Category Archives: Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm

Apocalypse II: Revelation: Part 1

Happy New Year, all!  Sorry for the hiatus—Wintermas and New Year’s plans got in the way of posting.  But it’s okay, because as a special treat, we have another guest review by Ivan!  And it’s the sequel to his previous review, Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm.

Enjoy!

A Guest Review by Ivan

When your first commercially released movie is something like Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm, the best you can normally hope for is a cult status like The Room. But the market for Christian fiction is far from normal. That’s why Apocalypse became the start of Cloud Ten Picture’s successful movie enterprise. And instead of trying to make a joke of their debut movie or sweep it under the rug, they doubled down and started cranking out sequels. The first of these, and our review fodder for today, was Revelation.

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Ah, Revelation, a title almost as unoriginal as Apocalypse. And as you can see, the new movie’s poster is just as terrible as last time too. Has anything been improved? Well, yes actually. Either they got wealthier investors, or the extremely low budget of their first movie allowed them to turn a profit from the small but dedicated church audiences. Whatever the reason, the budget, cinematography and acting have all been upgraded.

Of course, this more professional production does mean I don’t get to enjoy the adorable MST3K quality of the first movie. So now my entertainment must come either from the movie being genuinely good, or from snarking it to smithereens. And I’m not holding my breath for the former. Case in point, this recap-screen:

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I could snark the incredibly cliched ominous font, the very low estimate of ‘millions’ of disappearances, or the fact that this movie will entirely gloss over the benefits of that peace, harmony and love. But my favorite part is the phrase ‘band of resistors’. Is this band of resistors connected in series or parallel? And how many Ohm are they? Yeah, I know what they mean by it, but I can’t find a single dictionary that lists any description for resistors other than a component in an electrical circuit. So the filmmakers are both mangling scientific terms and displaying that, for all their talk, they don’t understand even the basic concepts of persecuted rebels opposing a tyrannical regime. All in the first four seconds of the movie!

Once the recap is done we open up with… a Christian song. Oh my Odin, not again! But wait, it actually isn’t that bad. For starters, this rendition of the rapture-classic “I wish we’d all been ready” at least sounds nice. And the sad lyrics actually fit with both the rather melancholical tune and the footage from a camera slowly and ominously tracking through the rooms of a dark house, starting in an empty bedroom filled with stuffed animals. Unlike the jumbled messes of the first movie with depressed lyrics, happy music and (supposedly) exciting action footage, here the lyrics, music and imagery all paint a single, cohesive picture. Plus, it mostly plays over the credits, and the rest of the movie features a regular instrumental score. So I’m willing to give this a pass.

Halfway through the song, the camera gets to the dark living room where a man is seated in front of his TV, while looking at the family picture besides him. Or rather, at the back of the picture frame, but if he had turned the picture around to face him, the audience wouldn’t have been able to see it.

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This is our new protagonist, played by Jeff Fahey, a highly productive B-movie actor who recently starred in Planet Terror and Machete. He had already two decades of acting experience at the time of this movie, including an R-rated thriller called Extramarital the year before. That Cloud Ten Pictures tapped him for this role shows that they prioritized affordable acting experience over properly puritan qualifications, for which I am grateful. He’s an adequate leading man, better than Buckson.

His character is Special Agent Thorold Stone and are you kidding me!? Who comes up with these names? Special Agent Stone sounds like the main character of some B-movie testosterone factory. But then the first name is something as old-fashioned as Thorold. I suspect it’s an anagram but I’ll be buggered if I know for what. These online anagram solvers don’t come up with many coherent ones. ‘Do not holster’ was my favorite guess.

Now I want to see the RTC wish-fulfillment protagonists with Freudian porn star names in a crossover.

“Captain Rayford Steele, the ace pilot with his fully loaded 747 on autopilot. Special Agent Thorold Stone, the counter-terrorism expert who never holsters his mighty weapon. And Colonel Lance Mustang, the ex-marine rooster farmer who’s won the “Biggest Cock” contest 3 years in a row. Together they are the Overcompensators. Join them as they battle the dreaded Dr. Midlife Crisis, tonight, on FOX.”

I’m going to have to give this guy a nickname if I don’t want to keep giggling throughout this review. The first movie’s protagonist was a ripoff of Buck Williams, so it was appropriate nicknaming him Buckson. What’s Thorold Stone (*snicker*) like? An operative for a global organization dedicated to wiping out Christians, who is set on the path to salvation after talking to an African American Christian and barely surviving a supernatural event? Perfect! Stonepola it is.

You may have noticed that I considered Buckson a vast improvement over the original Buck. While Buck was busy chilling in the penthouse he bought with the salary he got from the antichrist, Buckson made a dangerous and selfless attempt to warn the unsaved before it was too late. Is Stonepola a similar improvement of the abomination named Paul Stepola? Short answer: Mheh.

Longer answer: Both Soon and Revelation try to present the familiar character arc of “Oppressor redeems himself by joining the Oppressed”. Both botch the redemption part, but for opposite reasons. Paul Stepola’s problem is that he’s still a murderous asshole after his alleged redemption. Stonepola’s problem is that he is already a nice guy before it. He has no stake in or sympathy for the regime he’s supposed to be fighting for. The RTCs he’s supposedly persecuting realize he’s their ally within 30 seconds of meeting him, and his evil superiors are even quicker on the uptake. He might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says “Conversion bait”.

Of course, a protagonist who’s too kind is still less painful to watch than the likes of Paul. But Stonepola’s character has the added problem of a plot hole-riddled backstory.  This sequel to Apocalypse treats the first movie’s events as a guideline at best. Several events of Apocalypse get acknowledged in a single line of clumsy exposition in Revelation, followed by plot points that ignore or contradict those events.  And quite a few of those continuity hiccups are tied into Stonepola’s actions, motivations or backstory. So whatever the merits of Fahey as an actor, I can’t give his character the “thumbs sorta up” I gave Buckson.

Anyway, Stonepola manages to take his teary eyes from the wooden back of the picture frame and back to the TV where he’s watching home video footage of his wife and daughter being all cutesy and shit.

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“Mr. Director, there’s a lawyer from Hallmark with a copyright lawsuit here to see you.”

Before you can say “Gee, I wonder what happened to them” in a sarcastic tone, Stonepola falls asleep and dreams about it. First about how he and his wife had an argument about his horrible sin of not seeing a need to go to church.

“Why can’t we do this together, as a family?”

“We don’t need church to make us a family, all right? I’m gonna tell you one more time honey, I’m not going, I don’t wanna hear any more of this Bible-stuff. If you wanna go, go!”

“Why can’t you just open your heart a little? Please, Thorold. We’re talking about eternity here.”

Note the way his wife tries to guilt-trip her husband by making it sound like she just wants to do things together ‘as a family’, then revealing that her real motivation is hoping it’ll make him convert.

His wife is of course raptured, so she doesn’t technically appear in this story. But she shows up in so many recordings, dreams, impersonations and illusions that her acting still manages to grate my nerves. While the overall acting has improved since the last movie, this woman bucks the trend and can’t do a convincing line reading to save her life. I’m not even kidding when I say the little girl playing their daughter upstages her.

Then the dream moves on to the rapture. Stonepola is pushing his daughter on her swing while his wife is filming it, when there’s a white flash (very cheaply done, movie) and suddenly mother and daughter are gone. There aren’t neatly folded piles of clothes, but the camera the mother was holding is lying on the ground, so I guess this is really how their rapturing happened. Taken away by their heavenly father, so they no longer had to suffer the evil presence of their human father… who was busy being a loving, caring, attentive family man. Uhm, thank god?
My best guess is that this scene is meant as a sort of moral support to RTCs who are annoyed that their unsaved neighbors aren’t as mean and miserable as they should be, what with that Jesus-shaped hole in their life. It shows that those pleasant-looking people still aren’t right by god like you are, dear viewer. One day they’ll rue how they politely rejected your evangelizing even though now they may look like they haven’t got a care in the world, just like Stonepola in this scene.

Well okay, if you want to be nitpicky, I suppose Stonepola had one minor care at the time.

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Just that his little nuclear family was about to become more literally so. Remember how the rapture happened during the opening stage of WW3 in the first movie, and the news was telling all Americans to just kiss their asses goodbye? Don’t worry if you’d forgotten, Cloud Ten apparently did as well. Stonepola’s family shouldn’t be playing outside, they should be under the kitchen table hoping that that ‘duck and cover’ crap works better than they think it will.

 

Nonsensical backstory and song over, we go to the following morning when Stonepola is called to the scene of a blown up school bus. The cops assume it’s the work of the haters, a.k.a. the Christians, a.k.a. the RTCs, a.k.a. the band of resistors. But every sentient life form in the audience can deduce, just from the sad music and dramatic shots of sheet-covered bodies and burning schoolbags, that it’ll turn out to be a false flag operation by the antichrist. I’m not going to bother pretending otherwise.

