For my Halloween article this year I thought I’d watch one of the most horrifying films series ever released. No, it’s not Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, Saw or Harry Potter. (I have a long documented phobia of British children.)
It’s also not those boring-ass Paranormal Activity movies. Jump-scares are lazy and annoying, you classless hacks!
No, I speak of a far more sadistic and ball-shrivelingly scary film franchise; the Left Behind series.
Left Behind is a popular Christian book series about an apocalyptic, near-extinction level event as prophesized in the Book of Revelations. “Rapture porn” if you will. Jesus comes back to Earth riding flaming unicorns or furbies or something. All the good Christians go to heaven and sniff their farts while getting to say “I told you so” to the non-believers they left behind… Oh snap, I just got the title!
There are three movies in the original series starring Kirk Cameron, and a reboot earlier this year starring Nicolas Cage… for some reason. I assume the producers either kidnapped his family, or have pictures of him tea-bagging a T-Rex skull.
Nicolas Cage needs no introduction, obviously. But for those who don’t know, Kirk Cameron is semi-famous to old people for being on Growing Pains in the 80’s, and internet-famous to young people for a hilariously embarrassing viral video. For anyone wondering why aliens haven’t contacted us yet, it’s because they think he speaks for us. He’s not what you would call a “good” actor so much as “distractingly bad”, but he makes up for it with a dead-eyed earnestness and f^$ʞable mouth.
Plot: Kirk Cameron is Buck Williams (I’m not joking), a fearless reporter interviewing some science nerd in an Israeli wheat field, when suddenly they get attacked by bad CGI from Iraq. Luckily for KC the crop field is right next to Israeli military command, and they don’t mind foreign civilians just chilling there while the crop scientist spouts exposition about international politics.
We then meet our other reluctant hero in the series, some jerk pilot named Captain Rayford Steele (still not joking). He’s all pissy because his wife is pushing Jesus on the family and he just wants to keep living his evil sinner ways. I wonder if he will later regret not indulging in his wife’s loving attempts to save their dumb, immortal souls? Durrr…
*Spoiler alert* Subtly will not be making an appearance in these movies. Ever.
Buck Williams (haha) meets the stereotypical, crazy, conspiracy guy named Dirk Burton (honestly, I’m not making these names up) in an abandoned building to spout cryptic exposition and show him a microfilm hidden in his nifty spy watch. If they follow the dumb cliché playbook, the next time we see him, he’ll be killed.
The cartoonishly evil Nicolae Carpathia (the Hans Gruber/Antichrist), is put in charge of the UN. Devout Christians have been accused of believing a few things that are not necessarily compatible with the modern world, but believing that the UN is an efficient and effective organization that people would respect and listen to during a time of crisis? Really? This makes the whole Noah’s ark story sound downright plausible.
Best cheesy quote: The movie actually ends with the line “I don’t have all the answers, but for now faith is enough.”
Is it any good? I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this terrible, terrrrrible movie. It was like it was tailored specifically to my comedic sensibilities. Bad actors, silly message, and so SO many clichés. My only complaint is the long stretches of boring nothingness in between all the cheese.
Plot: They took the book of Revelations and turned it into a crappy low budget action movie with almost no action, worse actors, and boringly sincere scripture lectures.
In the first movie, Captain Rayford Steele was a regular commercial airline pilot. But now because the dumb plot requires it, he has UN security clearance and a history of escorting foreign dignitaries. Also Buck Williams is now having a non-sexual relationship with Ray’s teenage (?) daughter, Chloe.
First Ray loses his wife and son to the rapture, then his mistress to the antichrist, now his BBF is making moves on his daughter. This apocalypse is really dicking over poor Ray!
The movie ends with the world’s top religious expert (an Israeli Rabbi) declaring on a world-wide broadcast that the only true prophet was Jesus Christ. I reeeally want to watch this movie with a few Jewish friends just to see the look on their faces during this born-again, wet-dream of a climax.
By the way, the success of their plan hinged entirely on the Antichrist forgetting that he has a cell phone.
