An old school
flick, not exactly “good” but still better than most.
YEARS OF THE BEAST (1981) follows on the heels of the
first three films of the apocalypse quartet from the Iowa based Mark IV
Pictures: A THIEF IN THE NIGHT (1972), A DISTANT THUNDER (1978) and
IMAGE OF THE BEAST (1980), sincere evangelical efforts all that showed
the effects of the rapture (and concluded with THE PRODIGAL PLANET in
1983). This (comparatively) expensive film was not a Mark IV production,
but it dealt with many of the same themes--it’s like all of those films
packed into one
It predated the highly successful APOCALYPSE and LEFT
BEHIND evangelical film series. YEARS OF THE BEAST, however, manages to
encapsulate the concerns of all those films.
Stephen, a college professor, experiences an earthquake
one day, during which a heavily religious colleague unexpectedly
vanishes into thin air. Apparently people all over have disappeared in a
similar fashion, and graves have even been interred with the corpses now
The Rapture has taken place, in which the faithful are
whisked off to Heaven while everyone else is left to prove to God they
have what it takes to join their raptured fellows. In the interim cities
are engulfed by fire storms, the world falls into anarchy and a new
leader is elected: the Prince of the World, an Anti-Christ led scumbag
who forces everyone to have satanic tattoos imprinted on their hands and
executes anyone claiming to be a Christian.
Stephen turns to God and, together with his wife and a
few friends, joins a renegade Christian sect--but they’re hunted down by
an overzealous cop. Figuring that if they’re to idolize Jesus they’ll
have to live as he did, our heroes abandon civilization and head for the
mountains. A good thing, too, as the Prince of the World nukes most of
the lowlands. Not to worry, though, because around this time God finally
makes a long-belated personal appearance via a blinding light--from
which emerge a bunch of Heaven-sent UFOs!
If you’ve ever seen an evangelical production you’ll
know what to expect from YEARS OF THE BEAST. The sub par acting and
filmmaking, tacky production values, laughable special effects and
overuse of stock footage are all par for the course.
The real surprise is that the film is actually
semi-competently made by first (and only) time director D. Paul Thomas.
Cinematically it’s about on the level of a 1970s-era TV movie and,
believe it or not, is fairly entertaining. Yes, there’s plenty of
sermonizing (not to mention several irritating Biblical sing-alongs),
but the proceedings are also fast paced and action-packed, and blessed
with quite a few arrestingly odd camera angles.
None of this can possibly prepare one for the
mind-scraping finale, in which “You will feel the great and ultimate
triumph of Christ’s return” (so says the video box). Playing like a
no budget variant on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, it’s idiocy of
an extremely high order, rounding out a production that’s hardly
exceptional, but still about as good as these films come.
YEARS OF THE BEAST
Director: D. Paul Thomas
Producer: Daniel L. Quick
Screenplay: Leon Chambers
Cinematography: Earl Miller
Editing: D.L. Quick
Cast: Gary Bayer, Alana Rader, Jerry Houser, Sarah Rush, Malcon McCaiman,
James Blendick, Jon Locke, Michael Amber, Peter Von Berg, Valentina
Quinn, D. Paul Thomas