Evangelical silliness from the nineties that’s still probably the
end-of-the-world movie on the market.
This low budgeter, released on video in 1998, was the
first feature by the Christian outfit Cloud Ten Pictures, with financial
backing from celebrity minister Dr. Jack van Impe. It was a massive
success on the Christian circuit, far outdoing previous evangelical
films like the Mark IV apocalypse quartet (A THIEF IN THE NIGHT, A
DISTANT THUNDER, IMAGE OF THE BEAST and THE PRODIGAL PLANET) and Ron
Ormond’s infamous IF
FOOTMEN TIRE YOU WHAT WILL HORSES DO?
Unsurprisingly, APOCALYPSE was followed by three
sequels in 1999, 2000 and 2001 (the last one, JUDGMENT, starring Mr.
T!), as well as the similarly themed OMEGA CODE and THE MOMENT AFTER in
1999, and LEFT BEHIND (also from Cloud Ten Pictures) in 2000.
TV news hottie Helen finds herself caught up in the
“battle of Armageddon” that’s grown out of the conflict in Israel.
Helen’s husband Bronson is on location in the Holy Land to report on
what’s happening there when nuclear weapons are launched, and it seems
the end of the world is nigh…but then suddenly people everywhere vanish
into thin air, leaving neatly folded piles of clothes behind. This leads
to widespread chaos until a charismatic prophet appears to calm
everything down: European Union president Franco Macalusso, who unites
the world and proclaims himself the new Messiah.
Helen’s devout grandmother is among the vanished. Upon
finding the old woman’s bodiless clothes a distraught Helen is inspired
to check out her grandmother’s video collection. What she finds are
recordings of televangelist Dr. Jack van Impe preaching about the
apocalypse, which include predictions of a prophet uniting the world--an
individual who is actually the antichrist. Helen decides the charismatic
Mr. Macalusso is this very figure, especially when he denounces Jesus
Christ in a worldwide TV broadcast and a slimeball manager named Parker
takes over Helen and Bronson’s news station, editing anti-Macalusso
views out of the newscasts.
Helen decides to rebel against the antichrist’s
decrees, which land her and Bronson on Macalusso’s shit list. They’re
rounded up, jailed, and, it seems, about to be executed. But then God
(and Jack van Impe) intervenes…
This film isn’t without interest, but it’s still very
much in keeping with most evangelical movies. This means a thunderingly
obvious and plain corny film that even by 1990s standards seems
curiously old fashioned and out of touch with the times (note the TV
newscaster heroine, a mainstay of 1980s cinema), and is furthermore
packed with vomitous Christian pop tunes.
Yet for all that it’s easy to see why APOCALYPSE outdid
its evangelical movie forerunners: it’s slick and professionally made,
showcasing some real low budget ingenuity. Technically it’s about up to
the standards of a nineties-era straight-to-video production, which
places it several leagues above most of its evangelical movie
The idea of presenting much of the action as a
more-or-less continuous newscast was a good one. In such a format even
the gratuitous footage of the film’s financier Jack van Impe and his
wife preaching (read: shameless self-promotion) doesn’t seem
entirely out of place (although presenting a Van Impe sermon in the
final scenes as the vessel of the world’s salvation is a bit much). Its
interest is in the way director Peter Garretsen interweaves footage of
various real-life riots and disasters, all ingeniously recontextualized.
Where APOCALYPSE falls down is in the clumsy dramatic
sequences, headlined by “actors” like Richard Nester, Leigh Lewis and
David Roddis. No, I haven’t heard of any of them either!
APOCALYPSE: CAUGHT IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
Jack Van Impe Ministries/Cloud Ten Pictures
Director: Peter Garretsen
Producers: Peter & Paul Lalonde
Screenplay: Peter & Paul Lalonde
Cinematography: Yuri Yakubiw
Editing: Igor Boros
Cast: Richard Nester, Leigh Lewis, David Roddis, Sam Bornstein, Dr. Jack
Van Impe, Roxella Van Impe, Toni Carey, Michael Halkusis