Actually, I called them cops but they, like all the other emergency workers on the scene, have a logo reading O.N.E. on their uniforms. That’s because they are now all working for the antichrist’s global government, the One Nation Earth. I’m taking points of for needing to use ‘One’ to make the acronym O.N.E. But given that Left Behind called their one-world government Global Community, Revelation still comes out ahead. Then again, this movie does expect us to believe this whole global organization was set up during a three month time skip instead of Left Behind’s eighteen.
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The corner-cutting required to set everything up in just three months
might explain why the logo is so obviously and poorly glued to this guy’s outfit.
The movie never actually makes it clear what role Stonepola plays in this whole O.N.E. organization. He’s just referred to as “an O.N.E. Agent”, despite his G-man outfit being just about the only uniform that doesn’t have the O.N.E. logo on it. More importantly, the movie also never makes it clear whether he joined the O.N.E. willingly, or if he used to be some sort of federal agent whose agency got absorbed into the one world government and that he never got around to quitting. Both options make no sense given his backstory, but the former is decidedly more stupid, so I’d have liked to know.
A bomb squad expert tells Stonepola that they managed to “isolate the frequency” of the detonator when another suit runs in and tells them that “satellite tracking just located the source of the detonator signal”, so Stonepola gets moving again before he’s even told exactly where that signal came from. That entire scene took 15 seconds, probably so we don’t get time to think on how the hell all that technobabble was supposed to work. A satellite “just located” the signal of a detonator, long after the bomb had gone off? That signal was strong enough to be picked up from space? Did they even need that isolated frequency?
But the movie does take its time on the scene of Stonepola and his partner driving to the warehouse. This scene does an okay job of establishing character, but utterly fails at world building.
“Come on, Thorold. You’ve seen the same thing as the rest of us. Every nuclear weapon on Earth, gone.”
Oh, now they remember the nukes.
“Millions of people vanishing into thin air. … You know, ever since we were little kids, you never believed in anything. Every puppet show, you’re looking for strings. At Christmas, you’re looking for Santa’s footprints on the roof. Finally, you’ve got all the proof you need and it’s still not good enough.”
Between this and the “why don’t you open your heart a little” from Stonepola’s wife, he’s been firmly established as a doubting Thomas. But you know what I just left out in that snip?
“Millions of people vanishing into thin air. If Macalousso is not god, then who is he?”
“Maybe he’s just some con-man who saw what was going on and took advantage before anyone could come to their senses.”
The doubting Thomas is right. He may underestimate Macalousso, but he’s spot on about what he actually did. That’s interesting, because RTCs like his wife love to complain about skeptics for being so unreasonable and denying the obvious truth. But even if the movie doesn’t acknowledge it, we see that the close-minded man who doesn’t believe in god is right to be skeptical.
Unlike his partner, who’s a firm supporter of the antichrist. And the partner of a thriller protagonist who is about to come into a conflict with his evil superiors. And the protagonist’s childhood-friend. And he’s black… RubyTea, do you have Bruce Barnes’ death timer lying around somewhere? Does it display minutes too? Or seconds, for that matter?
I should give the movie some props for at least having some non-white cast members. I counted six African-Americans characters in this movie, which is a decent score. Too bad only half of them make it to the end credits.
Stonepola concludes the discussion by saying he’s not looking for god, just for his family. This is the point where the inconsistencies of this story’s setting become too big to ignore. For starters, Stonepola doesn’t believe Macalousso’s story, but doesn’t have a clue what did happen to his family. Apparently his wife never did speak to him again “about this Bible-stuff”. And he didn’t see Buckson’s worldwide broadcast. And he never, ever, heard about the rapture at any point in his life. We’re in “Jesus, who’s that?”-territory here.
For another thing, Stonepola’s dissatisfaction with Macalousso’s official story that the raptured family members were killed by him for being hateful is presented as unusual. “Everyone has lost someone” said the news reporter in Apocalypse, accompanied by stock footage of grief-stricken families. But when Macalousso came and said “Don’t worry about your missing loved ones, I killed them, now worship me”, everyone but Stonepola went either “Oh, okay” or “Antichrist!”
And lastly, there’s the problem that Stonepola isn’t dead yet. He and Deadmeat are casually debating their religious disagreement, like friends might normally do. But the situation isn’t normal. They aren’t debating the divinity of a guy last seen two millennia ago, nor of the leader of a small cult. They’re debating the divinity of their global dictator. The man who, with a single speech, triggered mass-roundups and public executions of his enemies. Not only that, but as O.N.E. agents they serve as his enforcers. They’re on their way to wiping out some more of his enemies right now. Yet Stonepola sees no danger in constantly expressing his doubts about that leader, and his continuing love for the enemies that leader made disappear. If you tried that in a real dictatorship, you’d be in a shallow grave within the week. Cloud Ten is so hung up on the idea of Christians being persecuted, it doesn’t occur to them that anyone besides Christians might also face persecution.

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Stonepola and Deadmeat arrive at the warehouse just before their SWAT backup does. Deadmeat whips out a device from his friend Willie Spino that can “read human DNA through solid concrete”. Wow, my willing suspension of disbelief didn’t so much break as disintegrate. This magical hand-held device can not only, through unknown means, detect DNA from a large distance, but can also distinguish it from the DNA of non-human lifeforms that are more than 90% identical?  And from DNA from skin slivers that humans leave everywhere?
It seems that way, because the magic device works. Stonepola and the SWAT team move in to an unmapped area presumed to be filled with an unknown number of armed terrorists. I don’t know what method of approach SWAT officers are taught to use in such situations. But I’m sure that it isn’t “walk in a tightly packed line like a bunch of parading Nazi’s while ignoring cover, good lines of fire, room to maneuver and protection from being wiped out by a single grenade”.
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Stonepola’s finds the right boarded up window to peak through, where he sees a church service being held in the rundown warehouse, with the preacher’s wife and daughter leading dozen or so attendees in a singalong of, ironically, ‘He has made me glad’. (I guess you could say the movie does have multiple Christian songs in it, but I don’t count it if the characters are singing it.)

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Once the womenfolk are done, the preacher takes over. Despite being a post-rapture convert, he’s managed to imitate the original RTCs perfectly. And I don’t just mean his Bible-prophecy talk. But also how he insists that Christians like him are being horribly persecuted, while failing to act upon that belief. If an enemy death squad can park their truck next to your hideout, sneak to within 30 feet of you and hold an entire frigging debate without anyone in your band of resistors noticing, that’s a sign you’re not taking this whole “hiding from persecution”-thing seriously.

Stonepola and Deadmeat first discuss how this bunch of capacitors first blew up a school bus and are now singing cheery songs.

“It’s not the first time something is blown up in the name of the almighty.”

Oh, silly Stonepola, those terrorists weren’t True Scotsmen.

Then the discussion turns to what they want to do with this group of inductors. The SWAT captain is all for following orders and gunning them down, Stonepola wants to take them to HQ for questioning. The same HQ, mind you, where the order to kill them came from. Yeah, that’ll go well.

Deadmeat tiebreaks in favor of his partner, so they jump out of their flimsy cover and arrest them. Captain Killgore can’t resist telling them that it’s only thanks to Stonepola that he wasn’t allowed to shoot them all. Deadmeat frisks two members of the bundle of voltage supplies for 10 seconds total before declaring that none of them have any weapons. Because, as the preacher explains, RTCs are all harmless innocent lambs like that.

While Captain Killgore is busy dragging the collection of current meters to the SWAT van, the preacher’s wife, called Selma Davis, ends up talking with Stonepola and Deadmeat. Selma claims they’re being set up by Franco Macalousso. What a twist! Deadmeat will have none of the talk that “the Bible makes it perfectly clear” that Franco is the devil, so he leaves her alone, without handcuffs, with his partner who has holstered his weapon (guess that wasn’t the anagram). I’m pretty sure that isn’t standard procedure for suspected terrorists.

Since Deadmeat let it slip that this gathering of diodes are just like Stonepola’s wife, Selma exploits that emotional scar tissue for all it’s worth.

“Let me ask you something. Do you think your wife would be killing children if she was still here? If you would just open your heart… Why didn’t you let them shoot us?

“Because you don’t look dangerous to me.”

“I mean, normally I’m all ‘No trial, no mercy, no problem’. If you had looked like a group of Arabs, ooh-boy, they’d be scraping your remains off the wall right now.”

Selma reveals that the real reason Stonepola was send to kill them was that she worked for the O.N.E. and stole a CD-ROM from them, which she hands to Stonepola with the suggestion that he should look at what’s on it.

“Do it for your wife.”

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to heaven with emotional blackmail.

I don’t know if it’s deliberate, but Selma looks like a very shrewd implementation of a Magical Negro. She is, after all, the African American character who is wise and capable, yet serves no function in the plot other than to give the white protagonist the tools and advice he needs for his quest. But the in-universe complaints about how a Magical Negro’s character makes no sense are covered. It’s actually explained why she recruits the Mighty Whitey instead of using her superior skills to do everything on her own.  She’s being arrested, which means she can no longer complete her goal herself. So she pushes every emotional button of the one guy among their captors who seems sympathetic to them and hopes he’ll do the job for her. It’s a long shot, sure, but it’s the best chance she’s got to complete her mission. That this helps the white protagonist to become the hero is just a side-effect.

When Selma is finally dragged outside, she taps a tiny red button besides the door opening, sending a warning sign to another group of underground RTCs (whom I promise I will not refer to as electrical circuitry). Well, they have some alarm system prepared I guess. But sending a signal to a distant, undiscovered group from a compromised location seems mighty dangerous in a world where detonator signals can be traced via satellite long after the bombs went off.

In any case, this group includes one of the few solid links this movie has to Apocalypse.

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It’s Helen Hannah! Alive, well, and not in prison/cattle truck…. somehow. We last saw her locked up and surrounded by the antichrist’s minions. Right after footage of her and Buckson publicly denouncing the antichrist went all over the world. Which would have made her a symbol of the anti-antichrist movement, and made those minions very angry with her. Cindy even mentions in this very scene that “the crowds cheered when they strung your boyfriend up on national television”. But Helen got off with a warning?

Well, it introduces another plot hole, but I’m sure the presence of Helen Hannah in this movie will be worth it, right?

“Oh no, they got the Davis group. …  We have to assume they got [the CD] too. Poor Selma Davis. She was supposed to meet me here with it this afternoon.”

Ugh… Those are Helen’s first lines this movie. They’re… bad. Really bad. The lines are clunky enough by themselves (who uses a first and last name in a situation like this?), but Helen also delivers them with all the gut-wrenching sadness of someone who found a tear in their third-favorite shirt. She wasn’t good in Apocalypse either, but there she had the benefit of not being surrounded by the better actors featured in this movie.

Speaking of whom, let’s introduce the other resistance members in the picture above. To the right is Cindy, the woman who kicked Helen of the movie poster despite having a smaller part. She deserves the spot though. She’s a better actress and her character is more interesting. Between her blindness and her more rebellious, crankier attitude than the others, she’s at least memorable.

Which is more than I can say for the two men. The man in front seems to be their go-to guy for dangerous missions until Stepola shows up and becomes their point-man without any discussion. He gets no further characterization, but it’s still more than the guy in the back gets. After watching this movie once, I could literally remember nothing about him except that he’s overweight and I thought that he was Cindy’s brother. But the latter is never actually stated. If I had to name one character trait, it would be that he’s a dick. He’s there for the fans of the Left Behind books, which didn’t have a movie adaptation in 1999 and who were longing for heroes in a post-rapture story who treat empathy as a four-letter word. I’ll just call these two Cool Christian and Uncool Christian respectively.

Anyway, Uncool Christian shows even less sympathy for the Davis group than Helen (because he’s a dick), he’s just upset that now they won’t get the information about the “Day of Wonders” the O.N.E. is planning. Cindy doesn’t feel optimistic, what with the whole world wanting them dead, but Helen tries to sooth her.

“We can’t blame them, Cindy, they don’t know what we know. They also don’t know that Macalousso is having anyone who disagrees with him killed. All they see is the miracles.”

I’m giving the movie points for that first sentence. For all the holier-than-thou posturing, it’s rare to see RTC heroes exhibit actual Christ-like behavior. But I’m taking some off again for that second sentence, since it comes right after Cindy reminded us of Buckson’s public execution and that the rest of the world wants the RTCs dead too. And let’s not even go into the stock footage of protests and attacks against RTCs that the first movie jammed down our throats. I’d say the people know all about that, seeing how they’re helping him do it. And Stonepola’s survival up to this point suggests that Macalousso doesn’t kill “anyone who disagrees with him”, just RTCs.

Cool Christian says that he has managed to set up a fake ID to infiltrate the O.N.E. HQ, but he doesn’t know what to look for without the disk. Ehm, look for another disk? Just a suggestion.

“Anything. Anything that can help us figure out what these guys have planned for the Day of Wonders. ‘Cause whatever they’re planning, it’s big. And it can’t be good.”

What’s this? A Rapture story where the main characters aren’t sitting around talking about which prophesied events are next on the list, wait until they happen, then express their amazement that the Bible foretold it all so accurately? Instead, they are in a tense race against time to figure out the villain’s plan, because they want to stop it? What a strange concept!

And it’s especially a nice change of pace from Apocalypse where we got saturated with Jack van Impe’s smug face telling us what was about to hap-

“Here, take a look at this. It’s a tape I found in my grandmother’s house.”

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FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU-!!!

