Christian propaganda films tend to be traditionally both grotty and disturbing in terms of their subtext. Anyone who has been forced to sit through A DISTANT THUNDER (1978) in a revivalist tent in South America (I know I have) or indeed any of director Donald Thompson’s awful evangelical efforts will know what I’m talking about.
Well, the spirit seems to be alive and well and responsible for what is officially (according to Rotten Tomatoes at least) the Number One worst film of 2014. LEFT BEHIND will shortly be getting a Blu-ray and DVD release in the UK courtesy of 101 Films so you can find out just how bad it is for yourself (if you dare), but in the meantime I have already been subjected to its 110 minute running time. I have suffered on the cinematic crucifix that is Bad Cinema so that you hopefully don’t have to, and here’s what I thought.
The first thirty minutes of LEFT BEHIND is nothing more (nor less) than a poorly put together soap opera. Nicolas Cage (why?) is an airline pilot who plans to have a bit of an assignation with stewardess Nicky Whelan, complete with Princess Diana hairdo and tightly buttoned blouse (her not him). How could he possibly cheat on Bible-bashing wife Lea Thompson, who seems to have forgotten everything she learned about time travel and now wears a lot of fish-related jewellery and gets into arguments with daughter Cassi Thomson about Belief? Nic takes off in his plane filled with sinners, or at least the script tries hard to make out that business class is certainly filled with them. So far so dull, and then Something Weird happens and people everywhere disappear, leaving only their clothes, their fish jewellery and their diaries with entries like ‘Attend Bible Class’ written in big letters.
What’s going on? Could it be that the group of American Christians who bang on about something called The Rapture were right? If all the Christians were suddenly taken away would everyone left really not be able to cope? Would they just drive their cars into shops, shoot each other, and generally cause havoc because Christians weren’t around anymore? And why is it a good idea to have heaven filled with naked people anyway?
It’s certainly a unique take on the apocalypse. Meanwhile the aeroplane is running out of fuel and Nic has to land somewhere. Surely it’s not going to be inches from that enormous tanker with ‘Flammable Liquid’ written on it, is it? And if everyone survives surely they’re going to get as far away from there as possible and not be stupid enough to spend ages standing around relieved they’re alive while fires ignite all around them?
LEFT BEHIND is packed chock full with stupid moments, stupid dialogue, and situations that will have you either picking your jaw up off the floor or chuckling along. I have to admit I didn’t touch the fast forward button once as I was so mesmerised by what was happening. Someone has likened this to THE ROOM and they might not be far wrong.101 Films offers us an entirely bare bones affair, presumably because all the out-takes made it into the actual finished film. I cannot recommend this one but if you want to see Nicolas Cage explain how a paper cup with holes in it is actually the aeroplane he's in then this is the film you’ve been waiting for.
LEFT BEHIND is being released by 101 Films on Blu-ray and DVD on 5th January 2015