Tag Archives: bad religious movies

Worst of 2016: God’s Not Dead 2

God’s Not Dead 2

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Up next in my series on the worst films of 2016 is the ultra-evangelical follow up to the 2014 hit God’s Not Dead: God’s Not Dead 2.

The plot of God’s Not Dead is loosely summarized on IMDb as follows:

When a high school teacher is asked a question in class about Jesus, her response lands her in deep trouble.

The lion’s share of the crew for God’s Not Dead 2 are holdovers from the first God’s Not Dead film, including director Harold Cronk, co-writers Chuck Conzelman and Cary Solomon, music composer Will Musser, cinematographer Brian Shanley, and editor Vance Null.

While there are few new faces at work behind the cameras, the cast features quite a number of new additions to the franchise. Gone are previous stars Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, and Dean Cain, but present are newcomers like Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Leviathan, Congo), Ray Wise (RoboCop, Twin Peaks), and Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains It All). While a few bit players provide connective tissue between the films, God’s Not Dead 2 is not so much a sequel as it is a spin-off, telling an entirely new story in the same (very) fictional universe.

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The lion’s share of God’s Not Dead 2 was filmed in Little Rock, Arkansas. This was a change in setting from the previous film, which was shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, primarily on the campus of Louisiana State University.

God’s Not Dead 2 was the final film of Fred Dalton Thompson, who died in November of 2015. While he was best known for his work in the Law & Order television franchise, he also had a handful of film roles in features like Baby’s Day Out, In The Line Of Fire, Days of Thunder, The Hunt For Red October, and the Scorsese remake of Cape Fear.

The production budget for the movie was estimated at $5 million. As with the first film, it wound up making a profit at the box office, taking in somewhere between $21 million and $24 million worldwide in its lifetime theatrical run. However, this paled in comparison to the profits for the original God’s Not Dead, which took in $62 million on a $2 million budget.

Critically, however, God’s Not Dead 2 didn’t do nearly so well. Currently, it holds Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 9% from critics and 63% from audiences, along with an IMDb user rating of 4.1/10.

Of all of the critical reviews that I read of the movie, I think that the Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus line best summarizes the essence of God’s Not Dead 2:

Every bit the proselytizing lecture promised by its title, God’s Not Dead 2 preaches ham-fistedly to its paranoid conservative choir.

Honestly, I can’t even begin to talk about all of the problems with the plot to this film. There are too many misconceptions, half-truths, straw men, and flat out lies to list out without it dominating the entire review. Frankly, that is why I didn’t review the original God’s Not Dead: I want to talk about a movie, not a paranoid treatise built on a foundation of sand. So, I am going to focus on other aspects of the movie, and leave the debunking to other folks. I can recommend reading reactions and reviews over at ThinkProgress, from the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legal intern, and at Godless in Dixie.

As with the first film, one of the biggest weaknesses of God’s Not Dead 2 is the dialogue. Characters don’t speak organically, often sounding rigid and artificial, which further emphasizes the bloated, exaggerated caricatures that inhabit the cartoonish, simplistic story. At best, characters sound like they are delivering sermons. At worst, they just seem wooden and stilted.

The story itself, concept aside, is weighed down by the ensemble concept that provides its framework. Unlike the first film, the various plot threads and characters never really tie together in the end, and don’t much impact each other, which makes a lot of the movie feel pointless. In particular, a number of the loose connections to the first film could have been jettisoned to help the pacing of the story, like the Chinese student and the buddy priests. As it stands, the movie feels longer than it actually is because of the perceived lack of progression: the constant cutting between characters and plot threads makes following along feel like plodding through molasses.

One thing that I noticed quite a bit in the screenplay was a consistent ire directed at Stanford University. While Stanford is certainly a prestigious school with a liberal pedigree, I’m not sure why it wound up being the specific target of the film’s disdain for liberal higher education. Why not Harvard or Princeton? I would have assumed that the Yankee, Ivy league elite would be the go-to targets of extreme conservatives.

In regards to performances in God’s Not Dead 2, there is a pretty wide range to be found. While most of the cast sleepwalk through their dialogue, like the typically charming Ernie Hudson,  Ray Wise in particular embraces his role as a God-hating, moustache-twirling attorney. The movie lights up just the tiniest bit whenever he is on screen, and he provides some much needed energy for the courtroom sequences.