And no Helen, you didn’t get this from your grandma’s house, even if you were suicidal enough to go back there when the villains were looking for you. The Goony One took those tapes, remember? It was the critical point of the climax of the first movie, also known as the only part of Apocalypse I liked!

Cindy seems to care as much for Jack’s yammering about Bible verses from completely different books all being about the same event as I do, so she puts on her headphones and turns up her music. *Gasp*, she’s ignoring the words of the perfect holy savior and rightful lord of all that is! And those Bible verses too! I sense a comeuppance in your future, girly.

We cut back to the band of resistors being pushed into the SWAT truck as Stonepola and Deadmeat argue about their guilt. Deadmeat lists some fairly mayor pieces of evidence, Stonepola doesn’t have much except for “They are just like my wife, ergo innocent” and some straw-grasping. His one valid point is that they didn’t find the detonator yet, but they were meeting in a big, messy warehouse so Deadmeat is sure the bomb squad will find once they investigate the site. And yet, not a single agent is staying behind to actually guard the site until those investigators show up. They don’t even leave any yellow Police-Do-Not-Cross tape.

That’s too bad for Stonepola and Deadmeat, because just after they swapped their bulletproof vests back for their G-Man outfits, there’s a loud clang from the opposite building. They go to check it out, but don’t bother to call back the SWAT van that left a minute ago. Deadmeat whips out the magic DNA scanner again, but curses at it and shoves it into Stonepola’s hands. I’m not sure if that means it showed something or not, but either way, he and Stonepola burst into the building and see two guys in the exact same outfits as they are wearing. Since they aren’t singing Christian songs and don’t look like Stonepola’s wife, Stonepola and Deadmeat open fire without warning. Luckily the other two return fire, else Stonepola and Deadmeat might’ve looked like trigger-happy maniacs.

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We have ourselves a little shoot-out, followed by a chase as the bad guys split up and run. This action scene is pretty decent. It’s on par with a regular TV movie, which is a step up for most RTC movies. The initial shootout is a bit dull, shown with a shot of the good guys shooting, then a shot of the bad guys shooting, rinse, repeat, but the chase is better. I give it a minus for Stonepola missing with aimed shots but finally nailing his opponent with blind fire around a corner, but a plus for the characters reloading almost as often as they should need to. Oh, and after a decade of shaky cam and hyper-editing, it’s a pleasant surprise to watch a fight scene between identically dressed people in a dimly lit warehouse where you can actually tell what’s going on.

After Stonepola’s opponent goes down, he decides not to run straight after his partner to back him up, but slowly approaches his downed enemy and searches him, finding an O.N.E. badge and a detonator. The latter shouldn’t surprise anyone in the audience, the former shouldn’t even surprise Stonepola. He was wearing the same suit as you were, dumbass. How did you know they weren’t on a legit investigation of the group you just arrested?

The other bad guy managed to get a big enough lead on Deadmeat, so he has time to call his boss on his walky-talky.

“Sir, I don’t know how they found us, but we have two O.N.E. agents in pursuit.”

Just a hunch, but maybe they found you because you were making loud noises right next to where they parked their car, with only a single unlocked door between you and them. Idiot.

I wonder if the magic DNA scanner was more important in the initial script. In the movie, it’s only used to confirm the presence of people whom Deadmeat already suspects are there, and who aren’t hiding particularly well. If these bad guys had actually been in a good hiding spot and Deadmeat only found them because of a scanner they didn’t know he had, this comment would make more sense. And the bad guys would have looked less stupid.

His boss only tells him to “take care of it”, so a fat lot of good that call did. I’d have interpreted that order as surrendering, telling Deadmeat he’s on a covert op and agreeing to go down to HQ to prove it, then have his superiors make Deadmeat and Stonepola disappear. Instead, he hides just besides the door opening to ambush Deadmeat, lines up his shot… when he’s knocked out from behind by Stonepola. Oh, good, Stonepola guessed exactly right how much time he could spend investigating his dead opponent and still save his partner at the last second. Whew, Deadmeat is safe! For another minute or so.

Stonepola shows Deadmeat the O.N.E. badge and detonator, and gives him a “Told you so”. They handcuff the bad guy to a pipe, then proceed to look for whomever the bad guy was talking to. They know he must be close enough for a walky-talky (even though later in the movie, these walky-talkies seem to have a range of several miles), but they have no idea where. This sounds like a perfect job for a scanner that can spot humans through walls, but they just walk on blindly. Luckily, their target is making no effort to hide, and it is… MacEvilton! Dun-dun-dunnn.

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Ominous lighting?  A Gestapo raincoat?  Really, Cloud Ten?  You saw MacEvilton in Apocalypse and decided he needed help to look evil?

Stonepola and Deadmeat order MacEvilton to drop his weapon. When he raises it anyway, they empty their guns at him, but to no effect other than making him do his evil grin. Somehow Stonepola and Deadmeat deduce that it isn’t because that trench coat hides a bulletproof vest, which would’ve been my first guess.

“Who are you?”

“What are you?”

“I am a servant of the Messiah. I’m here to help him rid the world of anyone and everyone who stands in his way. And now, gentlemen, that includes you!” *BANG* *BANG*

With all the inconsistencies between this movie and Apocalypse, it’s nice to see that at least MacEvilton hasn’t changed a bit: Posture first, shoot second, ask questions never.

Though it’s a bit weird to find him heading the O.N.E. enforcement branch now (Deadmeat even knew him by name). Last movie, he was in charge at the W.N.N., and he botched that job big time. Not only was a video announcement exposing Macalousso as the antichrist broadcast around the world on his watch, but footage of MacEvilton admitting Macalousso’s evilness was included. You’d expect the antichrist to give Blofeld-style performance reviews, where the employee sits on a trapdoor to the piranha tank in case he doesn’t get a ‘Meets expectations’-rating or higher. Or at least that he’d have to make MacEvilton a scapegoat and denouncing him as an overzealous employee or something. But it looks like Macalousso was understanding and kindly suggested that with his ruthlessness and sadism, MacEvilton might be better suited for hunting down Macalousso’s enemies than for doing his PR. Spoiler warning: He isn’t.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

After he’s shot Stonepola and Deadmeat (both of them go down at the first shot, sloppy directing there), MacEvilton turns around and walks away, phasing right through the wall. Wow, the antichrist is handing out superpowers to his minions now. Pity MacEvilton powers don’t include a life-sensing ability, because Stonepola isn’t dead. The bullet hit the DNA scanner in Stonepola’s pocket. Well, at least the silly thing was useful for something.

This is the first in a series of increasingly unsubtle cases where characters are saved by divine intervention. Which I suppose is fair enough. The human characters in this story are fighting and dying on god’s behalf, in a war against an enemy who isn’t actually a threat to god. It’s no more than reasonable that god lends his followers a bit of a hand. But it does kill the tension when you realize that the almighty god can make sure the heroes win any time he wants.

And when god doesn’t help all the time, you run the risk of making god look spitefully arbitrary. Fortunately, this movie does have a consistent pattern for interventions. Unfortunately, that pattern is that god always saves white people. African Americans already account for half the fatalities among non-extra’s in this movie (and that’s counting the nameless white guy with no lines that Stonepola shot), despite making up less than half of the cast. But all the white fatalities are vicious villains. The only non-villains that die are black. I strongly doubt this was intentional, but the movie would’ve been better for it if the filmmakers had caught and changed this.

Right here, for example, Deadmeat gave Stonepola the DNA scanner, and his life is saved. I think this movie would have been greatly improved if Deadmeat had kept the scanner and he had survived. Stonepola’s character is too nice for his assigned role in the story, and he needs to be unrealistically ignorant for him to play his part. He keeps sticking to an “alien invasion” theory for the rapture and the supernatural powers he sees, when he should know better.

Why couldn’t he have told Deadmeat with his dying breath that he had already realized his wife was right so that he dies saved, and pleaded Deadmeat to find out the truth? Deadmeat might not have believed it, and as a supporter of Macalousso he would not have wanted to. But now that he’s being hunted by his former allies, he’d have no choice but to seek out the haters for help. And there he could realize that they are nice guys, that he was wrong and that he hurt innocents because of it. That’s a good setup for a dramatic redemption, with way less plot holes. Plus, a Christian movie with a black main character is fairly original, so you’d have that going for you.

Alas, it’s Stonepola who gets up and mourns over Deadmeat. For those keeping score, 13 minutes, 6 seconds, counting from his first line of dialogue.

He goes back to the guy they handcuffed, only to find that the guy is now gone with the locked handcuff still in place. Wait, MacEvilton went the other way, so that means the goon got out himself? He could phase through solid matter too? Then why was he running from Deadmeat and Stonepola? He could’ve phased through their bullets too. Or if that’s a higher level power, he could’ve at least ambushed them by going through walls.

The movie then cuts to a building with a very fake looking O.N.E. logo on it. Looks like their special effects team is still having trouble with superimposing stuff on stock footage. At least they don’t do it as often as in Apocalypse.

We see the Davis family being thrown in jail. Just as Captain Killgore is done locking them up and spouting threats, he’s called away to the following scene:

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“I’ve got one more for you officers.”

“Dad, please! Please don’t do this! […] Please, you don’t understand.”

“I’m afraid I do understand, son. And I’m doing this for your own good. These men can help you. Last night, I found a Bible in his room. This morning… I found him kneeling by his bed.”

“Dad, I was praying for you.”

“You’ve done the right thing, sir.”

“I wish it felt a little bit more like the right thing.”

“You’re not the first father to turn in his son. Probably half the haters in captivity have been turned in by family for re-education.”

“Son, I’m sorry. But you’ve got to believe, I’m only doing this because I love you.”

This scene takes less than a minute. And yet it is the most effective scene at conveying the horror of persecution I’ve seen in any Christian work of fiction. It’s probably my favorite scene of the movie. There may be more competently made scenes, but most of those (like that shoot-out scene from before) could’ve just as easily been thrown into a secular movie. Of the scenes that are intended to send a strong RTC message, this is the best one. And I normally have no patience for scenes that cater to the RTC’s martyr fetish, so creating such a scene that makes me feel something besides nausea is quite a feat.

This feat is accomplished because the scene in question is legitimately creepy. Being turned in by family, not because they go berserk at the mere mention of Christ, but because they honestly believe that you are harming yourself by being what you want to be, and that it’s better for you if you get re-educated? That’s scary, unnerving stuff, and both actors are doing their best to show their mutual grief. (Though I can’t help but notice how few of their lines you’d have to change to turn it into a scene about an RTC dad bringing his son to an ex-gay clinic.)

And as an added bonus, this scene gives us a rare glimpse of what the effect of the worldwide crackdown against RTCs has on non-RTCs. In most of these stories, the (ironic) witch hunt for RTCs has either seemingly no effect of society, or actually makes that society better as seen in Soon and Apocalypse.  Up until god goes Old-Testament on their asses for daring to make a peaceful and prosperous society without him at least.

It may be armchair-psychology on my part, but I feel it’s a symptom of a tribe mentality and lack of empathy on the RTC’s part. It just doesn’t occur to them that a merciless persecution of RTCs could possibly affect those who don’t share their beliefs. No sign of fear of those RTCs, no false accusations, no activists who protest the treatment of RTCs on humanitarian grounds, nothing. So I’m pleased to see some slightly more subtle world building details like this. And yeah, it’s pretty sad that a scene where a father turns his son over to the police for being a Christian stands out as a subtle scene.

