Remaining
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The Remaining

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Almost every society or culture mankind has ever formed a united by an overwhelming need to explain and understand the world around. This gives rise to a system of mythology and religion that frequently defines and binds the society together. At one level, the difference between mythology and religion is one of perspective. If you adhere to the belief systems or at least have a significant number of points of similarity, be categorized that as a religion. If however, you find the Parthenon and intrinsic moral guidelines to be outdated or to follow askew from your own, then it may get labeled first mythology. At one point, millions of people worship Jupiter or Zeus is all-powerful gods viewing their worship of these deities as a religion. Now, most of the world has moved on to belief systems such as the Judeo-Christian scriptures in the Greco-Roman gods have been reassigned the category of mythology. I feel that this is an important distinction to keep in mind while watching the film ‘The Remaining’.

The dominant theme is what happens to people on a global scale when the scripturally prophesied ‘Time of Tribulation’ is visited upon mankind. Some people do consider this just another form of mythology by others literally take it a scriptural truth. Even within Christendom the interpretation of scriptural books such as Revelation are subject to a widely different interpretations resulting in significantly different manifestations in spiritual beliefs and how one’s life is lived. This will naturally result in dividing the audience into those who feel it is accurate, that believing it’s misguided and still others will consider it a science fiction film. The director and co-author of the screenplay, Casey La Scala, had previously worked on part of a well-established hollow franchise, particularly, ‘Amityville: The Awakening’. He was also a fan of another genre franchise, ‘Paranormal Activity’, using his position in the industry to visit the set of the fifth installment of the series of films. He has noted in interviews that he wondered what would happen if such paranormal events began to take place on a global scale. After researching various mythologies and applying his own understanding of The Book of Revelation, the result was the screenplay for this movie and subsequently the directorial style he chose to present it.

A couple’s wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. Understandably, but a young couple, Skylar Chapman (Alexa Pena Vega) and Dan Wilson (Bryan Dechart) expected they began the day of their nuptials, but unfortunately, that was not to be. The usual montage depicting a group of friends playing touch football on the beach will enjoy reading by dancing with each other is also obvious that at least a part of this don’t was be presented as if recorded by the participants. That’s just another way of saying that this film is going to be good another in the often overused cinematic style called ‘found footage’. In this particular instance the technique the present itself as not only forgivable, but many ways places the viewer in the proper perspective to understand the filmmaker’s intent. This also makes for a reasonably smooth into the movie’s primary point of view; which happens to be that of a fundamentalist Christian. At the writing there were plenty of shots but obviously not point of view from one of the attendees of the wedding. This is made painfully obvious by numerous scenes depicting the people recording the event on video cameras or cell phones. Inasmuch as I normally dislike most found footage usage, I find it more disconcerting when the filmmaker cannot truly commit to that specific visual style. Bouncing back and forth between what is obviously being recorded by the videographer Tommy Covington (Johnny Pacar), working behind the fourth wall and the guests with cell phones. Scene and not of a camera working behind the fourth wall, especially at the beginning of the movie, forces the audience to constantly switch the perspective making it more difficult than it should be to commit to brothers we should feel that we are watching the events all part of them. We are given a view of the wedding party and guests fervently praying and a few frames later the camera is included. To be fair this may be the result of wanting to demonstrate that there is more than one person documenting the proceedings.

There are some pertinent elements to the back story but all nicely infused. The bride is quite devout, raised by fundamentalist Christian parents. Her faith is so important to her than converted prior to the wedding. After the ceremony in normal festivities and traditions such as throwing the bouquet everyone begins to leave for the reception. As the reception begins to wind down and people depart to their hotel rooms receive the parents of the bride lovingly exchanging little kisses in the elevator, ecstatically happy with your daughter’s big day. Suddenly, the elevator appears to have some electrical difficulties with the lights and the parents bolted to the floor. When the doors open the party has been reduced to chaos. The skies have darkened and apparently random people like that on the floor. Just before a person dies their eyes go blank is the essence of what made them who they were was suddenly removed from them. We learn that this is now called Instant Death Syndrome, and it is a global event. His demographic includes infants and young children as well as select adults.

Skyler, upon taking this all, comes to the conclusion that they can be only one rational explanation for what is occurring; the tribulation is upon us and this is the rapture. It seems to upset us most is why she isn’t gone as well. After all is quite devout and by all accounts should be worthy to be lying there dead. This introduces a rather disconnect and how certain characters are acting. But if thinking, this is it, the time of judgment. Those who died should be considered the one judge is worthy of entering heaven. This makes it understandable to see why Skyler is somewhat disappointed but others of her faith are running for their lives, especially when what appears to be flying the humans begin to attack. If death is the reward it seems inconsistent that people would run for their lives. Perhaps at the last minute the instinct to stay alive is overwhelming their faith. Skyler however, is attacked by one of the demonic reaches resulting in a very nasty looking and debilitating wound on her back. The presentations of these apocalyptic events are reasonably consistent with what is depicted in the book of Revelation. Yet, there is a nagging feeling that instead of a fundamentalist Christian film of faith, you are watching one of those sci-fi thrillers/horror films that the SyFy has a propensity to broadcast on Sunday night.

You might recognize the leading lady by her maiden name, Alexa Vega, who as a child actress made a splash in the very camp, usually oriented ‘Spy Kids’, franchise. After that, the inescapable demands of biology occurred; puberty. In all too many cases this is not in the ruination of promising careers but the beginning of the young person’s entire life. Much to Ms. Vega’s credit she apparently allowed a strong faith to be put in practice as evident by her avoiding the usual tabloid sensationalism that befalls out-of-control behavior. I have seen her in several movies during this time and it is obvious that this young woman is serious not only about honing her craft but having a stable private life.

This series of catastrophic events that befalls the characters unfamiliar but only to those were fans of apocalypse looks but also mainstream biblically influenced films such as ‘The Ten Commandments’. I really shouldn’t have to note this but I will; the level of special effects in this 2014 film cannot hold a candle to the effects of federal bait almost 60 years ago. I feel that it’s necessary to preface these final remarks with the caveat. I’ve got for me no doubt that the creative people behind this production are sincere in their faith and beliefs. The target audience of the film is Christian teens; especially those with the nuances of their faith coincide with the people producing this movie. With that stated in all respect, as a means of cinematic expression the film does not work as well as it should. The most glaring problem is the lack of commitment, again not to their belief system to help you choose to express it. As noted before, this is demonstrated immediately with the lack of commitment to a single point of view making it exceptionally difficult for the viewer to assume the proper perspective to understand the story. The filmmaker’s prior experience with modern horror films and his production work in films is widely apart thematically as ‘What a Girl Wants’ and ‘Donnie Darko’, has provided him with a wide gamut of experience which once it is better focused should be considerable.

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Posted 02/06/2015

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