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Vanished: Left Behind – Next Generation (2016)

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vanishedleftbehindnextgenStarring Amber Frank, Mason Dye, Dylan Sprayberry, Keely Wilson, Tom Everett Scott, Brigid Brannagh

Directed by Larry A. McLean


Left Behind appears well on its way to becoming the Children of the Corn of Christian cinema.

You know, that misbegotten film franchise they just keep pumping out sequels to and reboots of even though nobody is really clamoring for it. Someone owns the rights to a name brand property and is bound and determined to milk every last penny out of it even though there’s really nothing left to milk. That poor cash cow…

Just two years removed from the last attempt to revive the most famous of Christploitation film franchises with Nicolas Cage on acting autopilot in a Rapture-themed airline disaster flick (If you don’t know what the Rapture is, don’t worry; the true believers that get the express ticket to heaven are going to leave behind flash drives containing pre-recorded videos to explain it to those left behind) comes yet another tepid attempt to reboot Left Behind, this time with a Young Adult take on the subject boasting one of the most preposterously, needlessly long movie titles in recent memory: Vanished: Left Behind – Next Generation.

Not even the Star Wars, Hobbit, or Pirates of the Caribbean films have resorted to a title that required the double whammy of both a colon and hyphen.

Not only does this re-reboot take square aim at millenials by giving us the tweener’s point-of-view of the Rapture, Vanished: Left Behind – Next Generation: At World’s End boldly goes into Mormon-inspired Twilight territory by tossing in a love triangle among our cute 15-year old heroine, her handsome blonde longtime neighbor BFF who wants to be more than just friends with promise ring benefits, and the Edward Cullen-esque homeless teen with the soulful sultry eyes that joins up with them on her trek to daddy’s house outside the city as The Rapture crumbles society into the PG-rated version of The Purge. The blandest whitest kids on the planet having the chastest ménage-a-trois you can stand–that is, until the script just completely abandons the romantic triangle in lieu of that vilest of Christian movie villains:

The Antichrist, you say? Heavens, no! The spawn of Satan doesn’t show up until the final moments in the guise of “Global Community Leader” Nicholae Carpathia (a name that screams I’m either a vampire, a Highlander villain, or the Antichrist) delivering a Cobra Commander speech in his most calming Tony Robbins voice. Nothing seems to terrify fundamentalist Christians more than the concept of the people of the earth coming together as one, even though I kind of thought that was the ultimate goal of their very faith as well. I’ll leave that debate for Sunday school.

No. Having Tribulation teenagers fight back against the Antichrist might have proved compelling. Wouldn’t want that. Instead, before that isn’t-this-what-the-whole-movie-should-have-been-about climax, these clean cut young do-gooders, but not clean or good enough to get Raptured, must contend with an arrogant, paranoid, delusional, genius, doomsday prepper atheist with a god complex. You read that correctly: The villain of this “Produced by Rick Santorum” production is an atheist with a god complex. That sounds like a hell of an oxymoron to me.

Played by Tom Everett Scott (“Z Nation”) with a certain degree of menacing, though frequently bordering on campy histrionics, our “man of facts, not fantasy or fairy tales” (wink, wink: silly religious beliefs) knew the government, society, and technology as we know it would collapse one day and his elaborate farm sanctuary would make him a beacon of hope in the brave new world he speculates to be the result of an EMP or gamma burst that has KO’d all communications on the planet and caused random people to spontaneously disintegrate. More than anything else, he just cannot handle anyone questioning his authority. If you do, he’ll slap you around and stalk you with his hunting rifle like Elmer Fudd’s The Shining.

The bulk of Vanished: Left Behind – Next Generation: The Consecration of Smaug plays out like a training wheels primer for the greater battle to come when the Antichrist makes himself known as a false prophet promising the same sense of communal safety in exchange for absolute unquestioning loyalty. Like making a Hunger Games reboot about a group of teens in a district playing paintball in the woods only for a few of them to go nuts and try killing their friends for real; then the sole survivors of that game gone wrong get home just in time to have their names drawn for the actual Hunger Games. The actual Hunger Games is the movie you should be making, not a dopey metaphorical prologue.

As was the case with the previous and seemingly unrelated Left Behind reboot with Nic Cage as Capt. “Sully” Sullennoraptureberger trying to land a crippled airplane after everyone goes poof, the story being told once again feels excessively trite given the ultimate stakes at play everywhere in the world except where our protagonists are. Even the Kirk Cameron movies got that much right.

One thing Vanished: Left Behind – Next Generation – Episode Three: Revenge of the Christ does get fairly right in a too brief, surprisingly effective sequence is the immediate chaos of the Rapture. Doing so gave me hope that would soon vanish as the film settled into a dramatically inert and spiritually superficial mix of teen romance, suspense-less mystery, sloppily assembled cat-and-mouse chase scenes, and a plethora of come-to-Jesus talks, which in a movie like this are literal come-to-Jesus talks.

Spoiler Alert: When our heroine finally locates her father and rescues him from captivity, the first quiet moment they get alone, he immediately begins giving her this oddly vague speech about how he’s now a true believer because of the amazing sights and miracles he’s experienced since a billion people vanished. By all accounts, his past couple of days consisted of getting into a car accident, being accepted into a commune run by a lunatic, being taken hostage, and then being imprisoned inside a locked box in the woods for hours at a time. I really wanted him to be a little more specific about what he’s seen that suddenly filled him such faith. I suppose when you’re locked in a box baking in the sun for days at a time, you have nothing else to do but think about the meaning of life and death.

Another tried and true trope of Rapture movies that plays out yet again here is mothers crying over their babies and small children that have vanished in a blink of an eye. However, our heroine’s 11-year-old kid sister did not get Raptured, once again leading me to ponder as I have during previous movies about the Rapture: What exactly is Jesus’ cut-off age for automatic Rapturing by virtue of childhood innocence? From the looks of this movie, that little girl is about the only preteen left on the planet. What evil thoughts must lurk in her head that she’s the one kid that didn’t get called up?

Ultimately, The Incredibly Bland Christians that Started Believing and Become Mixed-Up Tribulators squanders a capable cast of actors and falls into that unfortunate category where the best I can say is there’s nothing especially bad about it nor is there anything particularly good about it. Worst of all, it never truly justifies its own existence other than to squeeze a few more dollars out of a brand name. It exists to exist. I’m sure it will play just fine with the choir but will just be white noise to anyone else interested in watching a decent Biblical thriller. It’s no Megiddo: Omega Code 2, that’s for certain.

Honestly, I feel like I already saw the layman’s version of this premise once already this year, and it wasn’t much better when it was called The Fifth Wave.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

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Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

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Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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