A shame that Captain Killgore starts taunting the kid the second his father is gone. Just in case you wondered if he might have been so bloodthirsty earlier because he was upset about the dead children in the school bus: Nope, he just hates Christians. Oh, those terrible unbelievers, all so incapable of love.

Then we go to the previously handcuffed minion and his new partner bringing MacEvilton the news that Stonepola is alive and gone, and that the CD was nowhere to be found. MacEvilton chews them out, even though he really has only himself to blame here. Still, it’s always fun to see MacEvilton do his thing.

“You listen to me, and you listen very carefully. The Day of Wonders is less than 72 hours away. If that CD makes it into the underground, and those idiots manage to find out what’s on it… they’ll do anything to expose the Messiah’s plan.”

“I understand, sir.”

“No, I don’t think you do. If you did, you wouldn’t be standing here sniveling, you’d be looking for the disk. And Thorold Stone.”

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What I love is that MacEvilton has a Wanted-poster of Helen framed on his desk. It actually makes a weird kind of sense. MacEvilton is such a cliched and obvious villain, he couldn’t possibly have a loved one. Nor could he have a pet, since he can’t see puppy without kicking it. To have a picture of his enemy for his regular two minutes of hate is far more in character. Too bad it reminds me of the fact that the movie never explains how Helen got away from him after the end of Apocalypse.

Since the details of the plans of the good and bad guys thus far came in a bit fragmentary, let me recap them. Selma acquired critical data on the antichrist’s plan about a week before it went into effect, then waited several days to bring it to Helen. The bad guys found her, used loyal agents to implicate her church in a bombing and put their least loyal agent in command of a murderous SWAT team, instead of having the loyal agents kill or arrest them for the crime of being haters. The ultimate battle of good and evil, ladies and gentlemen. Criminally negligent priorities vs convoluted incompetence.

Speaking of incompetence, Stonepola is cleverly hiding in a well-lit car interior besides the road, right under a big poster of the antichrist, which gives us our first look at him in this movie… and it shows us he looks nothing like he did last time. They got a different actor, but from what I could find in the way of pictures, the actors don’t look that dissimilar. They just chose to give the antichrist the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-look this time around.

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Since I’m already wearing my reviewing pants, I think I’ll go right ahead and review this poster too. The good news is, it at least looks like it might be an actual poster, not something pasted in the background with Microsoft Paint. And it looks fitting for propaganda for a despotic megalomaniac. I’m a bit concerned about the mixed message of the Day of Wonders being “for all of us”, while also asking people to report haters. I think you should have separate posters for your messages of unity and warnings against the enemies.

And there’s the logo, seen on the sleeves of the SWAT uniforms and Stonepola’s squad car, but here is the first good look we get. I like the use of purple, the color of roman emperors. The Eye of Providence is a bit much, but Macalousso is already claiming to be god so I’ll give it a pass. But the motto “Mundus Vult Decipi” is where I draw the line. That’s the first half of a rather well-known Latin phrase, meaning “The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived”. There should be plenty of Latin-speakers among the left behind Catholics and intellectuals. Not one of them was concerned that the guy who claimed to be god established a global empire whose very motto is about deceiving the world? I call bullshit!

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Stonepola’s car radio is on the Plot Points Channel, so we first get a Macalousso speech saying pretty much what that poster is saying, but in more words, followed by a news announcer that the O.N.E. is hunting for Stonepola and that they unimaginatively framed him for his partner’s murder. Then we get some snippets about New Europe being as united as the days of the Roman Empire, and the Temple of Humanity under construction in Jerusalem (How is the antichrist supposed to desecrate a temple that isn’t consecrated to any god in the first place?) and Stonepola quickly dozes off before the audience can realize what the story just glossed over right there.

Up to this point, my gut feeling was that this movie at least doesn’t feature a mind-bogglingly unrealistic portrayal of the world at large. But after these snippets and the incredibly obvious motto got me really thinking about it, I realized that this is because the movie hardly gives any portrayal of the world. The film almost entirely takes place in three different hideouts and the O.N.E. Headquarters. Beyond those locations, there’s three scenes in Stonepola’s car, the opening in Stonepola’s house, the ending in a fourth hideout and a quick glance near the blown-up school bus.

I guess that’s one way of dealing with a prophecy outline that requires nearly the entire world population to act utterly unnatural: Keep that population away from the camera’s and hope no one thinks about it. Stonepola’s main drive is to find out what happened to his family, but what are all the other people who lost their children in the rapture doing? Never explained. I still don’t even know if all the children under a certain age have vanished or not. I wonder if this lack of world building is because of budget constraints, because Cloud Ten assumes their viewers will fill in the blanks, or because they realized there was no way to build a realistic world where their prophecies could be fulfilled.

Anyway, Stonepola dreams about his encounter with Selma, with phrases of Deadmeat pointing out that it’s the same thing his wife believed, whereupon it’s his wife standing in Selma’s place, as the screen goes blurry and the camera moves disorientingly. Then he remembers shooting in vain at MacEvilton with that same editing, and right as MacEvilton raises his gun he wakes up panting. It’s a pretty good scene as dream sequences go. Four or five more scenes of that quality level will make up for “Mundus Vult Decipi”.

After Stonepola wakes up he turns over the DNA scanner, and sees a name tag of Willie Spino, the friend of Deadmeat who “does things with computers that’ll blow your mind”. Stonepola decides to take the disk to him. He enters through a rundown door with a sign that says “Beware of the dog, he’s small but he knows Kung Fu”, goes up in a ramshackle elevator and carefully advances through a hallway barren except for computer cases and monitors stacked high and wide. Oh, and a wheelchair. I call this cheating the “show, don’t tell” rule. Yes, technically I suppose they are ‘showing’ us that he’s a shut-in, sarcastic, crippled tech geek, but it’s almost as obvious as telling us.

Stonepola hears muttering and gunshots as he advances with drawn gun, and as he rounds a corner, he finds Willie with a big VR helmet covering his eyes and a revolver in his hand. When Stonepola jumps at the sight of the gun, Willie hears him, takes of the helmet and he and Stonepola have themselves a Mexican Standoff.

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“Who are you?”

“Thorold Stone. A friend of [Deadmeat]’s.”

“Stone? A friend of [Deadmeat]’s, huh? That’s funny, ‘cause I heard you killed him.”

“I’m sure that’s not the only lie you heard today.”

FYI, this exchange, the radio blaming Stonepola and the few seconds of mourning over Deadmeat’s corpse that I told you about? Those are the only mentions of Stonepola’s partner and childhood friend in the entire movie after his death. Like good RTCs, the writers quickly forget the unsaved hell-bound friend.

“Yeah? And what makes you think I’m gonna believe you?”

“Because I need your help. And my gun is real.”

[Lower gun, shrugs] “’s a good point.”

Ladies and gentlemen, meet my favorite character in this movie. Between Stonepola’s “I’m so nice, but also angsty about my family”-shtick and the permanently poutiness of Helen, it’s nice to see a character with some levity and humor, even if it is inappropriate at times.

***

Ruby’s note:

And on the note of meeting a likeable character, stay tuned for Part 2!

TV Alert: Apocalypse IV: Judgment

YOU GUYS

In light of Ivan’s awesome Guest Critique of Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm, I have been inspired to make a new type of post, alerting you, my loyal readers and watchers and critiquers of bad Christian entertainment, to when you might be able to watch said bad Christian entertainment in the comfort of your own homes.

Because I just saw that the fourth movie in Cloud Ten’s epic Apocalypse series, Apocalypse IV: Judgment, will be shown on Daystar this very weekend!

So, if you enjoyed getting to know Helen Hannah, you can watch her continuing adventures.

And, as if you needed any more incentive than that, this movie features Mr. T!  (Insert your own “I pity the fool” joke here.)

 

Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm, Part 3

A Guest Critique by Ivan.  Need to catch up with Parts 1 and 2?

Hot off the heels of this stupidity, we go to the next item where we hear that the Antichrist has reunited brothers who have been separated for 6000 years by brokering peace between Israel and its Muslim neighbors. Oh FFS, now these secular news agencies are taking Genesis literally too?

This peace agreement serves for only a seven year period. No one asks why there is a seven year expiration date when the Messiah promised eternal peace. But even hardened as Buckson’s heart is by all that filthy intellectualism, he does notice that this sounds an awful lot like that seven year peace treaty Helen was talking about. We see him later grumbling as he walks to his car.

“Could have been a five year treaty. Could have been ten. But no, it had to be seven. Give me a break.”

Buckson makes a good point. We know two things about Franco. He’s dispatched minions like MacEvilton because he doesn’t want people finding out he’s the Antichrist. And he has enough knowledge of the rapture prophecies to time his plan exactly to god’s. So he obviously knows a seven year treaty with Israel is a big warning sign for anyone who “reads the bible literally.”

So why not make it 10 years? Or give no ending date? As long as the treaty isn’t scheduled to end before he plans to betray the Israelis, it serves his purposes. So why stick to the prophesized seven years? The Antichrist might enjoy following the prophecies that say he takes over the world, but by following this prophecy to the letter he exposes himself while gaining nothing.

If you think about it, this bit actually has some weird implications. This prophecy comes from god, satan’s nemesis, and the Antichrist knows this. Yet he follows the prophecy anyway. If your (im)mortal enemy prophecises that you’ll jump of a bridge, would you do it? Or does this imply that the Antichrist doesn’t actually have free will, that he has no choice but to do what god said he’ll do? In which case, can we blame the Antichrist for his evil actions? Isn’t it god’s fault for not prophecizing that the Antichrist will spend the entire seven years hugging puppies and helping old ladies cross the street?

I actually skipped ahead a little there. Before the scene where Buckson gets to his car, Helen dumps a package into it. The Goony One and his friend are sitting in a car with well lit interior right next to it, but Helen completely fails to spot them while driving up to Buckson’s car. So it’s an exciting chase!

Well…actually no, there’s no budget for car stunts or even paying any traffic fines. So Helen just looks in her rear view mirror a lot and sees the headlights of a car that’s perfectly obeying the speed limit. But there’s a lot of quick editing and Helen looking worried! That must mean it’s serious! Because she doesn’t have that expression all the damn time or anything.

And there’s a tense song about the end times playing in the background! Sadly, like all the Christian songs in this movie (or like all RTC music, period) no matter how grim the subject, the music is always the same blandly cheerful country-ish tune. Which really hampers the movie when they play it over pseudo-action scenes or dramatic montages of stock footage.

The goons manage to grab Helen, but never bother to check what Helen was doing with Buckson’s car, so the package is still there for Buckson to find. In it is a Bible and a cassette tape from a show called Point of View.

“Today we’re talking about one of the questions that every Christian has been asked at one time or another: If god really exists, then why doesn’t he simply show himself to the world? I mean, he’s god, he can do anything he wants, right?”

That is certainly something I’d like to know, yes.

“Well, today we’re going to answer that very question.”

Good, sounds interesting.