Scripture lessons: Most of the motivational speeches are filled with proselytizing and lazy jabs at evolution. Buck declares that being sexually attracted to a woman is “committing adultery in your heart” and a hell-worthy offense, but they keep showing the insanely hot Hattie in tight, sexy outfits.
The message isn’t as effective when you keep giving me erections, movie!
*Side note: I later discovered that Hattie is played by Kirk Cameron’s real-life wife, Chelsea Noble. Atta boy, Kirky!*
Infuriating moments: The Devil can use his Jedi mind tricks on some people but not others. It seems pretty arbitrarily based on whether the person is one of the movie’s heroes or not.
For characters who are supposed to be born-again Christians, they don’t seem to be picking up on the obvious symbolism of character names. A rabbi named Ben Judah? Jesus Christ, are you even trying? Also, Ben Judah is pretty WASP-y looking for an Israeli rabbi.
Best Scene: You know the typical scene in 80’s action movies where they break into the secret fortress and the heroes have to come up with a clever way of sneaking past the guards? In this movie some creepy chick dressed in white (duh, I wonder if she’s an angel?) comes from out of nowhere, sings “amazing grace” to literally stop time so that Buck Williams (haha), Rayford Steele (hehe), and Ben Judah (ugh) can walk through cheap Matrix-y effects without getting shot. Believe me, it looks way sillier than it sounds.
The two prophets at the Wailing Wall don’t really prophesize much, but they do BREATHE F***ING FIRE on two stunt men. It’s glorious!
Best cheesy quote: “You guys are crazy! You want to work for the Antichrist, and you want to have lunch with him?”
Is it any good? I don’t know. This movie kinda broke my brain. Half of me loved how bad-good it was. The other half was too busy yelling obscenities at the screen. It was just as nonsensical as the first Left Behind, but without as much fart-sniffing pretense. Strangely that made it slightly less enjoyable.
Plot: They waste no time in establishing that this series has lost all semblance of a message and has degenerated into wonderful, bad-action schlock. Someone (Buck Williams?) slow-mo, sexy runs through a burning building straight into a flashback of the Tribulation Force raiding a warehouse to steal bibles.
The President and Vice President of the US are on a skeet shooting date when their armored car escort gets ambushed by dudes on motorcycles and snowmobiles with machine guns and rockets. The VP gets ‘sploded and the President narrowly avoids a terrible looking CGI fireball of death. This is all within the first 15 minutes!
Ohhh diz-amn. It’s Dual wedding time, y’all! Buck marries Chloe to imply sexy time without showing more than an awkward side hug. Sure they’ve killed countless people in various brutal ways in this Christian action movie; but having the two romantic leads kiss? That would be obscene!
Captain Rayford Steele is also marrying… some chick. We’ve never seen her before and she’s completely irrelevant to the rest of the movie.
Gad-zooks! The Devil’s been gassing Bibles with biological weapons to kill off Christians. Which means that the opening warehouse raid was a double-cross! Later it turns out that communion wine cures the virus. It’s a really weird scene that makes little sense and comes out of nowhere… So it’s completely consistent with the rest of the movie.
The movie ends on the cliff-hanger of Hattie being pregnant with the Devil’s baby, as the Devil walks out of an explosion towards the camera in glorious, action nonsense.
Badass mofo of the movie: Apparently the secret service is completely useless in the apocalypse, because the President (Louis Gossett Jr!) kicks ass like a one man, wolf pack. Here’s a list of badass things he does:
- The President kidnaps Buck and threatens to shoot him in a face.
- The President breaks into a secret warehouse/lab with sexy assassin lady and busts caps into generic henchmen’s generic asses.
- The President pulls a Die Hard and tackles some jerk down a flight of stairs to break his neck.
- The President grabs a Bond-style porcelain gun and attempts to assassinate the Devil in his evil UN headquarters. When the bullets go through him harmlessly, the devil force-chokes the President like Darth Vader and throws him out of a skyscraper onto a car… But God breaks his fall and the Devil tosses him a snarky one-liner.
- The President turns invisible (via prayer, duh) so he can walk undetected past the devil’s security guards and blow the UN building up with a missile.
