ORLANDO, Fla. (RNS) The words “Christian” and “horror movie” rarely appear in the same sentence, much less in the same film’s promotional material.

A scene from “Final: The Rapture,” a Christian horror movie. Photo courtesy Final: The Rapture

A scene from “Final: The Rapture,” a Christian horror movie. Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Yet that’s exactly what Tim Chey, writer and director of “Final: The Rapture,” does to promote his picture in its city-by-city rollout.

As the movie’s poster promises: “When the Rapture strikes … all of hell will break loose.”

In an interview outside the Orlando, Fla., multiplex where his film is playing on a Sunday afternoon, Chey said he’s comfortable with the Christian horror movie label, or even “Christian disaster movie.”

Acknowledging that a movie theater is no substitute for a sanctuary, Chey said his purpose is “to scare the living daylights out of nonbelievers. … If it means I have to make a horror film to make it realistic to win people to Christ, then so be it.”

From church-sponsored, Halloween “Hell Houses” — designed to dramatize the wages of sin — to the best-selling “Left Behind” pulp novels and movies, evangelical Christians have had an ambivalent relationship with horror and terror in their home-grown popular culture.

The question is how far to go while serving a higher purpose.

“I can be as violent as I can, without being gratuitous,” Chey said. “Anything goes.” Well, that’s “anything” in the evangelical Christian sense; he draws the line at nudity and profanity.

But as they have with other genres that appeal to sometimes rebellious, media-savvy young people — rock music, cartoons and video games — evangelicals have shown themselves innovative in appropriating and adapting popular culture to their own ends.

A scene from “Final: The Rapture,” a Christian horror movie. Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture

A scene from “Final: The Rapture,” a Christian horror movie. Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The goal, the movie’s creators said, is twofold: To reach out to nonbelievers, while at the same time fostering a sense of cultural inclusion for the young of their flock.

Chey’s wife Susan, the film’s producer, called it “a Trojan horse.”

“Final” is a modern version of the Book of Revelation, the last New Testament book that describes the world’s end after the faithful are taken up to heaven. Both as theology and narrative, the text has long been problematic for mainline Christians. Thomas Jefferson characterized it as the “ravings of a lunatic.”

“Final” imagines the apocalyptic chaos for four nonbelievers: an African-American, an Asian, a Hispanic and a white man living in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and on a South Pacific island. Chey said his movie is more scarily realistic than the “Left Behind” movie, which covers the same subject, but generated a meager $4 million at the box office.

At 48, Chey is a movie-star handsome Korean-American whose resume includes the University of Southern California’s prestigious film school, a Harvard MBA and a law degree from Boston University. “Final” is his ninth film, shot for around $7 million, raised from a spectrum of investors, hedge funds to faith-based. And he may be onto something.

Hollywood seems to be rediscovering the commercial potential of films with religious, spiritual or supernatural themes. Before the Orlando screening of “Final,” previews included a number of upcoming, big-budget releases from major Hollywood studios: “Noah” (starring Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins), “Son of God” and “Heaven is for Real.”

A scene from “Final: The Rapture,” a Christian horror movie. Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture

A scene from “Final: The Rapture,” a Christian horror movie. Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Other screens at the theater already offered similar subject matter, including “Devil’s Due” and “Gimme Shelter.”

These commercial releases, like all Hollywood fare, are aimed at the broadest audience, and intentionally go light on theology. Chey disagreed with this approach.

While it may be counterintuitive, “The stronger the message, the better the box office,” he said.

The Sun Belt suburbs are ground zero for the movie’s evangelical target audience, and the strategy appears to be working. Chey reported grosses of $5,000 per screen in the three Central Florida theaters. In Houston, where “Final” opened in early January, the team grossed close to $7,000. The film opens Friday (Feb. 21) in Fort Lauderdale, Naples and Fort Myers.

It opens in San Diego, Seattle and Portland, Ore., later this month. It will open in New York and Los Angeles, Chicago and the Midwest in April, Texas in May, and then moves to the Northeast.

Chey was late to the interview because of a morning appearance at Faith Assembly church, where two services drew about 10,000 worshippers. Megachurches are key in the marketing strategy. In Houston, Chey promoted the movie at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, and sat next to the televangelist during a service.

Tim Chey, director of 'Final:The Rapture'. Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture

Tim Chey, writer and director of “Final: The Rapture.” Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

For moviegoers with more secular, sophisticated tastes, the production values of “Final” may be lacking. But Chey estimates that 70 to 80 percent of those coming to his movie don’t go to other movies and don’t have much of a basis for comparison.

While he liked it, viewer Steven Murtha found it “a little low budget. It almost felt like a foreign film,” referring to the subtitled scenes shot outside the U.S.

But for the most part, those streaming out of the Orlando showing were ecstatic.

“I believe the Rapture is real close,” said Ella Ramsey. “I’m a Christian and I’m ready to go.”

