So, first review of the new year, and so, I suppose it’s time to provide some supplemental video clips for the review? Indeed, it is. Welcome to DTV Hell, 2011, as I learn how to make video reviews. Probably quite slowly. But hey, I have to start somewhere, so I guess reviewing what I would prefer to see as a kind of flagship review set is as good a place as any.
So, one of my earlier reviews was the post-apocalyptic Christian fare by the name of Apocalypse, and mentioned that it is a painful movie, with massive plot holes, horrible video quality and editing, and just plain not making sense. Also, I already put this entire series in the circle of Wrath, so I can just stick with a generic review this time. It is worth noting that when I reviewed that movie, I had not yet seen the third or fourth movies in the series, mostly out of fear of being unwilling to review them. This review has taken me this long to write due to the fact that the movie is a freaking chore to watch. Oh, but you don’t have to take my word for it, cause I have video evidence this time. And, we should probably start with the intro sequence.
So, yeah, this is Thorold Stone. In spite of how flat his character is written to be, I actually like this guy. Perhaps it’s Jeff Fahey’s performance, or maybe it’s the fact that they only stick him into a couple catagories of Hollywood Atheist (a la TV Tropes) that makes him sympathetic. Or, it could be that since he’s not a Christian and I’m not a Christian, it works out for that reason.
In any case, turns out Stone is a police detective, working for One Nation Earth (ONE), the stereotypical one world government thing that Christians fear and tin foil hat manufacturers thrive on. Though, this one world government is apparently pretty bad at the whole “keeping the peace” thing, as we learn that terrorists, refered to as “Haters,” apparently get their jollys by exploding school buses full of children.
Huh, child death in a Christian film. I… actually kinda have to give them some credit for that level of bravery, particularly because it flies in the face of more mainstream ideological theories of children being pure enough to avoid divine judgement. Seriously, how many of those kids were ferried directly to hell?
Anyway, Stone is a good man, so he tells the men under his command to capture the Haters instead of killing them. Oh, and in case it wasn’t really obvious, the Haters are fundamentalist Christians and they are being set up. What follows in the end is a surprisingly solid and brief action sequence, with Stone and his partner hunting down two of the men who work for our obvious villain, Parker. Here’s the hero’s encounter with Parker.
I know he doesn’t actually look all that threatening, but hamming it up is about the only way to actually make a villain work in this story when he is effectively a supervillain. It also does a decent job downplaying the real villain, the Messiah, Franco Macalousso, this time played by Nick Mancuso. There’s a joke in there somewhere… But, I think you can figure it out yourself.
Unfortunately, after the action sequence, the movie goes into bad Matrix rip-off territory, and never really leaves it for the remainder. It turns out the villains are preparing a virtual reality event called “The Day of Wonders,” which is said to be the moment when the whole world will see the light about the “Messiah.” The Christian underground has a source that was supposed to give them a disc of the program, but that source was part of the group set up to be arrested by Stone’s team. Stone now has the disc, and proceeds to a random computer nerd’s home to force him to play the disc. A computer nerd named Wally, who just so happens to be the stepbrother of Helen Hannah, heroine of the original movie, and only actress who is in all four of the films. Wally is played by Tony Nappo. In the process of running the program, the two find themselves running right to the underground to try and figure out what is on the disc.
So, that sounds relatively exciting, and it kinda is, but now the movie grinds to a freaking halt as we get to hear Stone and Helen argue about whether or not God exists. Stone makes some good points here, and Helen actually seems to avoid trying to scare Stone into believing, rather making a point of the events going on around them in the real world to explain that there must be some reason that fundamentalist Christians are the ones being hunted down, framed, and rounded up. It’s not the worst attempt to jam a religious tract into an otherwise (so far) decent movie, but it’s definitely not subtle or effective.
So, the villain calls the hero about how his family (who went missing at he beginning, remember) is actually there with him, and proceeds to do what ends up being a horrible impression of the little girl. This might be the only time I’ve ever seen where having an utterly abysmal child actor do a terrible line read actually makes perfect sense, and adds to the movie, instead of detracting. It happens again later to the same good effect, but that point is after the movie kinda smashes itself into a wall.
During the time the hero is hanging with the Christians (who, sadly, sit around watching Jack Van Impe tapes, by the way), Wally is actually building a nice relationship with the blind girl, played by Carol Alt. You may remember her from a Family Guy joke. The two do a decent job with their roles, and their characters are sympathetic, much like Stone. This may be a bad movie for the sole reason of letting its message run away with it, because in spite of being a Christian film, it’s not that bad. Some obvious logic and effort went into getting people who could do their jobs pretty well, and it does contain one of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a movie. Behold: The All-Seeing Eye Guillotine.
Yeah, that little “hello” at the beginning seals it (though it might be Willy’s reaction, but it ended up sounding kinda creepy anyway). I could totally see someone like Jigsaw using that thing. Unfortunately, it’s become time for all the really good elements to melt away and the ending to rear its ugly head. So, it turns out that the Day of Wonders is, in fact, the method for delivering the Mark of the Beast. And, due to some supernatural elements, this part does kinda make sense in context, but it’s what happens after one receive the mark that is absurd. It instantly negates any good elements of your character, along with any personal relationships you would have that might get in the way of serving the devil. You might think this is some kind of supernatural mind control, but due to the next two movies, you’d be proven completely wrong. Characters’ personalities change, sometimes significantly, but they still feel family connections, and they still have free will. So, when Willy pulls a gun on his sister, it’s just a smidge too far out of character, and the explanation of “he has no soul anymore” is utterly ridiculous.
On to the actual ending, though. Stone ends up confronting Macalousso in the virtual world, and is given the chance at his heart’s desire: to be reunited with his family. Again, the little girl gives a terrible read here, but it actually helps. He decides against accepting Macalousso’s deal, and is about to get offed when our other heroes arrive to save him. They upload the virus Willy made for them before he switched sides, and even after the disk is removed from the computer, the virus supernaturally finishes uploading. Also, there’s a reference to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, with some pretty bad CG fire effects, but yeah, that’s pretty much it.
While this does belong in the circle of Wrath, Stone himself is one of the best surprises I have come across in my reviews: a genuinely likeable character, originally intended as a strawman, but managing to come through effectively due to decent writing and solid acting. I can’t recommend this movie to any non-Christians, but I think Christians might actually get some enjoyment out of it.
So, that’s the second of the Apocalypse series, and my first review featuring video. I’ll probably go back and do some additional video clips and work for older reviews, and eventually I want to do actual video reviews, but that might take a while.
In any case, Happy New Year, and tune in next time for something from Shoji Kawamori. Oh, and don’t tell Harmony Gold…