I didn’t embellish or make any of that up. Seriously!
Best cheesy quote: There was an entire subplot in Tribulation Force with some dude almost committing suicide before Captain Rayford Steele uses the power of Christ to compel him into not painting the wall with his brains. In World at War they immediately shoot that same dude in the back during the opening raid scene. They then have the wonderfully clichéd “who do you work for?” scene and he responds with “son of man” and “god almighty” in glorious defiance before getting shot in the face.
Is it any good? The pacing and action get a much needed injection of adrenaline/PCP that the last two sorely lacked. More importantly it had way, waaay less boring parts than the first two movies. This might be the best movie I’ve watched all year.
I pray to you, my lord and savior Kirk Cameron, please make another Left Behind sequel. I desperately need more of this insane, goofy schlock!
So how will a crappy low budget movie turn out when rebooted with a higher budget, real actors, and directed by a professional stuntman? Let’s find out!
- Nicolas Cage stars as Captain Rayford Steele. In the original series Ray was Buck’s sexy, black man-servant. But in the reboot, Ray is the star and Buck Williams is the handsome second banana.
- Chloe looks more jail-bait-y, but they do establish her as a college student this time. In the first series I thought she was a high school student. Either because the movies didn’t clarify, or I wasn’t paying attention. Probably the latter. (Side note for my fellow Red Letter Media junkies, this actress was in Cop Dog.)
- New Hatti looks distractingly like an ex-girlfriend, ‘cept with a nicer butt. Oh, and her character is somehow less developed despite 666% more screen time in this version.
- Lea Thompson makes a brief appearance as Ray’s wife. No doubt repenting for the sins of being in Howard the Duck and Caroline in the City.
- They skip the action-packed opening in the original with a throw-away line of dialogue. Which is smart. It’s way better to talk about an exciting action scene instead of showing it. That way you can jam in more boring dialogue about family and relationship drama.
- Buck gives Chloe a kiss on the cheek about an hour after they meet. Which is more action than those two characters had in the entire original series combined.
- If you were bummed that the original version didn’t have enough generic confrontations and boring passenger drama, you’re in luck! This version added a bunch of tedious and inconsequential back stories to every damn passenger on the plane.
- An angry midget with a soul patch. Christians love angry midgets with soul patches!
Plot: You know the short, kinda cool scene on the plane that took up maybe 15% of the original movie, yet still seemed way too long? Well try not to pee yourself with excitement, cuz they stretch that goodness out to 90% of the running time in the reboot.
Say what you will about how crappy and boring the original was, at least things happened. This version is just Ray, Buck and Chloe stumbling around like buttholes, rediscovering the… exact… same… information… over… and… over… again… with no story.
Though it is kinda entertaining when they just randomly cut to Chloe and throw cars, school buses, shotguns, motorcycle thieves, planes, bodies and ‘splosions at her for no reason.
Best cheesy quote: “Looks like the end of the world.”
“Not yet, this is just the beginning.”
They were subtly setting up for a sequel that will never happen because not even Christians cared that this movie came out.
Is it any good? Hellz no! The original series was fun-bad. This one was just tedious. Like watching really boring paint dry with the occasional explosion.
So that was the popular Left Behind book series translated to film. Honestly, unless you’re a born-again Christian looking for spiritual validation via bad acting (in which case you’re not reading a website run by a gay dude and a heathen foreigner) or a soulless, mean-spirited jerk like myself; you’re not likely to enjoy ¾ of these movies.
But EVERYONE will enjoy the glorious cheese that is Left Behind III: World at War. It is everything you could hope for in a bad action movie, sans gratuitous nudity. Next time you’re having friends over for drinks, pop it in and laugh your asses off. I guarantee you won’t regret it!
What am I going to do now? I’m going to jump onto the money train and write a Christian novel series. All you need to do is swipe the worst clichés from bad action films and jam them all together with Jesus symbolism. Isn’t one the commandments about stealing? Bah, whatever.
Be prepared for my first book coming out next year:
Ultra Mega Bible Force Commando Squad Alpha One: The Jesusing of the Christ!