Thursday, October 22, 2020

Apocalypse Month Double Feature: Way of the Wicked and The Calling

Way of the Wicked
and The Calling (2000)
The apocalypse film genre has a sub-genre: the Biblical apocalypse. Within that, there's the sub-genre of the birth (and sometimes childhood) of the antichrist. The first and clearly the best of these films is 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby, but since there aren't really any Christian clergy or churches in the film, it's not a good fit for this month's theme. The next best of this subset of apocalypse films is The Omen -- which you (of course) read about earlier this month. And several other films are out stinking up streaming services --  and we’re going to look at two of these bombs today.

2014’s Way of the Wicked is part of another special sub-genre, Christian Slater direct-to-DVD/streaming services films. Remember The Confessor aka The Good Shepherd and Sacrifice? (We’ve also reviewed a good Christian Slater film, but those are increasingly rare.)

Biblical apocalypse movies are usually horror films, which Way of the Wicked is, but it’s a hybrid with teen drama of the CW soap opera variety. The film opens with Father Henry (priest Christian Slater) driving to a house in the woods and knocking on the front door. A woman answers, “What brings you this time?”

The priest responds, “I’d love to speak with your son. Some people find what I have to say helpful.”

A boy’s voice from inside calls out that he wants to see him. Father Henry goes in to find a boy, ten or eleven years old, on a couch. We don’t see the priest request it, but the mother, bizarrely, seems to have given the priest a glass of wine. The priest asks the boy, “Robbie, can you tell me what happened? Did you feel the boy deserved to die? Did you wish him to die?” 

The mother, Mrs. Miller, is upset by these questions and kicks the priest out of the house.

At this point, the film moved on to the opening credits. The opening credits show scenes to come in the film, sort of like when they say “on tonight’s episode” in a 1970’s TV show, then a title card reads“Five Years Later.”

Father Henry is out of the picture for a while. What we get for instead is a whole lot of teen high school drama. Heather Elliot (Emily Tennant) is a pretty girl torn between her cool popular friends and her feelings for the outsider, Robbie. (Yup, the same Robbie that Father Henry harassed at the beginning of the film.) Whether Heather’s feelings for Robbie are affection, lust, or pity isn’t really clear.

It seems one of the things that make Robbie an outsider are events that happened five years before, prior to the start of the film as some boys were picking on Robbie, one of the boys suddenly flew through the air and slammed against a tree. Supernatural forces seemed to be at work -- and the boy died.

So, much of the film is about a love triangle between Heather and Robbie and Heather’s longtime boyfriend, Greg (who is more than a bit of a bully). Between classes, Greg sees Heather talking to Robbie, so he throws Robbie against a locker. Then, without anyone touching him, Greg goes flying through the air, slamming into one locker and then another.

An ambulance comes to take Greg to the hospital. We see that Father Henry is watching from afar.

Heather continues to meet with Robbie, and they have deep theological discussions. Robbie says, “The Bible says we’re the center of the universe. If this is the center, this is a sick joke.” (In a science class in the film, there's some talk about whether the earth is in the center of the universe. There is some talk in the film about whether the earth is the center of the universe. They also discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Later, with her father, Heather goes to a diner/coffee shop to a coffee shop called “Galileo's,” but if you hope for Martians in this film, your hopes will be dashed.)

In a rather ugly scene, Greg takes Heather to the woods and says to her, “Heather, you are looking so sexy! I’m crazy about you.” They share a joint. He says, “You are so hot right now!” He tries to kiss her, and she rebuffs him. He attempts to rape Heather, but she kicks him in the groin and takes his car back to town. This whole incident is watched from the trees, but it is unclear if Father Henry or Robbie -- or both  -- is the watcher. There's a whole lot of stalking going on.

Greg never makes it back to town. On the way back, he is run over and killed by a tractor. A tractor with no engine. Clearly, malignant, supernatural forces are at work.

