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Revelation a cut above Lalondes’ earlier effort

Good filmmaking, but dubious value as outreach tool

Nick Mancuso plays the AntiChrist in the $5 million production, Revelation.
Revelation, starring Jeff Fahey, Nick Mancuso and Carol Alt, is directed by Andre van Heerden. Not rated, but contains some violence. Release date: February 20.

By Peter T. Chattaway
ChristianWeek film critic

Revelation, the second in a proposed trilogy of end-times movies written and produced by Canadians Peter and Paul Lalonde, is that rarest of films: a sequel that improves on its predecessor in just about every possible way.

Of course, such praise may sound faint when the previous film was Apocalypse, a tacky soap-opera-style collection of talking heads and recycled news footage that suffered from poor acting and cheesy ideas. But Revelation is a remarkably assured piece of filmmaking in its own right.

This is due to a number of factors, such as the considerably larger budget—Apocalypse was produced for one million dollars, Revelation for five times that amount—and the fact that it was actually shot on film, giving it the feel of a decent made-for-TV movie. But the real credit goes to the actors and to the Lalondes themselves, who display a firmer grasp of story structure and even character development this time.

The main protagonist is Thorold Stone (Jeff Fahey), a law enforcement officer for the One Nation Earth government whose Christian wife and daughter went missing when the rapture took place three months ago. Stone’s friends now believe that Franco Macalousso (Stingray’s Nick Mancuso), the leader of this one-world movement, is the miracle-working messiah that he claims to be. But Stone is not convinced.

Then strange things begin to happen. Stone discovers that the new Christians he’s just arrested for alleged terrorist activities were framed by Len Parker (David Roddis), a demonic super-villain who can walk through walls but, for whatever reason, uses a gun to bump off anyone who catches him doing his dirty work. Thing is, Parker isn’t a very good shot; Stone survives and goes into hiding with another group of new Christians trying to hack their way into the "Day of Wonders," the Antichrist’s global virtual-reality program.

Sincere skepticism

Fahey—best known for his earlier religion-and-cyberspace horror film The Lawnmower Man—is this film’s best asset. The other actors are often saddled with stale would-be witticisms, but every word that comes out of Fahey’s mouth feels genuine, somehow. His sincere skepticism is also an intriguing change of pace from all the posturing that surrounds him; it prevents him from falling for the Antichrist’s lies, and it arguably helps him to find salvation in the end.

The other actors are a mixed bunch. Roddis, reprising his role as the first film’s scenery-chewing heavy, mugs shamelessly, with all the depth and subtlety of a Jack T. Chick comic. Leigh Lewis also returns as Helen Hannah, the former reporter who became a Christian after watching her raptured grandmother’s Jack Van Impe videotape; she’s now one of the underground believers who faces death by guillotine if she is caught.

This last, rather archaic detail is the film’s most explicit nod to the end-times movies of an earlier generation. The best of them remains A Thief in the Night, the 1972 classic that, with its spooky sound effects and anxiety-inducing montage, was perfectly suited to its paranoid times. It, and its three increasingly boring and pedestrian sequels, all followed the same iffy evangelistic premise: if those in the audience became Christians now, they could avoid the mean and nasty Tribulation to come.

That sort of eschatology must sound more than a little peculiar to Christians around the world for whom persecution has long been a daily reality. In any case, it’s doubtful that viewers are going to be so convinced by this film’s somewhat hokey vision of the future that they feel the need to convert. Revelation may be fine entertainment for Christians who like a good yarn, but as a witnessing tool, it’s a non-starter.

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