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All in all, God’s Not Dead 2 feels more like a fan film than a sequel, which is really odd given how much of the creative team returned from the first film. The whole affair feels chained to the previous movie, going so far as to force the title into the dialogue unnecessarily. That said, I actually think some of the technical craft is improved, though my memory is a little fuzzy in regards to the previous film.

As far as a recommendation goes, there is unfortunately not enough entertainment value here to enjoy the experience. It is just too dull and plodding to make sitting through it fun at all, despite Ray Wise’s performance and a handful of notable moments of complete disjointedness from reality.

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BibleMan: Defeating the Shadow of Doubt

BibleMan: Defeating the Shadow of Doubt

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

In 1998, two years after the conclusion of “The Bibleman Show,” “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” marked the first episode of “The Bibleman Adventure,” the second and longest-running incarnation of the show.

For “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt,” Willie Aames takes sole writing and directing credits, and continues to star as the crusading eponymous hero, Bibleman. Chris Fann, who was previously co-director on “The Bibleman Show,” is now relegated to director of photography, I assume for the purpose of giving Aames sole credit. Notably, Tony Salerno’s creation credit for the Bibleman character is absent from both the ending and opening, which makes me wonder how much internal turbulence there was over the change of direction for the show.

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The villain of the episode is Shadow of Doubt, who is overall a pretty generic antagonist for Bibleman. He uses a sort of chemical to inspire doubt in people, which reminded me a bit of the mind control used by previous villains. His performance is certainly over the top, but the character still comes off as pretty dull on the whole. He does have a fourth wall breaking henchman named Ludicrous, who is somewhat self-aware about his position, and steals the show from Shadow of Doubt in most of the villain scenes. However, Shadow does get his time to shine with his frenetic dancing musical number.

“Who is both a verb and a noun!”

“Shadow of Doubt!”

For the first time in the franchise, Bibleman has allies in the form U.N.I.C.E. and Coats. U.N.I.C.E. is an intelligent, speaking computer that runs the Bibleman headquarters, and continues to appear throughout the rest of the series. Coats is a pretty generic assistant / sidekick, who has a vague sort of military aesthetic to him.

The story of “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” centers on a young girl, Kyla, who has lost her faith, which is initially assumed to be due to her parents arguing. However, there are also sinister forces at play in the form of a Pandora’s box of doubt, planted by a new villain called Shadow of Doubt. Bibleman has to overcome his own insecurities and find a way to defeat the shadow, and help restore Kyla’s faith.

Kyla: “You don’t know how I feel! Nobody does! Not even God!”

Bibleman: “Kyla, that’s just not true. God does care…I mean, he must?”

“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” features a new introduction that focuses more on action, and also introduces the more familiar BibleMan logo. The old theme song is still around, but it plays over the credits as opposed to the introduction sequence. Honestly, it is a bit strange tone-wise to have both styles present, but I am guessing that will only be the case for a few of these transition episodes.

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There is still a children’s musical number at the beginning of the episode, but it is cut into semi-digestible small chunks. I’m curious if this was initially intended as part of an episode of “The Bibleman Show,” and was repurposed for “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt.”

“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” features more deliberate attempts at humor than previous episodes, most of which awkwardly fall flat. As the series goes on, the amount of tongue in cheek self-awareness seems to increase, which adds a whole new dimension of cringe-inducing awkwardness to the show.

The entire episode of “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” reinforces a stereotype that the only reason people leave religion is due to some trauma or sinister influence, which just isn’t true by a long shot. The Bibleman version of questioning faith is also kind of hilarious in its lack of sincerity.

“In my mind I know all the right scriptures. I just don’t feel like they are real. One thing is for certain: whoever this [villain] is, he has affected my ability to reason.”

-Bibleman

I was a little surprised when Shadow of Doubt survived the episode, especially given the show’s pattern for giving villains violent and tortuous ends. I assume this was done to make a statement about how doubt never totally goes away, or something to that effect.

