The Remaining is an action-packed supernatural thriller that addresses questions of life, love and belief against an apocalyptic backdrop. A group of close friends gather for a wedding, but the celebration is shattered by a series of cataclysmic events and enemies foretold by biblical end-times prophecies. The survivors face a horrifying, uncertain future as they scramble for safety, but as their world collapses around them in chaos and terror will they choose real life through faith, or just try to survive?
When I was a kid, my parents sent me to a private Christian school, and I have plenty of memories of how they used to try and 'scare' us into the Christian faith by showing us movies (and even giving us comic books) that said we'd be in for an eternity of flames and torture if we didn't repent immediately. I even remember one low-budget 'rapture' movie where the ending had the lead characters getting their heads chopped off at the guillotine – and, no, I'm not making that up for dramatic effect. Anyway, back in the 1970s, this is how many in the Church (meaning globally, not any one denomination) tried to turn people to God – through the threat of what would happen to you if you didn't, instead of how great it would be if you did. That's very much what 'The Remaining' is like. Instead of giving viewers a loving, caring God, they give them one that's completely 'Old Testament' in His vengeance and otherwise pretty detached from mankind.
As a result, 'The Remaining' isn't the best of titles to use as a recruiting tool for Christians, but as a low-budget thriller, it's not all that bad. The movie follows a cast of young 20-somethings (although I'm guessing a few actors here are probably in their 30s) on the wedding day of two of them, which also happens to be the day when God decides to 'rapture' up His believers and pass judgment on the rest of mankind. Now there's a wedding present you'll never forget.
The movie, directed by Casey La Scala, hires a bunch of attractive young actors who look like they'd be comfortable starring in the latest teen drama on The CW network (and perhaps a few of them have). For me, the only known actor here is Spy Kids' Alexa Vega, who plays bride Skylar and is getting married to Dan (Bryan Dechart) as the movie opens. If there's a main character in the movie, it's Tommy (Johnny Pacar), who carries around a video camera during most of the story, from which about a third of the film is seen through. The rest is shot using the 'shaky cam' method, primarily so the transition between the video camera footage and the 'normal' footage isn't so jarring. The cast is rounded out with the characters of Jack (Shaun Sipos) and Allison (Italia Ricci), who are a couple, although it seems Tommy has a crush on Allison that he's never told her about. Later in the movie, the group will meet up with a girl named Sam (played by newcomer Liz E. Morgan), who also has a significant part in the storyline.
Although 'The Remaining' is a low budget affair, and can get 'preachy' in spots, there's a lot to like about this movie, even if you don't have a Christian background. There have been a number of movies based on the rapture (where God calls all the believers up to heaven before passing judgment on the rest of the Earth) over the years, most notably the somewhat lackluster Left Behind, which I covered for this site just a few weeks before I reviewed this title. In almost every movie depicting the rapture (or a rapture-like event, such as in HBO's 'The Leftovers'), people simply vanish – sometimes taking their clothes with them, sometimes not. That never made much sense to me, since when people die of natural causes, they leave their bodies behind, even though many of us believe their souls go elsewhere. So whether you wind up enjoying 'The Remaining' or not, you have to appreciate their rendition of the rapture, as a huge chunk of the world's population just drops dead on the spot. In fact, the news media labels the event as 'IDS' – 'Instant Death Syndrome' – the idea that God played a part in it isn't immediately evident to most in the movie.
Also unlike most rapture movies, 'The Remaining' isn't afraid to dive deep into the horror genre, releasing demons onto the Earth (think 'Harry Potter'-like Dementors) who snatch people up and either maim or kill them. In fact, one of our main characters suffers a wound from one of these demons that plays a major part in this movie's storyline. This being a low-budget effort, the demons are only seen in brief glimpses and, of course, only come out at night (easier to hide the low-budget effects work that way), but they do offer a sense of creepiness to 'The Remaining' that you won't see in other faith-based films.
Without giving major plot points away or ruining the ending, the biggest issue I had with 'The Remaining' is what a hopeless feeling it leaves its audience with. The characters in the movie keep saying how they need to turn to God, but it seems like God has pretty much checked out. Many of the characters that reject him meet an untimely end in this movie – but so do many of the characters that repent. What kind of message is that? There's no trace of a loving, caring higher power in 'The Remaining'. In fact, the forces of good seem just as dispassionate about human beings as do the forces of evil. While that makes for a fun little horror picture, it doesn't make Christianity look all that attractive for a non-believer.
Setting the religious aspect aside, though, the young actors in 'The Remaining' are pretty solid, and as far as faith-based/Christian-themed titles go (most of which, let's be honest, turn out to be pretty lame), 'The Remaining' is one of the more creative efforts I've seen over the years. So I still think this release is worth a look…if only to scare the willies out of some of your overly religious friends.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Remaining' appears on Blu-ray in the same type of keepcase Sony uses for the vast majority of its releases (the kind with the little flap on the side that needs to be flipped up before opening). The case houses the dual-layer 50GB disc, with no inserts.
The Blu-ray is front-loaded with ad advertisement for Affirm Films, followed by trailers for When the Game Stands Tall, Soul Surfer, To Save a Life, and 'The Song'. The main menu consists of the same image as the box cover (a little more zoomed in on the characters), with menu selections running along the bottom of the screen.
This Blu-ray is Region A locked.
'The Remaining' was shot digitally, and the film makes use of both hand-held digital footage from a home video camera as well as 'shaky cam' footage from a more professional digital camera. Other than the opening wedding scene, most of the movie takes place in rather drab, dimly lit locations, which prevents most scenes from really 'popping' off the screen the way they should. However, details are impressive throughout, and black levels are solid – a good thing, since this movie spends a lot of time lurking in the shadows.
The picture is mostly free from any defects, although some scenes/locations appear 'softer' than others – more a factor with the way the cinematographer lit those sequences than any fault of the transfer here. Overall, a solid, if at times unspectacular, presentation.
'The Remaining' has a tremendous amount of fun with its featured English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track – so much that I feel secure in saying the audio is actually a character in the movie. Because it's shot on a relatively low budget, sound is used throughout as a method to scare the audience when very little is actually happening visually. So viewers/listeners get lots of directionality (even with characters' dialogue, which is not often the case with many audio tracks), some great low booming LFE effects, and a real sense of immersiveness throughout.
The only thing that prevented me from giving the audio here a perfect score is that the ambient noises are so much more louder and intense than the dialogue itself, that the balance here is significantly off. Of course, I have no doubt that a large part of that is intentional by the filmmaker/sound mixer for the movie, but it's also something I've noted frequently on other releases of Sony titles (Universal is often guilty of this as well, for the record). Otherwise, though, most are going to come away from watching 'The Remaining' feeling like the sound was the most impressive aspect. It's also a reason you'll want to watch the movie on Blu-ray instead of renting on VOD or waiting for cable – to enjoy the full impact of the lossless track.
In addition to the English lossless audio, the disc also includes French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and an Audio Descriptive Service track in English. Subtitles are available in English SDH, English, French, and Spanish.
Because it's fairly creepy and dark in tone, I'm not sure 'The Remaining' is going to win a lot of converts to Christianity, as the 'God' it presents seems to be a pretty heartless one. However, as a low-budget thriller, the movie works quite well and, at the very least, packs a lot more action into its running time than most Christian-themed movies. This one is worth a look.