“By talking about one of the most important elements of Christian experience: Faith.”

Lolwut?

“That faith is what lets us know, in our hearts, that even if our loved ones may have departed, their spirit still lives forever in the presence of the lord. As the Bible says: Absent from the body, present with the lord.”

In other words, “If Chewbacca lives on Endor, then God exists.”  How in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster does this answer the question? We were talking about the living here, not the departed.

And no, I do not feel in my heart that my grandma, nice as she was, is currently living with the lord. Nor that she’s being tormented, since she wasn’t an RTC. I’m sure RTCs would accuse me of having a closed mind, and that god is totally reaching out to me in his own way. But I can promise I have never seen or felt unmistakable proof that god exists, and an omnipotent being could give me that proof. And with billions of non-RTCs in the world, it’s clear that subtle hints alone don’t work well enough. So the question, why does god not show himself openly, remains unanswered.

But Buckson seems impressed by this talk of dead relatives being with the lord, so here comes Christian singer #714 as he drives to his father’s grave in the middle of the night. He talks to his father’s grave about how awesome Franco is, but that there’s just something off about him. No shit, Sherlock.

He also feels as if there’s something tugging at him. Ah, god recognized the main character and singles him out for special messages. So, Point of View, as long as I don’t feel any tugging, god is not sending me a message and thus he’s fine with me continuing with what I’m doing? Cool.

He cries some manly tears to the tune of another bloody singer wishing his father was here telling him what to do, when a bright spotlight falls onto the tombstone. Buckson looks up at (stock footage of) the moon, but the shot shows no clouds around it that could have hidden the light until two seconds ago and it doesn’t explain why it’s only a narrow spot beam highlighting the inscription “Thessalonians 4:16-17”.

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So Buckson gets the bible from his car and reads that the verse is about the dead being raptured to be with the lord.  Wait, Buckson’s father was so hardcore he put Rapture Ready’s greatest hits on his tombstone, but Buckson couldn’t guess what his father might say about Franco if he were here? He apparently payed as much attention to what his father said as Helen did to her grandma.

Buckson the investigative reporter decides to dig in to this lead by… digging in. He digs up his father’s coffin to the background of the FOURTH! FUCKING! SONG! in 6 minutes. I counted, this nine minute part of the movie contains six minutes of Christian songs, plus one minute of the Point of View tape. IMDB lists this movie as ‘drama’ and ‘thriller’, but they forgot ‘musical’.

Lo and behold, the coffin is empty except for folded pile of cloths, in perfect condition despite being buried in 1991, and a bible. So Buckson cries some more and reads the bible. Score another one for Team God.

So… did Helen plan this entire sequence of events with a tape she just happened to have, or did she just dump a random RTC message in his car and trusted god’s plan to sort it out. The latter is dumb, the former is needlessly complicated. Leaving a note with a reminder about the bible verse on his dad’s grave is easier, less prone to Buckson going off-script and wouldn’t have required miracle moonlight.

The following morning, the Goony One drags Helen into the editing room where MacEvilton is editing out some insufficiently enthusiastic crowds out of the footage of the Antichrist’s speeches. I’d give Helen points for her “God needs your help?” remark, but the comment applies equally well to the many Liars for Jesus. Remember those pictures of a huge Romney rally that turned out to be from Obama? Plus, we saw the unedited footage before, and the crowds were plenty cheerful, so I don’t know why MacEvilton is bothering.

There’s some posturing from both sides.

“I read the bible right to the end.”

“Then you know you can’t win.”

That first line is Helen’s , the second MacEvilton’s. But you’d be forgiven for assuming the other way around. The bible is pretty definite on who wins in the end, and it isn’t MacEvilton’s side. And what is it with first MacEvilton and now Helen making a point of reading the bible “right to the end”?

“It’s a battle for souls, [MacEvilton]. And every man will make that choice for himself.”

“They don’t even realize they have a choice. Do you have any idea who [Franco] is and what he’s capable of? You worship him, or you die. THAT’S your choice.”

That last sentence is probably meant to prove that the Antichrist is evil. And he is. But I can’t help but realize that god’s deal is essentially “You worship him, or you’re tortured for eternity, THAT’S your choice”. And at least the devil demonstrates his ability and willingness to make good on his threat while you still have time to switch to his team. God is content bring up the fact that you picked the wrong religion after you’ve died. So this devil is evil, but still better than this god.

The Goony One is wearing his tiny camera in his necktie during this exchange, and frankly it doesn’t look so small that no one could spot it lying on the floor, but whatever.

Time for another Macaluso speech pasted into stock footage crowds. I know what you’re thinking, can he be any more obviously the Antichrist than before? Judge for yourselves.

“You know how I have removed the tears from the weak. But even having seen this, there are some who have chosen not to join in this great moment. It is as if they are cancer cells in our collective body. And I tell you today that until they have been removed you cannot experience what I have prepared for you.”

This speech sparks immediate mass demonstrations (goody, more stock footage) against the ‘haters’. That is what the evil followers of the Antichrist are calling the RTCs. That nickname is also one of the few things that remains consistent in all movies. So let’s look at it.

In principle, it’s one of the more credible bits of world building we’ve seen here (although that’s not saying much). Using a dehumanizing slur against a group of people you’re busy persecuting is believable. But why did they pick this? Franco spoke of “hate” several times, but never used the word “hater.”  And it’s not a frequently used term, at least not until 2009’s “haters gonna hate”-meme.

I fear I know why it was chosen. Not because the filmmakers thought it was how the minions of the Antichrist would logically view RTCs. But because they thought it was a way for their RTC audience to identify those vile minions of the Antichrist as the non-RTCs of today.

Dear viewer, did any liberals ever accuse you of being hateful just because you said gays should be locked up? Don’t listen to them. The people saying that are just a Satanists in their larva stage. No one who accuses an RTC of displaying hate is ever right. They are all just loathsome beings who are biding their time until they get an excuse to try and murder us all.

This movie isn’t as specific with its attacks as Left Behind. It doesn’t feature abortion doctors who want more babies to abort, or militant feminists in sensible shoes or the U.N.  just being the One World Government’s prototype. But it does have this.

I admit this is speculative. Perhaps the writers just used it because Franco used the word hate a lot, with no ulterior motive on their part. But if that’s the case, if this “hater” is merely a callback to the Antichrist refering to raptured RTCs as people he removed because they “chose the path of hate” …  why doesn’t anyone ask why Franco can’t remove these haters too?

And for that matter, why aren’t the parents angry about this admitted mistake of god? We have seen that toddlers still riding in baby carriages have been raptured. Because, the Messiah says, that child had chosen the way of hate. Or would have, once he had learned what the word meant.

My disbelief had already been suspended well beyond the point of willing when parents accepted that without a fuss. But now the Messiah has admitted he missed a huge group of people who would choose hate considerably sooner than those toddlers would have. If the Messiah left them, why didn’t he leave our children so we, his parents, could try to raise him with love? Or worse, if the Messiah made a mistake in thinking those new haters wouldn’t choose the path of hate, how do we know he wasn’t mistaken when he killed our children for allegedly choosing hate?

But obviously, no one asks this. We get a street interview with middle-aged lady who utters some of the worst lines in this movie, coupled with the least convincing performance this side of Birdemic.

“I can hardly wait. The Messiah says that we’re all gods.“

Non-RTCs assuming they are gods themselves? Yes! Bingo!

“That we have unbelievable powers within us all. Oh, whatever it takes, we gotta get rid of those haters that stand in our way.”

And that’s all it takes. The promise that they have always had powers they just can’t use because there are ‘haters’ around is enough for the entire world to hunt the RTCs down. We get several minutes of stock footage of police brutality, which the news anchor tells us is police forces worldwide cracking down on haters. Did these police forces get their orders from their governments? Does the Antichrist directly control those yet? Or did they all decide to hold roundups on their own? Who cares, there’s masturbating to the RTC martyr fetish to be done.

Still, as easy as it is to mock these persecution fantasies, we’ve seen terrible things like these pogroms happen before in the real world, the Jews in World War 2 being the most notorious example. A shrewd despot can get it done. This is trickier than what the Nazi’s did, because the victims are not a separate group that has lived among its own for a long time. These are all post-Rapture converts. But it’s possible. It takes long, hard work of dehumanizing that group. Some fake crimes they committed, some show trials. Make people forget all the Christians they knew that were decent people. Create propaganda films, ‘the eternal Christian’, that slowly seep into the people’s “common knowledge” to create stereotypes and…

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Oh.  Right.

I’m sorry, I need to have a lie-down. I just realized that I’m watching something that’s actually less believable than Soon. At least that book had a backstory of religious-inspired wars followed by decades of anti-religious propaganda by an atheist government to explain the RTC persecution. The idea of longing for Soon for some grounded realism is making me lightheaded.

Oh wait, I forgot: While Soon’s backstory could have explained the actions of the atheists, it rarely used any explanation beyond “We atheist! They Christian! Kill them!”. So Soon is still bullshit. Whew, okay, I’m feeling better now.

So anyway, with just three speeches in five days, the Antichrist has convinced the whole world to drag the newly converted Christians on the street for beatings and arrests. I’m surprised at just how many new Christians there are. All the American characters we’ve seen proved denser than uranium when it came to figuring out the obvious parallels between Franco Macaluso and the popular American view of the Antichrist. Yet there are apparently thousands of brand new RTCs around the globe, even in countries where there aren’t 60 million copies of Left Behind floating around. There’s footage of police beatings from Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Chile…

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… Okay movie, I couldn’t be arsed to find out what was wrong about every bit of stock footage you used, so I only insinuated. But messing with my hometown? Oh, it’s on now!

Let’s see, these don’t look like modern Dutch riot cops with those dorky helmets. It could be the helmets they used before 1966, those look kinda like this. But I can’t find any color footage of any of the riots from that era, so how did these guys find this?

And what the hell is that cop in the front holding? That looks like a Kalashnikov. The Dutch police certainly never had those. I showed this to my dad, who’s lived in Amsterdam all his life, and he was certain this wasn’t shot here. Myth: Probably Busted!

Not that there weren’t some fierce riots in Amsterdam that they could have used the footage from. There’s the squatter’s riots in the 70’s, the riots during the Queen’s marriage in 1966, her coronation in 1980, rioting construction workers who got less vacation money also from 1966… But y’know what the fun thing about all those riots is? It was always the police vs. left-wing activists. We’ve never had any big riots where Christians got beat up by the police, unless you count a few stray Christians among soccer hooligans.

This police brutality montage is accompanied by, you guessed it, a song. A song about being the ones still standing on the battlefield along the band of survivors with the heart of a warrior. Since the “Christians” in these snippets aren’t fighting back, the song sounds like it’s cheering on the police. The cheerful tune does nothing to make me think otherwise.

When the song finally ends we get to listen to Buckson talking over the footage, before cutting to his on the scene report of a bible burning in Washington DC. Well, I say book burning, but all the thrown books have really fake-looking bible-covers and clearly miss the fire. Aww, they didn’t even have the budget for some prop books to burn? That’s almost adorable.