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“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” is more or less middle-of-the-road as far as entertainment value for Bibleman goes. The villain could certainly have been better, but there are still some entertainingly awful child acting and dialogue moments that help it out. It is certainly easier to sit through than the first two episodes of “The Bibleman Show,” and features a lot more cheesy action and fighting, if that is what you are looking for.

BibleMan: Six Lies of the Fibbler

BibleMan: Six Lies of the Fibbler

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“Six Lies of the Fibbler” is the third episode of the original Bibleman series, “The Bibleman Show.” Willie Aames wrote, produced, and co-directed “Six Lies of the Fibbler,” while also portraying the lead character of Bibleman. Chris Fann again co-directs, but Milt Schaffer and C. Scott Votaw are notably absent from the credits, and Tony Salerno is relegated to solely receiving creation credit for the episode. There is definitely a quality difference between the first two episodes and “Fibbler” that makes me wonder if there was some change in personnel and direction behind the scenes, which might explain a lot.

“Six Lies of the Fibbler” is once again a musical, as all of the original “The Bibleman Show” episodes appear to be. The introductory song is something like “Bible Vision,” which sounds like a useless power that Bibleman might actually have. The music certainly hasn’t gotten any better from the first two episodes, and the increase in necessary dramatic acting on the children’s parts results in a product that is hilariously awful, more so than the first two entries in the series.

The villain of “Six Lies of the Fibbler” is, of course, The Fibbler: a damn creepy orange clown who hypnotizes children into lying through the use of some sort of magic dust. The Fibbler is definitely the most ridiculous and over the top villain on the show thus far, and is genuinely a bit unsettling, particularly thanks to the makeup work (which is reminiscent of The Joker). I will note that for the first time in the series, the villain actually interacts with the kids, rather than just going after Bibleman. This does liven things up a little bit, and gives the villain character some badly needed additional screen time in comparison to the first two episodes.

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“Six Lies of the Fibbler” introduces a lot of elements that pop up a bunch later on in the series, including Bibleman’s laser sword, the recitation of bible verses while fighting, and a bible lair, which becomes a key set and base of operations later on.

The story of “Six Lies of the Fibbler” once again follows the same children’s musical group from “Big Big Book” and “Back to School,” but this time there is unrest within their ranks. Their youngest member is influenced by a villain named The Fibbler into compulsively lying to her friends, which drives a wedge into the musical group. Bibleman eventually figures out what is going on, and helps bring the group back together.

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One of my big issues with the plot of “Six Lies of the Fibbler” is that the kid was drugged into lying, but it still forced to apologize for her actions while under the effects of The Fibbler’s drugs. The other kids forgive her, but was it ever really her fault? She was a victim, and forced into lying to the group. It is also notable that Bibleman knows that this is the case, but never tells the girl that she was being manipulated by a villain with mysterious chemicals. Way to go, Bibleman.

Speaking of the villain, The Fibbler straight up explodes after his fight with Bibleman, starting a trend of brutal villain deaths that continues throughout the series. Bibleman doesn’t directly kill him, but something tells me that he doesn’t have a non-lethal code of ethics. I’ve read enough of the bible to know that.

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“Six Lies of the Fibbler” just sort of ends right in the middle of a musical number, like they were caught off-guard in the editing process by how long it ultimately ran. I had a brief flashback to the botched conclusion of “Dracula 3000,” which might actually be better than any given episode of “Bibleman.”

“Six Lies of the Fibbler” is actually an episode of “Bibleman” that I would recommend. The villain is ridiculous, the story doesn’t make sense, the acting is awful, and the series is still young enough that all of the costumes and props are incredibly cheap. Even the musical numbers are arguably baffling enough to justify sitting through, though that is definitely up for debate. If you are looking for an introduction to the world of Bibleman, “Six Lies of the Fibbler” is a good place to start.

BibleMan vs Evil Soft Drinks

BibleMan: Terminating the Toxic Tonic of Disrespect
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It has been a while since I covered my favorite ol’ evangelical costumed crusader, so I figure it is about time to delve back into the cinematic cesspool that is my BibleMan DVD collection. Speaking of which, here it is:

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Today’s episode is entitled “Terminating the Toxic Tonic of Disrespect.” It doesn’t have the same ring as “A Light in the Darkness” or “The Six Lies of the Fibbler,” does it? In any case, this is the first BibleMan episode to feature Josh Carpenter after his initial, formal introduction as the new BibleMan in “A Fight for Faith.” This episode marks the beginning of the “PowerSource” run of the show, which is the most recent (and last?) incarnation of the character.