Father Henry goes to Heather’s police detective father, John, and tries to convince him that Robbie is responsible for the death. The priest brings some medieval tome or another (not the Bible) and points to a text that reads, “A child with a wicked soul will be born.” The book predicts the birth year, THE SAME YEAR ROBBIE WAS BORN! (Along with 140 million other children, but…) Henry says, “That is the point. This, all that’s happening, involves history. All this going around us, it has all been foretold… This has everything to do with Robbie Mueller.”

John logically remarks, “It doesn’t have Robbie’s name printed here!”

The priest responds, “I know it doesn’t have his name, but I know it’s him. I’ve been following him for years. Did you know Robbie’s mother was raped? They never knew the real father. Then his step-father died of a heart attack.” 

Really, what more proof do you need that you’re dealing with the antichrist? 

“There are signs. If you look at one sign it doesn’t mean anything, but if you step back and look at the entire picture, it all makes sense. Robbie is a disturbed boy, a violent outcast destined to bring turmoil to the planet. If you don’t believe me, look at this… Pieces of the puzzle, the answers you are looking for are in here.” And the priest gives John the books that are full of ravings and little sketches of demons.

John buys Henry’s line and puts pressure on Robbie. Soon, he's in trouble with his superiors for persecuting the boy without evidence. And we learn that Henry was defrocked for pestering Robbie and his mother.

And it turns out...SPOILERS… Who am I kidding? I mean, really, how many of you are going to track down this film and watch it? It turns out Robbie wasn’t the antichrist. Heather was.  

The strategy through which Satan plans to take over the world using a teenage girl from a small town with the powers of the most minor of X-Men is never at all clear, but you do get to see Christian Slater choked to death by his own crucifix chain, so the film has that going for it.

If Way of the Wicked was a WB teen soap, 2000’s The Calling is a Lifetime "Woman in Peril" film.

Kristie (Laura Harris) thinks she’s marrying the man of her dreams, but Marc St. Clair, the rising television star, is actually a servant of Satan who allows Kristie to be raped and impregnated by an evil creature on their wedding night.

Most of the film is Kristie’s narration to Father Mullin (Peter Waddington) from her hospital bed.

Her son, Dylan, grows to be an awful kid, trying to kill other children, torturing a dog, and impaling a guinea pig. (Okay, our family tried to have guinea pigs, so I’d give him a pass on that one.) Of course, Marc, his purported father, isn’t much help in raising Dylan well (I don’t mean to be a prude, but I don’t think “orgy” is an appropriate theme for a child’s 6th birthday party.)

A fanatical cab driver convinces Kristie that her son is the antichrist. She decides the only way to save her son is to have him baptized, so she takes Dylan to Father Mullin to be baptized. (I guess I should add she takes Dylan without her husband’s knowledge, fights with her son, and knocks him unconscious.) Father Mullin is baffled and flutters about asking stupid questions. Kristie tries to baptize Dylan herself, causing the awakened child to scream and cry out. But Kristie’s husband arrives with the police, halting the ceremony.

The cab driver, Carmac, again finds Kristie and tells her she will have to kill her son by drowning him. Kristie takes the challenge and does just that.

Dylan had become a celebrity on his dad’s television station with the bar trick of saying things backward, so his Easter Sunday graveside service is televised. A supernatural storm arises during the service, and people hear knocking from inside the coffin. 

Dylan is alive, and what was his funeral turns out to be his resurrection and is covered by media around the world. (This does seem to fulfill the prophecy of Revelation 13:3 about the beast being miraculously healed, causing the world to follow him.) The forces of darkness in this film to have a much more thought-through and competent plan for world domination than we saw in our first film.

This causes Father Mullin to believe Kristie’s story, and he takes her out of the hospital. They drive off in a cab. For reasons I couldn’t quite figure out, the Father throws his clerical car out the cab window into the street.

So the priests in both films seem quite incompetent, dim, and ineffectual, but we’ll still give them a generous Two Steeples for meaning well. As for our Apocalypse Rating, Way of the Wicked gets just One Tombstone, while The Calling gets Three for bringing the world much closer to its end.

1 comment:

  1. Der Film lehrt, nicht mit dem F├╝hrer mitzugehen, sondern selbst zu entscheiden