Buckson, despite only being a convert since last evening does what commenters on the Slacktivist have been urging Buck Mk 1 to do for years. Right after he says how the whole world has been united in its hatred for Jesus Christ and Christians (remember viewers, that’s what all talk of unity and international cooperation is ultimately about), he goes off-script.

“I’m Bronson Pearl, and I always tell you the truth as I know it…”

Of course you do, World’s Most Trusted Man.

“…and I must tell the world that… you’re making a terrible, terrible mistake here. President Macaluso is not the Messiah. […] He is the embodiment of evil itself. He’s the one the bible calls the Antichrist. These bibles are not being burned because they promote hate. […] They are being burned because they tell the truth.”

Funny how his nameless (and line-less) cameraman just keeps filming like nothing’s wrong. Did Buckson warn him he was about to become an accessory to a capital offense?

But Buckson kind of screwed up here. His statement is caught in the twelve second delay. Though MacEvilton is so busy being shocked and ranting, despite him putting in the delay precisely because he didn’t trust Buckson, that he wastes 11 seconds. Cutting it close there.

Admittedly, that delay was explicitly kept secret from Buckson, so I can’t fault Buckson for not knowing that. But he might have held his rant more than 3 feet from the mob burning bibles behind him. The mob grabs him, and the Goony One tells the studio to hang on to the tape, smirking that he can make good use of it.

A for effort, F for execution, Buckson.

On day seven, we found out that the police pulled a damn hard night of work, because everyone is partying to celebrate that the haters have been arrested. They apparently exercise their blind seething hatred as quickly as they acquire it.

So W.N.N. shows us stock footage of people cheering, partying and dancing in the streets. I’ll leave it as a discussion for the comments whether showing real people and saying “Look at these vile smiling humans, cheering the brutal treatment of us poor RTCs” is more offensive than “Look at these foolish crying humans, suffering because they didn’t listen to us awesome RTCs”.

But I do want to go a little deeper in why these people, not as real people but as characters in this movie, are so happy and united with everyone except the haters. Buckson told us the whole world was united in hatred for Jesus Christ. But uniting people against a common enemy only gets you so far. The people of the world aren’t grudgingly putting their differences aside until their common foe is beaten. They think they already won, and now they are embracing the people they were waging a war of extinction with less than a week ago.

Jack van Impe never shut the fuck up about how the peace would fail, because it’s the Antichrist’s peace and he’s evil. I’ll ignore that the Antichrist never actually gets to betraying Israel in any of the four movies. But, as George “Mission Accomplished” Bush learned, a leader can’t just declare that the war is over and be done with it. That the Antichrist unites the world in peace is only possible because the people are letting themselves be united. In fact, they seem ecstatic about it. And they have no idea that the peace is only ruse, they really want to just be friends.

The movie juxtaposes the reporting on the worldwide peace and brotherhood with MacEvilton overlooking a group of captured RTCs being herded into lockup. But just showing the two things side by side isn’t the same as explaining that these two things are inexorably linked. Why are people suddenly extremely eager to be nice to others, except for a small group who’s elimination they cheer? If it was this easy to unite people, why didn’t it happen sooner? Hell, why didn’t god or Jesus do it themselves, only unite people against the devil’s lies of hate? Jesus had a lot more miracles under his belt during his time here than Franco, but he never accomplished this much.

The best I can think of is that all those non-RTCs are sinners, and they just can’t stand the presence of RTCs who’s righteousness reminds them of their own sinful nature. And similarly, the RTCs just couldn’t be united with sinners, they have to bring up their fellow man’s sinfulness all the time. Light can’t have fellowship with darkness.

If that is indeed the reason this movie has for all sinners easily being united against the RTCs, then this movie is essentially saying that Franco is correct. It’s the words of Jesus and the presence of RTCs that make people hateful and divided. Once they are gone, everyone else is happy and at peace. Add the fact that pre-conversion Helen and Buckson showed you can be perfectly nice despite being a sinner, which indicates the sinfulness of humans is only a problem for god (who is in no small part to blame for people being born sinful), then I state that if god truly loved us, he’d let us go. Just leave people alone, take a week out of your schedule and create a less hellish world to serve as afterlife. Taking this movie at face value, that would fix all the world’s problems.

Like Soon the writers set out to write a dystopian setting, a world of misery and suffering. But they  ended up writing a less compelling version of The ones who walk away from Omellas, featuring an utopian society that presumes it needs to make someone suffer to exist. It’s less compelling because the child, in this case the righteous remnant of RTCs, is in fact working to undermine the utopia, and could be accepted into the utopian society if they stop their sabotage and worship the Messiah. That doesn’t make the townspeople of Omellas right, but it does change the story significantly.

And when I read that second-to-last line again, I can’t see a difference with the deal that RTCs offer. God also promises paradise for all who will worship the REAL Messiah. And those who don’t? Eternal torment. That’s even worse than what the Antichrist has in store for his enemies. And that punishment is necessary, because god is just and the universe couldn’t function if humans who do not ask forgiveness for their sins weren’t tortured forever. Just trust god on this, your eternal bliss wouldn’t work otherwise. At least the people of Omellas believed that only one child needed to suffer for to ensure prosperous lives for the rest of them, not some three quarters of the population.

The only real difference between god’s deal and the devil’s is that the Antichrist’s paradise comes with a hidden trap. Those who take it are damned and will later suffer in hell. The Antichrist knows this, and he’s a certainly dick for not telling. But he’s not the one who’s actually sending those people to hell. That’s all god’s doing. The devil here does his best to trick as many people in the world into damnation, but god is fine with letting him do it and playing his part as the chief executioner.  I don’t see who I’m supposed to root for here.

Not that this movie isn’t its trying its damndest (pun intended) to show who we’re meant to root against. Hence we get Buckson, Helen and a bunch of other ‘haters’ being herded into, wait for it…

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Cattle trucks. Yep, really. If they’d gotten permission to film in a train yard, they’d have stolen the carts from the set of Schindler’s List, I’m sure.

And the best part is, they aren’t used to transport the Christians anywhere. The guards throw them in, wait a bit, then take Buckson out again. Why? To convey that the Christians are suffering just as much as those poor Jews did in World War 2 of course. BTW, Jews are still Christ-killing satanists who’ll burn in hell.

Buckson and Helen are put in different carts. Buckson really wants to be locked into the cart with Helen, but he gets the fakest punch since Dolomite and a taser to the face for his trouble. MacEvilton and a goon (could be the Goony One, but the lighting and camera angles are crap) are looking on from a window above. The goon complains that there are so many haters it’s going to be hard to process them all. But MacEvilton has it covered.

“Maybe once they see their beloved Bronson Pearl executed on national television, they’ll realize that this is not a game”

Ah yes, because all the Christians in the world love Buckson ever since…. because of his…

Seriously, why would the Christians particularly care about Buckson? None of them know he’s on their side, because MacEvilton prevented his rant against Franco from broadcasting. The whole point of that was so Buckson couldn’t use his great influence as World’s Most Trusted Man against the Antichrist. And it worked, no one knows Buckson opposes Franco. But they will if you publicly execute him. Just make him disappear and blame his death on haters, you n00bs.

Helen and Buckson, despite being in separate carts, can talk to each other easily. Buckson tells how he opened his father’s grave and we get a pointless flashback to that moment. Helen says she spend the last three days praying for Buckson. Sounds like a classical “god, please let him realize I’m right and he’s wrong and stupid and smelly”-prayer. But don’t worry, it was only because she loves him so much she didn’t want him to miss out on god’s love.

Buckson holds a motivational speech for the other captives that’s part creepy and part noble.

“But no one is going to touch one hair on any one of our heads unless He allows it. And if He thinks that’s best, then so do I.”

Yeah, kinda death-culty. But at least he’s talking about his own life here, unlike Left Behind where the protagonists mostly mused on how necessary it was for all those others people to die to make way for paradise.

Buckson gets to put his new conviction to the test immediately as he’s dragged out to the noose, MacEvilton gloating by his side about how this will be the most watched broadcast of Buckson ever…

…when the live coverage of his execution is suddenly replaced by the footage of Buckson accusing Franco Macaluso from yesterday. MacEvilton completely loses his shit, like all B-movie villains do when their plans are ruined. And then we cut to the Goony One, who locked himself into the control room with the tape of Buckson’s report. And not stopping there, he then pops in the footage made with his tiny camera were MacEvilton was threatening Helen that everyone who doesn’t worship Franco will die and that people don’t realize they have a choice. And finally he pops in the Jack van Impe tapes we saw him retrieve from grandma’s house, broadcasting it to the whole world.

I can’t believe I’m saying this after an entire movie with shitty acting, shitty audio, shitty morals and a script that makes Left Behind look believable, but… I like this ending.

Really. After all the incompetence I’ve seen here and in other RTC fiction, this is a satisfying conclusion relying on properly set-up Chekhov’s guns. In fact, this twist ending is a step up from many secular works of fiction too, by giving the anonymous suited goon who sees all the evidence of his boss’s evil plans a mind of his own. The Goony One was listening in to all those arguments from Helen, so why wouldn’t he draw his own conclusions from them? Then he got his hands on the prophecy tapes to confirm it. And when he figured it out, he quietly gathered more proof in his capacity as MacEvilton’s goon.

And you know what else I like about his conversion? It happened quietly in the background. He converted because he came across clear proof. We didn’t have to listen to his daddy issues or face palm because he should have learned all this from his grandma, or suffer through a scene where he says that his education at Goon University has conditioned him to reject the gospel.

He just came to the realization that in this movie’s universe, the bible is true, the rapture just happened, the Antichrist will reign for seven years and he acted accordingly: Show the proof to the biggest possible audience and laugh at the rage of the Antichrist’s minions, thus ensuring you’ll be murdered. You’ll come back to earth with Jesus in seven years anyway, so why would you want live on earth under the Antichrist’s rule for seven years? Suicide is out if you want to get into heaven, so a high risk of getting caught and executed is a feature, not a bug.

Whew, I feel a bit nauseous giving this movie so much praise. Time for some last minute nitpicking to wash the taste out of my mouth.

Let’s see, back in the cattle trucks Helen assured Buckson that his plan failing doesn’t matter because god’s plan is better, so god gets the credit for The Goony One’s efforts. The Goony One is only separated from his angry coworkers by a glass window, surely they could break through that. The Jack van Impe footage is not appended with a message that this is footage from before the rapture, which makes it much less impressive. The extras depicting the audience watching this broadcast can’t act worth shit, so I only know some of them are converting because the camera zooms in on them and they aren’t booing unconvincingly like the people around them. There still aren’t any subtitles, even though this message is meant for the whole world.

And worst of all, most of the footage is Jack van Impe’s show, and all the meaningful zoom conversions happen when he’s speaking. We cut to someone trying to look awestruck, then show Jack van Impe talking prophecy. Zoom in on mesmerized convert, Jack, meaningful glance, Jack, someone trying to look like he’s deeply moved, Jack. It looks like they’re accepting Jack van Impe as their lord and savior. I bet our “Script Supervisor” supervised the script for this scene really closely, while covering a bulge in his pants.

And, fade to black. Wait, we don’t get to see what happens with our protagonists? Nope, just three more text screens, credits roll, the end.