First off, the new BibleMan is definitely a bit of a downgrade. Robert Schlipp, who plays Josh Carpenter, is definitely just a preacher in a hero suit. To Willie Aames’s credit, his character of Miles Peterson definitely projected himself as a super-hero in the role, which is a pretty stark contrast next to Schlipp’s take on the role.

“Toxic Tonic” introduces a new sidekick in Melody, who is surely one of the worst actors in the entire universe. Bible Girl doesn’t entirely disappear, but is relegated to an off-screen support role for the episode. Cypher, BibleMan’s resident Black Friend(TM), also returns for the new series, and continues his role as the only half-bearable member of the team.

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The PowerSource Bible Team (Melody on the far right)

The introduction of Melody offers the only actually good lesson that I have seen in the entire series: BibleMan and Cypher at first assume that she is a delivery girl when she shows up at the base, and initially dismiss her as a moron despite her expertise with technology. Of course, in typical BibleMan form, they never acknowledge the obvious sexism of their assumptions, and only ultimately apologize for not respecting her as one in “God’s image.” So close, BibleMan. So close.

The villains, in a bit of a separation, aren’t the offensive stereotypes I typically expect of the series. Instead, the antagonistic duo is comprised of run-of-the-mill zany mad scientists: the neon-mohawked Dr. E. Meritus Snortinskoff (yeah, good job on that one) and his henchman named Stench. The two sinister scientists are executing a plan to make a bunch of kids indignant and rebellious by selling them “Empower” energy drinks made from sugar, water, and “pure evil.” The Bible team realize what is happening after noticing a bunch of burgeoning teenagers acting shitty to authority figures. You know what, BibleMan? Never change.

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The Bible Team ultimately wind up getting a sample of the “Empower” energy drink, and discover its contents (pure evil, bad attitudes, and probably a lot of high fructose corn syrup I assume?). This leads to a rambling, scripture-laced train of thought that could rival the revelation scene from “Black Dynamite.” Somehow, through rambling about trees for a while, the team figures out where to find the evil scientists.

Maybe my favorite aspect of this episode is that a good few minutes of run-time towards the beginning are eaten up through the use of what appears to be totally unnecessary recycled footage from the episode “Crushing the Conspiracy of the Cheater,” which, confusingly, wasn’t released until two years after “Toxic Tonic.” This brings up some serious questions of continuity in the series, but I am not going to dare delving into that.

biblemantt4Predictably, the Bible Team wins the day through grace, goodness, and the violent use of laser swords. The bad guys do get away this time (instead of dying horribly), but I don’t believe that either of them show back up later in the series.

biblemantt2This isn’t one of my favorite episodes, and certainly doesn’t compare to the “BibleMan vs The Internet” entry. However, it definitely has the same old heavy-handedness that all of the incarnations have. The episode of course ends with a prayer, and a plea for all of the viewers to convert to Christianity. As far as entertainment goes, I do kind of love how shitty the kids are who imbibe the “toxic tonic,” and how generally panicked the creators are about the idea of teenage rebellion. There is definitely something to enjoy here, but it isn’t one of the stronger good-bad entries in the show. That might have a little to do with the change of creative team with the dawn of the “Powersource” series, but I’ll need to watch more of them to see if there is a significant perceptible difference between the incarnations.

Escape From Hell

Escape From Hell
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It is about time I got back to (God)Awful Movies, the segment of the blog dedicated to the worst of religious cinema.

Today’s feature, “Escape From Hell,” is one that I have come across a couple of times in bargain bins in the deep south. I’m not sure how far it actually got distributed, but I’ve certainly never seen it outside of Alabama or Georgia. Here’s what my copy looks like:

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I’m sure glad to know that I got the special edition! Hopefully that means there is some CGI Jabba the Hutt to enjoy.