YS/AMB END PINSKY

12 Comments

  1. Sorry, but American Dad’s “Rapture’s Delight” is pretty much popular culture’s last word on the subject.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapture%27s_Delight

    Why am I getting the impression that Tim Chey is the Christian answer to Bialystock and Blum?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Producers_%281968_film%29

    Or maybe just their version of Charles Band.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Band

    • Pastor Greg L. Long

      Our church saw the film in the theaters in Fort Myers and it was a very realistic and I must say frightful depiction of end time events. I give the film a 9 out of 10.

      Pastor Greg

  2. Movies like this are wonderful.

    The moral message is clear:
    God cares about human beings – but if you don’t believe you will be burned alive in horror. Just because you did not fall for the marketing!

    “Threat movies” like these reveal that ‘love’ has absolutely nothing to do with God or religion in general. God and his marketers are primarily interested in control.

    Revelations like this creates millions of Atheists as people ponder the implications beyond the superficial story.

    The one movie which makes me wonder whether God might be real is “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart. It is the perfect God movie because the influence of God is so subtle and sweet.

    Wrath of GOD movies like this one (and “Noah” and “Passion of the Christ”) reveal the truth of religion. “Listen to your preacher, do as you are told, or you are dead!”

    You can practically hear people dumping their religion. Bring it on!

    • @Atheist Max- While I agree that these sort of movies are a big turn off and do not turn people to God, I can’t help but wonder why an intelligent man like you can’t see that the things these “religious” people say & promote have NO BASIS in God’s word… If someone who claims to know you (but really doesn’t) tells LIES and slanders you all over town, would your REAL FRIENDS believe the lies? A LIE told a billion times and believed by billions of people is still A LIE! These people need to quit lying about what they THINK they know. Their goal is to make money and scare “non-believers”. I know Jesus would have nothing to do with any of them. (Matthew 7:21-23)  “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.  Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew YOU! Get away from me, YOU WORKERS OF LAWLESSNESS!
      (Deuteronomy 32:4-6) The Rock, perfect is his activity, For all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; Righteous and upright is he. They have acted ruinously on their own part; They are not his children, the defect is their own. A generation crooked and twisted!  Is it to God that YOU keep doing this way, O people stupid and not wise?
      Does it really sound like God approves? We shouldn’t blame GOD for things his (supposed) followers say and do…

      • @Fmr Cath,
        I understand. You ask, why blame the religion on the evil behavior of the believers? You say it isn’t God’s fault.
        Well.
        Believers have been handed a Bible full of contradictions:

        “You know the tree by the fruit” (Matthew 17:20)
        “Jesus said, ‘I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” – (Matthew 10:34)
        “My angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites; and I will wipe them out.” (Exodus 23:23)
        “God is love” (1John 4:16)
        “Hate your family” (Luke 14:26)

        Love? Peace? Neither? Who knows?

        I’m told not to blame God. I’m told not to blame believers.
        It is just incoherent.

        I’m satisfied that there is nothing to believe in here.
        Just some primitive, often interesting, sometimes good, completely man-made ideas about the nature of reality and the reason for suffering.

        Most of it is nonsense.

        • @Atheist Max and anyone who wonders about the points Max brought out.
          Commentary on Exodus 23:23- The pagan nations listed here were gross sinners in that they performed human sacrifice even burning their children alive in the fire to their pagan god. The land was so polluted by them that God wiped them off the surface of the ground.
          Luke 14:26—In what sense are Christ’s followers to “hate” their relatives? In the Bible, “hate” can refer to loving a person or an object to a lesser degree than another. Christians are to “hate” their relatives in the sense of loving them less than they do Jesus.—compare Matt. 10:37, One example is (Gen. 29:30, 31) Jacob is said to love Rachel MORE than Leah. Verse 31 says God saw that Leah was “hated”. Now, Jacob didn’t literally hate her but he loved her much less than Rachel.
          Your comment, “I’m told not to blame God. I’m told not to blame believers. It is just incoherent.”- You CAN blame (so called) believers who go against the direct commandments of the God they “say” they follow. This world is PLUMB FULL of them…. It is VERY CONFUSING for most “thinking people” like yourself but again, God is not to blame. Thank you for your calm answer even though you may disagree with my belief in God. No need to resort to bullying as many on here do.

      • @dc,
        When I was a Christian, I saw Atheists as angry and bitter. I didn’t understand. I now know this is just part of the delusional world of religion.

        There is no gentle way to say to someone that their lifetime of ‘faith’ was for nothing. The person who even suggests religion is delusional sounds furious though they are only sharing their liberation from Alcatraz. And those in the comfortable cell block can’t understand why anyone would want to leave.

  3. We just saw the film in the theaters here in Fort Lauderdale and it was incredible….everyone sat in silence long after the end credits finished, it was that powerful….all of us give the film a 10 out of 10. Incredible movie that must be seen by every non-Believer….and Believer….

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