesome new plane?”
This movie at least understands that, immediately after a global calamity like this, the people of the world have more important things to think about than a minute-by-minute coverage of who owns Air Force One and who flies it.
But sweet Cthulhu, Franco has some brass balls here. He just brazenly tells everyone (to the background of a satanic orchestra) that he killed all the loved ones those people were crying about 5 minutes ago, and expects them to like it. Truly, this scene was written by a veteran RTC who knows he must face the death of an unsaved family member with the grim realization that god send them to hell for eternal torment and that god is awesome and just for doing so.
He’s also really lucky that no one else thought to try claiming responsibility. His only support of his claim is that, prior to the rapture, he said there would be a time when bombs and missiles couldn’t stand against the will of a united people. Which is pretty damn vague as far as prophecies go. Especially since the people were raptured along with the bombs.
And though Diamanda Hagan already discussed it, it would be remiss of me not to mention that Franco shows symptoms of Jerusalem syndrome.
The only reason that anyone might even consider hearing this guy out without bursting into laughter is that god made all the in-flight nukes disappear. (And as we learn later, all the in-flight conventional bullets and rockets too. How the soldiers even noticed that one or two of the bullets in the burst of their automatic weapons vanished, much less why they stopped shooting instead of assuming they fired a dud, I don’t know.) While I might believe it if someone said Tim LaHaye had “chosen the path of hate” and stood in the way of peace in the Middle East, no parent would ever consider this event a good thing if the nukes hadn’t vanished along with their children. By removing his chosen people at the exact same time as he removed something terrible, the in-flight WMDs, god makes it easy for the Antichrist to claim the people removed were terrible too.
But if this omniscient jackass of a god had no problem leaving a “damn-all-humans-forever” apple tree and his deceitful disgruntled ex-employee alone with two oblivious humans, why should we expect him to give a shit now?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this epic critique!