The reason that I initially picked this up, apart from the title and the cover art, is because of the amazing blurbs on the back of this box. Here are a couple of them, including two from noted film critics Jerry Falwell and televangelist Jack Van Impe:

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Well, I’m sold. I can’t wait to see if this film makes me think about my “life without Christ.”

Out of curiosity, I decided to dig around to see if there is a trailer out there for this thing. I ultimately dug one up, but, to my joy, I found something even better as well: a clip collection, courtesy of the fantastic folks over at Everything is Terrible!

Now I am definitely psyched. Here is the trailer I dug up as well, in case you happen to be curious:

Director Danny Carrales and writer Michael Martin have apparently worked together on a number of Christian features outside of “Escape to Hell,” including films called “The Gathering” and “Second Glance.” Star Daniel Kruse pops up in “The Gathering,” as well as another movie that Carrales and Martin worked on called “Pilgrim’s Promise.” One of the other actors in “Escape to Hell,” Terry Jernigan, has managed to appear in an assortment of bit film roles over the years, but my favorite credit of his is on an upcoming movie called “Sasquatch vs. Yeti.” You can bet that I am looking that one up.

I think that the biggest red flag for me when sifting through the IMDb entry far “Escape to Hell” was finding someone credited as “2D/3D animation and effects / special effects supervisor.” That can’t spell out anything good for this movie. Also, the person with that credit has nothing else current listed to their name outside of another Carrales/Martin feature (“Pilgrim’s Progress”).

My next favorite credit on this movie is one of the producers, Randy Smith, who is apparently a professional boom operator who has worked on an assortment of actually good movies (“12 Monkeys,” “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Phone Booth”) and occasionally not-so-good movies (“Thinner,” “The Langoliers”).

Now, let’s see how this thing is. Will it scare me into the arms of Jesus? Will I be forced to reassess all my sinful life choices? Will I be able to even stay awake through this whole thing? Let’s find out!

Review:

Wow, this is really awful. I’m not really sure where to start.

The cinematography is awful in nearly every way you can imagine. Some of the shots are nothing short of nauseating for no reason whatsoever (just people walking down a hallway, for instance). There are so many dutch angles that you will question if your head is even on straight. When the camera is being used half-sensibly, everything feels like an infomercial, or a soap opera at best. Unfortunately, even those moments are few and far between.

The acting is about what you would expect: most of them seem like they are reading directly off of the scripts. In the few cases where that isn’t the case, they either hilariously overact, or sound like they are giving half-rate sermons. Of course, a lot of that blame deserves to be leveled at the writing as well, which is more heavy-handed than a steel gauntlet.

It turns out that my nervousness about that “2D/3D animation and effects / special effects supervisor” was more than justified. There is way more reliance on special effects than there should be in this flick, and they look really bad. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t look good when they were done originally in 2000, and they certainly don’t look good 15 years down the line. I’d bet that they could have pulled off better practical effects with the money they spent on the CG here, and wound up with something way more convincing (the few moments that do involve practical effects in this movie do look passable). That at least would have looked like something realistic, whereas the CG here just looks downright laughable. Moments where characters are cast into hell are supposed to be intimidating and terrifying, but instead they are profoundly hilarious.

Overall, this isn’t a movie worth spending the time to sit through. For the most part, it is just boring dialogue between characters you just can’t give a damn about. I would recommend checking out the “Everything is Terrible” highlights (which has all of the best parts included), and just leaving it alone from there. This isn’t a film that is going to change your life, and it certainly isn’t going to send anyone running to Jesus who wasn’t on his team already.

 

S.O.S.

Welcome to yet another installment of (God)Awful Movies! This time around, I’m checking out the baffling Christian music video compilation “S.O.S.”, which was brought to my attention through the most recent episode of RedLetterMedia’s “Best of the Worst”. You can check out the whole video below (and you should, it is a great episode).

Something that you may note from the episode is that the RLM gang’s copy of “S.O.S.” is completely in Japanese, so they do their best to piece together the themes from the visuals alone. They also weren’t able to do much research on the video, given the language barrier. Lucky for me, I found an english copy of “S.O.S.” on YouTube, and was able to learn about the video’s background…sort of.

