We’ve seen the opening vignettes of The Remaining (out September 5) before: friends interacting, wedding preparations, and the handcam videos of people before, during, and after the wedding. What we haven’t seen is the immediate fallout of The Rapture on the heels of two young people saying “til death do us part” which complicates all of those “happily ever after” moments. But in Casey La Scala’s film, what happens next is an exploration of love and faith set against a backdrop that will grab fans of The Walking Dead and Final Destination.
The only real hint of the faith-related elements we get early on is the revelation that Dan (Bryan Dechart) joined the church just so Skylar (Alex Vega, Spy Kids) will marry him… but that she didn’t want to get married in church. Segue from the wedding reception into absolute chaos, as natural disaster-like Twister effects wreak havoc outside and dozens of people suddenly drop to the floor, soulless.
The government calls it an illness [and maybe from a theological, Scriptural look, we’d call that ‘sin’… but it’s the believers/saved/holy who are removed, so it’s kind of flipped] and we can easily see a way that any kind of theological reckoning would be explained away by the powers that be as just about anything but a Rapture! We’re left exploring the after effects, dangers, and topics with a group of young people, who see the way that the dangers impact those they love (no one is safe) and try to figure out how to move forward.
As a pastor, I interact with people from time to time who are focused solely on the afterlife, who want me to work with them on a literal paint-by-numbers play-by-play about what’s going to happen when Jesus Christ returns to make heaven happen. I don’t read the Book of Revelation that way, because I know historically that it was sent to a group of churches being persecuted and there’s a significant amount of visual imagery that’s coded there. But I do believe Jesus is coming back, and I do believe that people are called to choose, one way or another– and that’s the beauty of The Remaining.
While I’m no horror fan, I found the movie intriguing (and yes, entertaining). I was interested in the character development of Pastor Shay (John Pyper-Ferguson), who admits that “a church and a title don’t mean anything. I had no relationship [with God/Jesus]. I just had comfort, and that is how I failed.” I find the conversation about what it means to be faithful to be relevant in many aspects of life, but specifically in church (and marriage, which is also examined here): is just showing up, is just doing the right thing, is just saying the right words, enough?
Another question raised is about spirituality. One character, in a storytelling tool used by La Scala, takes her turn in the handcam confessional and admits, “I thought being spiritual was enough.” It’s a great discussion starter in my mind, because I experience people from many walks of life who are commitment-phobic. They say they love their spouse, but cheat; they say they believe in the Republican or Democratic party, but vote against their own platform; they say God matters or church is important and yet they give those things only what’s leftover at the end of the day.
The Remaining asks us if we know what we believe, and if we believe it enough to live and die for it. A horror genre is a great place to play it out because the stakes are raised. But walking away from the movie, I find myself asking: even if we can’t see the spiritual impact of the world around us, does that mean it’s not there?
This film would argue that it’s there whether we believe it or not.