As a Christian who is involved in reviewing movies and interviewing actors and filmmakers, I’m always excited to hear about actors who share my faith. Although most critics pan any sort of Bible-based movie, I give them a chance if they fall within certain genres. I’m always on the search for a good faith-oriented horror or sci-fi film that will break down the barrier between “secular” and Christian cinema.
One movie that immediately caught my attention as soon as I saw the cover of the graphic novel it’s based on is “The Remaining.” According to the official description, it revolves around “a group of close friends [who] gather for a wedding. The celebration is shattered by a series of cataclysmic events and enemies foretold by biblical end-times prophecies. The survivors face a horrifying, uncertain future as they scramble for safety, but as their world collapses around them in chaos and terror will they choose real life through faith, or just try to survive?”
The “cataclysmic event” the description is referring to is the Rapture. I would imagine most everyone knows about the event thanks to countless books and movies like “Left Behind” and “Revelation Road” hitting bookshelves and Netflix. The Rapture is when Jesus comes back to the Earth and takes all the Christians away before the start of the Tribulation. The Tribulation is a period of time where the Anti-Christ is unleashed upon the Earth and all Hell literally breaks loose. God turns his back on mankind and the planet is ravaged by war, plagues, and natural disasters.
Christians physically disappear off the face of the Earth in the past movies about the Rapture. This isn’t the case in “The Remaining.” In this new vision of the end of the world, only the souls of Christians are taken to Heaven. Their bodies are left lifeless with frightening gray eyes. It’s a concept never explored before in faith-based movies. The film’s producer, Affirm Films Senior Vice President Rich Peluso, recently addressed the difference.
"In really diving into the word 'paralambano'— the Greek word (for take)... what's interesting is that same word is used when the angel tells Joseph about Mary— 'Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.' So obviously to take her... is not to make her disappear. It's another shade of this word, to bring someone into yourself— to receive them," he stated.
“The Remaining” is directed by a believer who has quite an impressive resume of films he’s worked on. Casey La Scala is best known as a producer on well-known films like “Donnie Darko,” “A Walk to Remember,” and the upcoming “Amityville: The Awakening.” According to him, it was only natural to take the concept of the Rapture into the horror genre.
"I started thinking of a global 'Paranormal Activity' and then I started thinking about when I was a young Christian going to church camp these counselors would tell us these stories of tribulation. And I remember how scary it was. I always had visions of Jesus coming down from the clouds. All of these things kind of came together and I started thinking about the rapture and what an interesting point of departure it would be," La Scala shared.
"I went through the Bible. It's biblically accurate. I used the timeline. And that was one of those things that was interesting. I could have made a completely different film if I didn't make it biblically accurate," he continued.
Obviously, “The Remaining” is meant to be a horrifyingly good time. It’s a horror movie after all. La Scala does hope moviegoers will take something more meaningful away from it though than just a fun scare.
"I want [the audience] to take away this idea of [considering] where are they right now— where are we with the people we love, where are we in our lives? Have you settled the things you need to say? Have you made decisions with faith? That feeling that life can disappear at the blink of an eye. You don't know when it's going to happen... life could end at any moment," La Scala declared.
Viewers of the trailer for “The Remaining” might notice a familiar face. Actor Alexa Vega takes the lead part of Skylar in the film. Skylar is one of the unfortunate few left behind to deal with the aftermath of the Rapture. Most will identify Vega from her roles in the “Spy Kids” movies as well as genre fare like “Repo the Genetic Opera,” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” "Machete Kills,” and more. I was pleasantly surprised to find out Vega is a Christian as well. Many might question her choice in roles and wonder why she would be in such questionable movies. She recently tackled the subject in an interview.
"You can tell by [certain] roles... I wasn't necessarily where I wanted to be in my faith. I was thankful for the opportunities and I feel like what we did with the roles was fun, and it did make a difference in terms of how I was viewed as a kid actor making that transition, but I have grown in my faith and career and I am pickier. I am much more cautious with the roles I take, and I make sure everything makes sense and is not too sexy for no reason," she explained.
Vega expanded on the difficulties of being a Christian in Hollywood and the trials and tribulations she’s encountered.
"It was a nerve-wracking thing having to talk to my team about certain roles I'm not comfortable playing because of my faith, and some of the other people were not happy. I had some people, directors and others, not happy with it at all. I had people blast me out of the water for it and they were very rude. It just lets you know the people you need to weed out," Vega continues.
"My faith is hands down the number one thing, above career and family. It's number one for both me and my husband. We have been able to really keep each other in check. I think that's so important - especially in this business and living in California. It is so easy to fall into the typical trap that everybody falls into, but I have such an awesome group of people in my life that really keep me grounded and we help each other grow. It's tough every single day, but worth it," she elaborated.
"I've been so fortunate - God has totally worked it out for me so that the roles that I was just not meant for … we were able to find other opportunities, which is great," Vega explained.
I'm open to seeing a new interpretation of the Rapture in "The Remaining." Even if I walk away not agreeing with its theory, the movie still looks to be an exciting ride. If it makes people think about where they stand spiritually and exposes them to the Word of God, then I'd say it did its job.
Be sure to check out “The Remaining” when it’s released in a limited run on September 5th. You can view the official trailer here.
“The Remaining” graphic novel will be published through Kingstone Media in August. You can preview the book here.