“S.O.S.” was produced by “The Family International”, which is a sort of peculiar hippie cult version of Evangelical Christianity. I highly recommend reading the wikipedia page on the group, as their theology is nothing short of baffling. Here is an excerpt for you:

“[Loving Jesus] is a term that TFI members use to describe their intimate, sexual relationship with Jesus. TFI describes the “Loving Jesus” teachings as a radical form of bridal theology.[18] It is their understanding of the Bible that the followers of Christ are his bride, called to love and serve him with the fervor of a wife. They took bridal theology further than mainstream Christians by encouraging members to imagine that Jesus is having sex with them during sexual intercourse and masturbation. Male members were encouraged to visualize themselves as women, in order to avoid a homosexual relationship with Jesus.”

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That’s sure something, isn’t it? The only thing I knew about TFI prior to reading that entry was that River and Joaquin Phoenix were both raised as part of the organization for a time, and that it was a bit out of left field. It looks like there is a deep, dark hole to dig into in regards to some shady practices by the organization, but I’m not going to go any deeper into it here. I’d much rather ridicule some ridiculous music videos.

The first segment doesn’t dig explicitly into Christianity, but does give us a ton of goofy robots and early CGI. Watching it in English, it is clearly a luddite/anti-technology song, which comes back in a big way later on. To my dismay, the title song “S.O.S.” in this segment is ridiculously catchy, so I suppose the people behind this have to get kudos for that. It is definitely interesting that without the context of the later videos, it is easy to think that the “angels” in this section are either aliens, greek god-creatures, or sprites of some sort. Given how heavy-handed the segments get later on, this part definitely feels like a “wedge” or “hook” to get general audiences into the fold.

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Surely this technology will save us from the technology
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Worshiping a trash compacter makes about as much sense as cult that produced this mess.
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The cupid/angel/overlords of love. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t fight the robots.

The second segment is probably the most forgettable of all of them. The first couple of minutes show a band repeating the same two lines of a song about a billion times while a “party” commences in front of them. This bit segues immediately into a romantic song (via some of the worst transitions you will ever see) in which two partygoers leer at each other across a room and fantasize about each other. It is astoundingly uncomfortable to watch.

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It holds on this shot for way too long. Try not to make eye contact.

The third segment is nothing short of a beautiful treasure of nonsense. You could basically boil it down to being a “God’s Not Dead” musical comedy. There are a lot of monkey suits (and monkeys in suits?) involved, and you will be left wondering just how our education system managed to fail so many so completely. They even cap it off with a reference to Charles Darwin’s “deathbed conversion”. Oh joy!

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So, we have a guy in a suit being a monkey, and a guy in a suit AND a monkey suit just being a guy. Got it.
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Cronenberg’s Theory of Evolution by Nightmare Selection

The fourth segment is pretty straight-forward anti-abortion propaganda. All subtleties have long been jettisoned by the time this portion gears up, so this song is written from the perspective of the fetus singing to the would-be mother, featuring such lyrics as “Mother keep me, I’m your baby! / Oh Mother let me live, don’t take away my life”. I was completely unprepared for the lyrics to this one, as I initially just saw clips of the Japanese version on RedLetterMedia. With the translations, this segment is by far the most abysmal. Not only is there nothing to laugh at in it, but the damn thing is just disgustingly predatory.

I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'm pretty sure that is just an x-acto knife.
I’m not a doctor or anything, but I’m pretty sure that is just an x-acto knife.

The fifth segment enlightens the audience to the inherent evils of grocery stores, and encourages everyone to abandon technology entirely in favor of living in the woods to count down to the rapture. Yeah, that’s where this is all going. This may be the best segment, just due to the creepy makeup and baffling premise. Once again, the song is undeservedly catchy for a tune about the evil of grocery store scanners.

angels11 angels9Segment six follows up with the same grocery-phobic commune that concludes segment five, and we get to go full-on rapture. There are some lovely interpretive drawings of the rapture featured for some reason, a handy rapture calendar is shown, a lot of vague pointing happens, and Jesus himself makes a fly-by cameo! It all finishes up with the green-screened rapture of the central characters, where they narrowly escape the satanic grocery stormtroopers. It is all quite good fun if you can distance yourself from the fact that people took/take this seriously.