Final verdict? Well, the protagonists are more likable than the norm for Christian fiction. They were often stupid, but at least they weren’t assholes. And the ending was surprisingly good. It’s rare that I feel like cheering the people RTC fiction wants me to cheer for.

But as decent as the human good guys are, their god is worse than ever. And where I have relatively little objection about the good guys, I do not appreciate how all the non-RTCs were written: As homicidal maniacs who can’t wait to murder RTCs in exchange for powers. You remember those non-Jewish people who hid Jews from the Nazi’s at great personal risk? Yeah, those people don’t exist here. Either you are an RTC or you want to kill RTCs.

Add to that the complete technical ineptitude, the amateur-hour performances, those trice-cursed songs and Jack van Impe ass-kissing so frequent and thorough that Jack doesn’t need to use toilet paper anymore…

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This is the final shot of the movie.
I rest my case.

 

I can only recommend this if you’re looking for a laugh. But it’s still better than the Left Behind books.

PS: Why call this “Caught in the eye of the storm”? The eye of the storm is the least dangerous part to be in. And our protagonists were hit with the full force of the RTC persecution. The title is much more appropriate to Left Behind, where the protagonists were surrounded by terrible carnage afflicting other people while only suffering mild inconveniences themselves.

Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm, Part 2

A Guest Critique by Ivan.  Part 1 here.

Day three opens with the never-seen-before boss of W.N.N. reading through a bible when he notices a creepy man standing in his office.

“I read right to the end. You’re too late.”

“Who are you?”

“Just… someone who read all the way to the end.”

“Stacy, get security in here right away. Thanks for dropping by mister.. ehm…” [creepy man just smiles, man in tux walks in] “Get him out of here”. [man in tux does nothing.] “I said, get him out of here!”

“Thank you, Agent Domi. I believe that’ll be all.” [man in tux leaves]

Okay, points to creepy man here, that’s halfway decent menacing. Though it makes me wonder if this “Agent Domi” really is part of W.N.N. security and has been a plant for years or if he just came in with creepy man. In the former case why didn’t they put a plant in the director’s seat? If the latter, why didn’t the boss realize this guys wasn’t his employee?

I suppose I should stop calling him creepy man, he has a name. In fact, since the Antichrist will only appear in W.N.N. broadcasts in this movie, he’s essentially the main antagonist. But remember what I said about Buckson’s actor being chosen because he just looks the part of a uber-manly journalist? Well, check out creepy man.

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Left: His muhaha-I-have-you-now face when things go according to plan
Right: His curse-those-dogooders-for-foiling-my-nefarious-schemes face
Nowhere: His friendly, reassuring face

Looks trustworthy, no? And his acting style is cribbed from Saturday morning cartoon villains. Plus, he’s openly, knowingly and willingly serving Satan, but he never gives a motivation for doing so. His master’s plan doesn’t help him, and if he really read the bible ‘to the end’ he might have noticed he’s going to lose.

So if the movie doesn’t take this character seriously, why should I? His name shall be MacEvilton.

MacEvilton is here to tell W.N.N.’s boss that he’s taking over the network. He doesn’t have any papers, forged or otherwise, he’s just saying he is. And he says boss-guy can stop reading the bible to find out what happens to his vanished family members because “the Messiah” already told him what happened to them. Good idea MacEvilton, remind him that your Messiah claimed he murdered them for choosing the way of hate, that will make him agreeable.

But that’s not the part that boss-guy argues about.

You may call him the Messiah, but this book has another name for him.”

“And you honestly think the Messiah is worried about a bunch of crazies thinking he’s the devil? Believe me, he’s not worried about that at all. That’s my job.”

*BANG*

Well, MacEvilton has his master’s sense of subtlety. Goodbye, character who recognized the rapture when he saw it, you’ll be missed. Here’s hoping you didn’t just realize the obvious literal truth of the bible but prayed to have your sins forgiven before MacEvilton shot you, or you’re still going to hell.

Helen meanwhile has finally taken some time out of her busy schedule to check on grandma. After a search to the background of an overly cheerful Christian singer, Helen finds a neatly folded pink dress on the floor, surprising no one. In her dress is a note telling Helen that grandma is with the lord now but that Helen can still be saved.

My first instinct was to mock this note by wondering if grandma was carrying that paper since the Gulf War, and that it would be unnecessary if Helen had been paying the slightest bit of attention to what grandma seems to have been saying all the time.

But then I realized that these notes have potential. Suppose that when the rapture happens, a quarter, maybe a half of the piles of cloths left behind contain a warning people that this was the rapture, and the next charismatic leader to take over the world should not be trusted? That should get the point across to the ignorant heathens, especially if it’s the exact same card, finely crafted and plasticized.

RTCs can carry that card and show them to each other so they can identify their tribe members. And they can claim that they have them because they care about the unsaved, albeit in a way that costs them no effort. A card with such immaterial benefits could probably sell for far more than the manufacturing price. And RTCs having them won’t affect me or other unbelievers unless the rapture does actually happen.

Mental note: Call a print shop and ask their rates.

I suppose my cards should also have a hole for a key chain, like grandma’s card has. After ransacking the entire house, because the note didn’t say what the key was for (I should put a field for that in my notes), Helen opens a locked box. In it, she finds some video tapes. Couldn’t the note just have told her to look at a tape in the VCR?

Hey, remember how Left Behind had Bruce Barnes deriving Tim LaHaye’s exact prophecy timeline by just “reading the bible literally,” and then the characters gushed about how perfectly it fit with the events in a book where Tim LaHaye dictated the plot? Remember how the Slacktivist expressed relief that they didn’t go all the way, and had Bruce Barnes explicitly namedrop the amazing prophecies of Tim LaHaye?

Well, feast your eyes on this: In this movie with Jack van Impe as “Script Supervisor”, the main conversion tool is a video tape of Jack van Impe’s show.

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And ZOMG, don’t you see characters, all of Jack’s predictions came exactly true…  in Jack van Impe’s own movie.

I’m not actually sure if this videotape was made especially for this film or if they took footage from a real episode. The background of the video looks a bit different than that in the clips of Jack’s show I checked on youtube, but perhaps this is an older set.

And based on the snippets I heard in those clips, he says the same thing in his real shows as he does here. Rapture is coming blabla end times, blabla THE PEACE IS A LIE (sorry) blablabla accept Jesus. And he and his wife make their show sound like an advertisement, which it kinda is.

“Now, does the Bible spell this out in great detail?”

“Rexella, this book is amazing, and the facts are there.”

“Oh Jack, it is so exciting to think about the coming of the lord, when he’s going to take all of those who had their faith and trust in him home to be with him.”

“Wow Jack, this Bible thing sounds great. But such a wonderful book must be expensive.”

“Rexella, all this can by yours for only $39.99. And if you act now, you get Scofield’s reference notes for free, telling you how to cut and paste Bible passages so the right facts are there.”

But Helen is impressed, so she cracks open a Bible and after four excruciatingly dull minutes of marking passages in a bible to the rantings of Jack van Impe, Helen falls crying to her knees and converts, Christian music in the background.

“Dear god, please forgive me for being so stubborn. Somehow, I always knew grandma was right when she told me I needed you to wash away my sins.”

Oh, you always knew “somehow”? How very convenient. No, don’t tell us how you knew or anything, all the RTCs in the audience understand.

But if you always knew, why did you need to waste hours of your time, and minutes of mine, marking Bible passages for proof? And how come you can’t name a single sin that needed to be washed away so badly, other than being too stubborn to realize your sins needed washing away? I haven’t seen Helen do anything wrong, unless stupidity counts, nor was she ever unfriendly to RTCs.

The scenes of Helen were actually intercut with Buckson announcing some interviews with people gushing about how grateful they are to god for saving them, with not a shred of doubt about Franco’s claims. These people included that Pentagon Spokesman (apparently the Penta-hallway was unavailable for this scene, so they traded  further down to a set outside in front of a party tent) who is on record as risking annihilation of the US to defend Israel. But apparently he’s not just left behind, he’s now kissing the Antichrist’s ass. I thought RTCs claim that only they are friends of Israel and that all non-RTCs want to destroy it.

Speaking of RTCs as friends of the Jews, that’s over now because the Israeli general is also gushing about the Messiah who saved them all when he came to Jerusalem. He also thanks the Messiah for not letting a single nuke find it’s target. Yeah, those people in Kamchatka are also thrilled about that.

And from the other side, a Jordanian field commander who looks more Irish than Jordanian is praising Allah for saving the world.

I’m reminded of Superman IV here. The nations of the world were all gearing up to wipe each other out, but when a powerful entity shows up and removes their nukes, everyone is happy and eager to help him and maintains the peace. I know brinkmanship politics can lead to ugly results that no one wanted, but this is pushing it. If they were all this eager to resolve this peacefully, you’d think some of them would have at least tried that.

***

On day four, MacEvilton is smirking in his new boss-chair, reading very fake looking newspapers, while W.N.N.’s radio show accepts a caller who gushes about how awesome Franco Macaluso is, then cuts off a caller who calls him the Antichrist. That’s all MacEvilton organized after his risky power grab? Seems rather tame, especially by his standards. I’d have expected him to at least trace the call and send a death squad to the caller’s house. Maybe carpet bomb the entire city block if he’s feeling frisky.

Helen walks in chatting before realizing her boss has been replaced with Dick Dastardly’s evil twin. I guess she didn’t bother to come to the office the entire previous day. Sure, World War 3 started and ended, mass disappearances and worldwide riots occurred, and an important political figure claims godhood. Eh, slow news day, I’m sure Helen could take the day off.

Still, odd that none of her colleague’s saw fit to tell her about the change in management either. I wonder how many other employees still have no idea who they’re working for now.

Helen decides to pull a Rayford: She pretty much shouts out how disloyal she is while grumbling about the ‘two goons’ in the recording studio. Not a good idea because this villain is not nearly as subtle and Nicolae. But MacEvilton shows some restraint and Helen gets to leave his office alive.

Incidentally, I try to avoid copying Diamanda’s jokes, but just look at one of those goons and compare him with the Spoony One.

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I’ll at least change the funny nickname for him. The Goony One sounds about right.

In happier news for Helen, Buckson also walks into the studio and the two smile and hold hands as a new slogan for W.N.N. introduces them.

“Across America, and around the world. You’re watching W.N.N.”

Better than Nazi slogans, but if you want to be the primary trusted news source ‘around the world’, you probably should not be this blatantly America-centered.

Helen and Buckson introduce a statement of President Macaluso. The speech itself seems to be a spirited attempt to be even less subtle than the first one. A few gems:

“Welcome to a new age of peace and prosperity. Welcome to an age of human enlightenment. Welcome to heaven on earth!”

“A long time ago a man, a deceitful and evil man, a man named Jesus, came in my name and deceived many. But his deception has come to an end. His lies of hate, his lies of division and intolerance, that led you to the brink of destruction.”

“I have come in peace, and I have brought peace to the world.”

“Now you have seen my good deeds and my miracles. My children, I am here to tell you today that we are ready to take the next great step of evolution.”

“What has held you back until now were those who refused to believe in the power of the human mind. Those who believed that true power came from outside ourselves.”

