In a month or so, moviegoers will be able to see Nicolas Cage in “Left Behind,” the second attempt to turn the best-selling Christian thriller series into a successful movie franchise. For those who can’t wait that long, there’s “The Remaining,” a low-budget, low-impact attempt to rewrite the Book of Revelation as a horror flick.
The story begins at the hotel wedding of Skylar (Alexa Vega) and Dan (Bryan Dechart). The bride’s devout Christian parents would have preferred a church, but Skylar’s not the truest of believers. That’s why she’s going to spend her honeymoon in hell.
The reception has barely started when the end times begin. The souls of the faithful are transported — or “raptured” — to heaven, leaving a disconcerting array of corpses. Then come the fires, storms, demons and loud noises. Lots of loud noises.
Skylar is informed enough to know what’s happening. She leads Dan and their pals, Allie (Italia Ricci), Jack (Shaun Sipos) and Tommy (Johnny Pacar), to a library so she can show them the relevant passages in a Bible. (Apparently there are no Bibles in hotels anymore.) At the half-demolished library, the five 20-somethings pick up a teenage blonde, Sam (Liz E. Morgan). She also comes from a Christian family, but didn’t believe hard enough to rate a ticket to heaven.
The left-behinders then head to church, whose pastor also didn’t have true faith. Along the way, one of them is attacked by some sort of fiend. This leads to a quest for anti-demon medication. (Amoxicillin just doesn’t help.)
Like so many recent scary movies, “The Remaining” purports to be shot by its participants. Tommy was recording the wedding on his consumer-grade videocam, and keeps it running after the party goes bad. Later, Sam shoots video with her phone. But director Casey La Scala doesn’t bother to sustain this premise, adding plenty of sequences that neither Tommy nor Sam could have recorded.
The filmmakers use some special effects and stock footage of disasters, but rely primarily on the typical arsenal of cash-strapped scaremongers: darkness, shock cuts and loud noises. These work as expected, but La Scala keeps interrupting the dread for sermons on how to be the kind of Christian — it’s not enough to just be “spiritual,” kids — who gets transported out of here before the bad stuff happens.
There’s a fundamental problem here. The movie relies on the instinctual human fear of death, but its message is that dying is a promotion. Says the minister who missed the first shuttle to heaven, the afterlife is “bliss.” So why do the dwindling gang of six mourn the ones they’ve lost?
Of course, that question travels from the cinematic into the theological, a trip that didn’t work out very well for “The Remaining.”
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains intense sequences of terror, violence and destruction throughout, and thematic elements. 83 minutes.