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“awww yisss, rapture!”
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Do rapture calendars involve candy or something, like those advent calendars?
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Vaguely pointing upward. I assume at the flying, crucified Jesus.
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A smiling, crucified Jesus flies overhead. Kind of like a kite I guess.
Google image search hasn’t failed me yet.

For the record, after a green-screened rapture, anything else is going to be an anticlimax. There’s just nowhere to go from there. Nevertheless, there is a segment seven. Outside of some excellent Rick Astley dancing, there isn’t a whole lot to see in this one. The way this segment is shot is really jarring and unpleasant to watch (odd effects mostly), and it doesn’t have any kind of plot within itself. We get some visual recaps from each section over a song about rebirth and the aforementioned Astley-dancing, and then the YouTube video bluescreens for about five minutes. That was my favorite part.

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I’ve never been so happy to see this

So, is “S.O.S.” worth watching? Abso-fucking-lutely, yes. This is a mind-boggling experience to sit through. It had me laughing at cheesy effects and dated fashions, creeped-out by the cultishness of it all, furious at the bullshit propagated by it, and confused beyond any measure. This is a golden find. I don’t know how RedLetterMedia came by this thing, but somebody knew perfectly well what they were passing on. I can only hope for something this gloriously awful when I rummage through bargain bins. Knowing more about the organization behind this video makes it all the creepier and more perplexing to watch, so I’m a little sad that the RLM people didn’t try to dig up more info ahead of time. On the plus side, they get completely blind-sided by the content, which is damn entertaining.

If you are interested in watching the full English version of “S.O.S.”, you can find it below:

 

BibleMan vs. The Internet

BibleMan: Lead Us Not Into Temptation

This is the first of many reviews I will be doing on the “BibleMan” series of films in “(God)Awful Movies”. I have been collecting these DVDs out of bargain bins for years, and quickly learned that they are some of the worst religious movies that you will ever come across. There are also tons of these out there in circulation, and I do my damnedest to pull as many of them out as I can. Originally played by Willie Aames of “Charles in Charge” fame, the “BibleMan” series was sporadically produced throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. The quality is pretty far from consistent, which is clear from just looking at the costumes used over the years:

Consistency is the work of the devil
Consistency is the work of the devil

The origin story of BibleMan is…vague. As the astoundingly annoying theme song tells us, he used to be rich and powerful. Eventually, he lost everything, which led him to somehow becoming a superhero with the help of Jesus. That doesn’t answer much about the laser sword, the armor, or the super-strength (?) that he apparently acquired, but we aren’t supposed to question anything during BibleMan. It all just is.

There are a few regular villains and some rotating sidekicks that occasionally show up throughout the “BibleMan” series. In this episode, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”, sidekicks BibleGirl and Cypher are both present, and the villain is a mostly forgettable regular who seems to use different aliases with each episode. There will be more on him later, though.

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Cypher and BibleGirl usually get to hang out in one of the corners

In “BibleMan: Lead Us Not Into Temptation”, the plot starts off as BibleMan tries to save a young, newly-converted Christian child by helping her overcome the bullying she faces from her non-Christian friends. Because, in our Christian-dominated society, that is totally a thing that actually happens. In any case, she becomes tempted by the evil magic of computers and the internet via peer pressure. Satanic forces take over her mind via the internet (a website called “Hackemup.com”) and try to make her to leave her new religion and hang out with her non-Christian bullies. It is…amazing.

"You wouldn't believe the graphics" - actual line of dialogue
“You wouldn’t believe the graphics!” – actual line of dialogue

The amount of luddite, imaginary computer magic going on in this episode is hilarious, and the misunderstanding of how computers and the internet function is baffling. Go figure that the folks behind “BibleMan” wouldn’t totally grasp the latest technology, given their top-notch mastery of computer generated effects. There are a lot of computer-ish terms thrown around without context in this episode, like this line in reference to the demonic website / game / vaguely evil internet thing (HackEmUp.com):

I went to the site. It was pretty cool. Well designed, lots of fail-safes and duplicate firewalls. Very high security for something like this…