Let me check, human enlightenment, dissing Jesus, calling Christian beliefs intolerant, peace, good deeds, evolution, power is within yourself… he’s calling out squares on the RTC boogeyman bingo-card in record time, isn’t he?

I would wonder why no one thinks to ask why their new god took 2000 years to correct the horrible deception of Jesus, but then RTCs are not prone to asking why their god took 4000 years to only partially fix that ‘all humans are damned’-problem either.

Even more hilarious than the speech itself is the laughable way the footage of the Antichrist’s speech is pasted into stock footage of crowds. The stock footage made with news cameras is of clearly lower quality than the footage of President Macaluso. But we’re supposed to believe this is movie footage of a crowd looking at news camera footage of the Antichrist. The still frame below here doesn’t really do justice to just how jarring it is, but it may give you a hint.

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“Why are we here?  Don’t we have a TV at home?”
“Yes, but this electronic billboard is so awesome, it’s got better resolution than the real world.”

And no matter which nation the stock footage crowds are from, they’re all watching this broadcast in English with no subtitles. Instituting a One World Language in this universe will be a breeze.

At this point I’m not even surprised anymore that his audience laps up everything Franco says. What does surprise me is Helen’s reaction. She was calm when she announced Franco, then starts contorting her face to signal her anxiety halfway into the speech. Does this imply that after hours of watching Jack van Impe tapes warning her about the Antichrist AND MacEvilton calling Franco the Messiah, Helen only figured out that Franco was the Antichrist just now? Just how dumb is she?

At least she springs into action now. She ‘secretly’ notifies Buckson to follow her so obviously that MacEvilton finds out instantly. Luckily for her, his goons only follow her out at a leisurely walking pace, so she and Buckson make it to their car and drive to grandma’s house.

As they enter the house (why are all the lights already on?) Buckson is busy telling Helen that Franco is just awesome, and that she should have seen how Franco walked onto the Mount of Olives and all the missiles vanished at that exact moment. A: Buckson was in the army camp, not in Jerusalem, so he couldn’t have seen that himself. And B: Isn’t the whole point of the rapture that ‘none may know the hour’? Even Jesus and the angels aren’t in the know, so how was the devil able to figure it out to the second?

Buckson asks that if Franco isn’t god, then what is he? Helen replies:

“I think I’d rather let you see it for yourself than try and explain it. Why don’t you watch this tape? Then you can draw your own conclusions.”

Ehm, why? What exactly does Jack van Impe say that Helen couldn’t quickly summarize? Oh, right, if Helen explained it we couldn’t show how accurate Jack predicted the events in his own movie.

But if you hadn’t sat down to watch the tapes, you could have been done before the the Goony One and his friend found your house and broke out the spy gear. Just saying.

I’m not sure if they only watch the two minutes of Jack’s show that we see, but I’m very glad we didn’t have to suffer more of Jack’s smug face before we hear the response.

“Well, what do you think.”

“Wow. Pretty fascinating stuff. You know, you and I should do a special report on that someday.”
“What are you talking about, ‘someday’? Don’t you see we don’t have much time? We’ve got to warn the world, this Macaluso guy is the Antichrist.”

Because when Helen said “watch this tape, then you can draw your own conclusions” she meant “you can draw my conclusions, or else”.

“Wow, wow, back up the truck, you’re not taking this stuff literally, are you?”

Ooh, ooh, one more for the RTC boogeyman Bingo-card, unbelievers mocking RTCs for taking the bible literally. Except that this is about Jack van Impe’s claims about what the bible predicts. You can believe that the bible is divinely inspired but must be understood metaphorically. But it’s pretty obvious Jack means what he says literally and you can either see it as literally true or complete bullshit (guess what  I do).

This boilerplate scene only makes sense if you consider Jack’s show equivalent to the bible. Which, given Jack’s involvement with the script, might be an intentional message. And this isn’t the last time that happens.

Helen and Buckson have an argument: Buckson does a “We highly educated journalists should be above such a religious cult” routine, Helen counters with little but repeated assertions and passive-aggressiveness, standard stuff. Though not as standard as this:

“Look, I’m not saying there’s nothing to it. My father spend his entire life believing this, it made him a happier man. In fact it made him a better man. But at the end of the day, he still ended up dead, just like the rest of us will.”

What is it with male leads in RTC fiction and their daddy issues?

The bickering continues, but Helen manages to appeal to Buckson’s journalistic integrity (unlike Buck, he actually has some) to at least check out the facts.

“Okay, let’s take it from the start.  Now, this Antichrist character, he’s supposed to come out of the Roman empire, right?”

So Buckson never heard of the rapture or the view of the Antichrist as someone who promises peace, and barely seems familiar with the concept of the Antichrist, but he knows that specific interpretation?

“Yes, that’s right. And according to this encyclopedia, the European Union is virtually identical geographically to the Roman Empire.”

No it isn’t. And even if it was,  the omniscient god who dictated the bible should have known the difference between a contemporary empire and a union of nations, half of which match half that empire “geographically.” First “fact,” swing and a miss.

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This is as “virtually identical geography” as the United States and the First Mexican Empire.

But the next ‘fact’ will have to wait, as we cut to the goons outside who managed to get a video feed working. The Goony One technobabbles a bit about the good footage from a tiny camera they pushed under the door, which is so small they couldn’t even see it if they were looking for it. I’m more amazed that this camera is getting a direct frontal shot Helen and Buckson on the couch. The couch faces away from the front door and is 20 feet to the door’s right. And even if the camera could roll that far, that accurately, stopping right side up, there’s still two walls blocking the direct path. Magic bullet theory, eat your heart out.

And back to Helen who’s going to show us some more, hopefully better facts.

(Paper with check marks in hand) “Well, sure have been a lot of fulfillments in the past, what, two days.”

Wait, that was it? Makers of this movie, you had time for tons of stock footage and the overly long conversion scene, but you skip the justification of your own silly plot, instead assuring us that they found tons of proof off-screen? Screw you, you lazy bastards.

“There’s still a few more things we’re waiting for though. I think the biggest thing will be this seven year treaty between Israel and the rest of the world.”

The entire world was nuking each other, and now no one is fighting anymore. Why is this peace treaty with just Israel such a big deal? (Though admittedly, unlike in Left Behind there was actually a war with Israel that would still require a formal peace treaty to end.)

“No, I’m sorry. I just can’t accept this. Whether it’s compelling, whether it’s interesting, it’s just ludicrous. I’m a professional journalist for god’s sake. And, and, I’m worrying about some bad dreams of some ancient shepard? No, I’m going back to the studio.“

That’s what all that book-learning does to you. Even though the truth of the bible is so obvious, it just makes you too proud to admit it.

So Buckson leaves Helen alone and oh, look how sad Helen is. Though if Buckson’s car crashes before he gets there, god will torture him forever, and she’ll not say a bad thing about god because of it.

The next day MacEvilton confronts Buckson with the recording from last night and demands his loyalty and help in finding Helen, because she’s gone ‘missing’, even though the goons were right outside her house when Buckson left. Buckson says that if MacEvilton has the tape, he knows that Buckson left the woman he loves  and that it should be obvious that Buckson doesn’t believe her. But MacEvilton isn’t satisfied and menaces so obviously that even Buckson figures out he’s talking about killing Helen. MacEvilton doesn’t bother to deny it. Buckson leaves pissed, which is kind of a tame response if you ask me.

Buckson calls to grandma’s house, but stupidly leaves a message on the answering machine while the Goony One is ransacking the house and finding the video tapes. Dude, MacEvilton had a recording from inside that very house, and now he says he can’t find Helen. If Helen was still in that house, he’d have found her already. Meanwhile, MacEvilton goes to a technician and gets him to set up a secret twelve second delay in the broadcast.

We’ve gone far too long without news footage, so here is Buckson to announce that things in Europe and the Middle East keep getting better (there were problems in Europe?), and that there’s about to be a “quantum leap” forward again.  European political leaders have been meeting with religious dignitaries from around the globe, and a rabbi and a priest get to present their conclusions: Franco Macaluso is totally god you guys! Every authority figure thus far has been saying the same thing. Appropriately enough, this “quantum leap” forward is tiny and unobservable.

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A priest, a rabbi, and a reporter walk into a stairwell…ah, never mind, what actually happens in the movie is an even bigger joke.

The rabbi makes the same ‘he brought peace, therefore Messiah’ argument as the Jews in Left Behind, and frankly my knowledge of Judaism isn’t good enough to have much to add to the Slacktivist on this. But I do want to bring up the priest. He never once seems concerned that his entire life has been a lie. The pope derives his authority from being the placeholder for Jesus and the successor of Jesus’ disciple Paul, whom Franco called evil and deceitful. Doesn’t that bother him? And why is he still wearing a crucifix?

And what about all those other religious dignitaries? The Qur’an considers Jesus an important prophet, so according to Franco the entire teachings of Muhammad were corrupted too. The Muslims are all okay with that? To say nothing of the polytheistic religions who are now told to worship just one god. Just like in Left Behind, everyone except the RTCs are absolutely fine with chucking all of their beliefs right out of the window.

***

Hope everyone is enjoying Heathen Critique’s first guest critique!  Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

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.

Our whipping boy, I mean movie, is Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm, the first movie in a series of four. If this review is well received, I may review the other 3 as well.
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This cover is a work of modern art.  I call it The Death of Floating Head Syndrome.

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.

So how do they film a global epic on no budget? Well, I went back and timed it: Only half the movie’s running time is the actual movie. The other half is fake news footage, or stock footage pretending to be news footage, or original footage pasted into stock footage, or the characters watching stock footage.
Secondly, the above description of a rise-of-the-Antichrist story told mostly through news items may sound familiar. I already mentioned Left Behind, and yes, this is basically an Asylum-style cash in. It predates the Left Behind movies, but not the first three books. This movie credits televangelist Jack van Impe as “Script Supervisor”, his appearance as himself and the Jack van Impe Ministries is the first credit that appears, which probably means he is the LaHaye of this movie: He provides the prophecy checklist and lends his name to draw people in, the writers stroke his ego in return. But beyond the slightly different prophecy interpretations, it’s a Left Behind knock-off.
Given the similarities between Left Behind and this flick, I will be making the occasional comparison between the two. I haven’t actually read Left Behind itself, so my knowledge comes from the Slacktivist’s deconstruction. I suspect most of the readers here are familiar with it. I will provide the occasional link to specific posts for those who’d like background info.
And finally, I want to add a disclaimer that I first learned of this movie through a deconstruction of it, by Diamanda Hagan (Content note: Everything). I believe I have sufficient material of my own to work with to warrant my own dissection, and I will avoid repeating her points where possible. But I don’t mean to make Diamanda’s review required viewing to follow mine, nor will I ignore hilarious or infuriating scenes from this movie just because Diamanda also ripped on them. Oh, and on the off chance Diamanda Hagan reads this: Me making different points is in no way meant to imply that the her review wasn’t perfect or that the Mistress isn’t infallible. Please do not send your minions to commit unspeakable acts upon my person. All hail Hagan!
Okay, enough introduction, let’s get this party started.

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!

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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.

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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.

Once that’s over with, the movie opens proper with…

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 …ehm, this.

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.

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*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.

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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.”

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…I….

…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!

-Ruby