Friends gather at a wedding, but the celebration is shattered by terrifying apocalyptic events forcing them to examine life, love and faith as they must choose between redemption and survival.
Director Casey La Scala, along with co-writer Chris Dowling, bring horror to faith-based features in their latest offering, The Remaining. The film tackles the apocalypse after the coming of the rapture, the end of the world from a biblical perspective. While that is not a new concept, La Scala and Dowling manage to keep the terrifying elements intact while lacing the film with more preachy moments of faith, God and religion. It never gets too heavy handed allowing the horrific moments of death and destruction remain visceral with gruesome impact even if it does get watered down quite a bit. The cast is strong drawing the audience into their relationships and plight while the script focuses on a small group of friends who survive the initial event as they first try to piece together what is happening then, ultimately, determine how they must deal with the enormity of it all. Part disaster flick, part horror movie and part religious exposition, The Remaining is a decent and entertaining entry into the end-of-the-world collection of movies.
A group of long-time friends and family gather at the wedding of the “adorable” young couple Dan (Bryan Dechart) and Skylar (Alexa Vega) only to begin questioning their own decisions in life as their friends begin a new chapter in theirs. Tommy (Johnny Pacar) regrets never sharing his lover for Allison (Italia Ricci) whom is struggling to keep her relationship with Jack (Shaun Sipos) in perspective. Not long after the couple share their first dance as husband and wife many of those around them suddenly drop dead, their eyes glazed over white. The earth shakes, the skies rain down and mysterious trumpets blare. The group race from the chapel into the streets looking for Allison who left alone not long before the horror began. The film follows the group as they encounter other survivors, more supernatural threats including giant hail storms and terrifying flying creatures. Once they reunite and conclude what everyone is thinking, they begin to realize their faith is being tested in a major way – they must make a choice.
For many fans, mixing horror and theology is something best left to fantasy. Many consider it to be akin to marrying church and state in politics. But religion plays into a lot of horror films as heaven and hell and death are the basis of many fears in human psychology. Look at The Exorcist, The Omen and similar films of possession or the devil walking the Earth. Even in 2014, films tackle this subject of horror and religion: Deliver Us From Evil and The Devil’s Due are only two of them. Where the film falters in its position and message is 1) it glosses over its own ideas and 2) it never positions its ideals in enough contention for a strong conflict of good versus evil or monotheism versus atheism; the film is too lopsided for the nature of its origin as a faith-based film to be fully interesting. Even so, the film is quickly paced and exciting along the way. Unfortunately the root conflict is reduced to “when will they” instead of a more involving “why would they.”
The cast of young adult is strong and appealing, perfect for the intended audience. Alexa Vega is likely the most recognizable having matured from her days as Carmen Cortex in Robert Rodriguez’ Spy Kids films or from her more recent films such as Machete Kills and Repo! The Genetic Opera. She is marvelous in The Remaining as the bride who quickly realizes the bigger picture struggling to convince her friends of the truth that surrounds them. She is entirely believable in all cases. Liz E. Morgan makes an impressive outsider as Sam, a young survivor who joins the group in search of their friends. She brings a needed outside looking in view of the group of friends. Johnny Pacar, Shaun Sipos and Bryan Dechart are each solid in their roles far less annoying than many similar films with a young cast. John Pyper-Gerguson’s turn as Pastor Shay proves far more interesting than the script provides time for him. His realization of how he failed not only his congregation, but his family and himself in never fully believing in quite intriguing.
The effects found in The Remaining reveal the budget of the film. While grand in scope, earthquakes, storms, airplanes crashing to the ground, creatures flying around and the ilk, the culmination of everything included compare more to a movie-of-the-week tone than that to other similar films such as Into the Storm. Regardless, the effects remain rather effective mostly due to the deft handling of their presentation by the director, Cases La Scala. He manages to show just enough to sell the event before pulling the camera away or shifting focus to a character’s reaction. The initial event where dozens of wedding guests fall to the floor, their eyes turned white, is eerily effective and well done. The scene in the basement of the church where the forces of the night are after the pastor is also tense and better than expected.
The Remaining is a well crafted rapture film which manages to keep its tone in control by focusing on its core group of characters. It allows their plight to supersede the larger world changing events that surround them in a satisfying and entertaining manner. While the film often stumbles over itself, its own limitations and its message, the end result is a creative take on the end of the world. Even when it gets preachy with its message and theology, The Remaining keeps the proceedings well balanced allowing a wider audience to appreciate the film. A little more conflict, a little more challenging approach to the core ideals, a little more personal consequence would have gone a long way; as is, the film is ofter watered down and less cinematic as it could have been.
2.5 out 5
The Remaining is now available on bluray per Sony Pictures