That sounds like they read the back of the box for Norton Antivirus, and figured that’s all they needed to know to write this episode about the evil internet. As you would expect with any BibleMan episode, the special effects are hilariously pathetic. None of the websites look like anything that is actually on the internet, and the sets are as colorfully cartoonish as ever. There are predictably a lot of lasers and vaguely technological effects going on, including a bizarre force-field effect used to indicate that someone’s mind is being controlled by satanic computer magic. bibleman2 As with a number of the BibleMan features I’ve seen, there are a lot of winks to the camera that are played off as gags in “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”. They are clearly aware of the low quality of what they are making, and I suppose they are trying to excuse it by not taking the project overly seriously. However, the jokes are never really funny (despite the attempts), and the offensive portrayals of non-Christians and the very intention of the film to evangelize to children aren’t lost just because they lazily break the fourth wall every now and then. I’m tempted (heh) to say that they would have been better off just accepting what they were doing and playing it straight, because the whole deal is almost guaranteed to be hilariously bad once completed no matter what. Worse yet, the same annoying, jarring jingle is used after every instance of fourth wall humor, which winds up just being grating after a while.

One of the trademarks of the BibleMan franchise is that the heroes will quote bible verses while in combat, or in an attempt to make points in dialogue. This episode has an astoundingly shoe-horned instance of this, even when compared to other instances within the series:

BibleGirl: I’m worried about him (Cypher), and Riley

BibleMan: Me too.

BibleGirl: What can we do?

BibleMan: Well, the Bible says that we shouldn’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for anything you need.

BibleGirl: I know this one! Phillipians 4:6!

BibleMan: That’s right! Then, we need to find out who is really behind this website!

Just to recap that dialogue, BibleMan says to pray about the issue and do nothing else. Then, he says to specifically do something about it. Was that scripture even sort of necessary or relevant there? Even better, the very next scene is BibleGirl spying on Cypher and reporting his activities to BibleMan, after which they confront him. Is that not the opposite of what he (and the bible) said to do? The villains of this episode are unfortunately not standouts in the series. Whereas many of the others are built on horrible stereotypes of scientists, jewish people, russians, etc; these villains are pretty run-of-the-mill cyborgs. I suppose that is because they were hackers? In any case, they don’t have any particularly memorable lines. However, they both manage to suffer pretty gruesome laser deaths at the hands of the Bible gang. If I recall correctly, that isn’t particularly unusual for BibleMan. They usually straight-up kill their antagonists, because that’s what children should be exposed to. The B-villain in this one even has a slow motion gun-drop as he is dying. I guess they want to get the point across that if you aren’t Christian or willing to convert, BibleMan may very well murder you with lasers.

The antagonist, in the process of laser disintegration at the hands of BibleMan
The antagonist, in the process of laser disintegration at the hands of BibleMan

As you can probably gather without me stating it, there is a not-so-vague nefariousness to the BibleMan movies. They are clearly and unashamedly aimed at converting children (specifically younger than 9) into becoming Christian, and encourage the children to pressure their families into converting as well. Worse, the films actively and consistently disparage other religions and lifestyles to reach their ends. This episode in particular recommends that Christians (children and adults) should distance themselves from any non-Christian friends they have, and paints all non-Christians as evil, demonic, or bullies. It is beyond offensive, and is clearly trying to turn children into bigots at the earliest possible age. Even if all of the non-Christians in the episode were as horrible as they are depicted, the lesson should have been to not be friends with them because they are assholes, not because they aren’t Christian. I know some people who won’t watch these films because of how infuriating and offensive they are, but I still get a kick out of how colossally bad their film-making abilities are. These are certainly some of the most incompetent children’s videos out there, to the point that they make “3 Ninjas” movies look downright spectacular. In general, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation” I think is a pretty good introduction to the franchise for bad movie aficionados. This is one of the later ones, so the production value is a bit higher than you might expect. However, the computer / internet plot-line will have most nerds either rolling with laughter or tearing their hair out with frustration, which I suppose can be seen as good or bad. I do wish the villains were better in this one though, but that is a pretty minor gripe in the face of demonic computer magic. At least the bad guys get brutally murdered in the name of the lord!

Here is an abbreviated version of the episode from YouTube:

I highly recommend not paying money for a new copy, but these do show up in used bargain bins pretty often. That is where I usually get them myself, and going that route supports your local video stores and doesn’t support the “BibleMan” creators.