Is it ever “okay” for Christians to “scare the hell” out of non-believers? Is it even possible? For centuries, pastors and priests have used the “turn or burn” approach on others. While the intentions are good, are they always effective? In this series, join in the discussion and weigh in your opinion and thoughts.

Still from the 1941 short, "The Rapture."
Still from the 1941 short, “The Rapture.”

There is a little-known short film that is considered by some to be a piece of Christian propaganda. The 1941 short film, “The Rapture,” was produced by Charles Octavia Baptista and was part of the “Story of a Fountain Pen” series. Presented much like an old newsreel with the excitement of a classroom discussion on hygiene, “The Rapture” features a dry narrator telling about the horrors yet to come to those who do not take the rapture train as well as how to remedy the situation. So begins the movie industry’s quest to save the lost by scaring people to death.

Poster for "Final: The Rapture." Riverrain Productions
Poster for “Final: The Rapture.” Photo: Riverrain Productions

Fast forward to last September when Riverain Productions released “Final: The Rapture.”  Self-described as, “Breathtaking, gripping, layered, and astonishing,” the concept sounded intriguing. The film spins four tales woven together by a common theme: the rapture. The advertising made some bold claims: “Final: the Rapture” will captivate you from the very first minute to the stunning, tear-jerking end.” Director Tim Chey told the Christian Post that the film would be the “scariest Christian movie of the decade.” And the purpose of this film? “I made this film to scare the living daylights out of adult non-believers.”

Whether the filmmaker achieved his goal or not is debatable. It is just the latest in a long string of similar-sounding, fear-making films to come about the last 15 years or so.

Since 1997, the bulk of Cloud Ten Pictures’ films have been based on the rapture including “Apocalypse,” “Apocalypse II: Revelation,” “Apocalypse III: Tribulation,” and “Apocalypse IV: Judgment.” But it doesn’t end there. The yet un-named “Apocalypse V” is scheduled to be produced and is coming just around the corner. This is the same studio responsible for the three “Left Behind” films that starred Kirk Cameron and were based on the books by Tim LaHaye.

Poster for the reboot of "Left Behind." Photo: Cloud 10 Pictures.
Poster for the reboot of “Left Behind.” Photo: Cloud 10 Pictures.

Despite the success of those films, LaHaye was not pleased with the final productions and took the studio to court to win back the rights to re-make the films himself. However, in 2010, the rights were restored back to Cloud Ten. But instead of creating a fourth film, the studio has decided to reboot the entire series, this time starring Nicolas Cage.

Another Christian film company, Pure Flix Entertainment, known for making last year’s “Christmas with a Capital C,” has made their own share of end times films. They include this year’s “Revelation Road” part one and two (with a nod toward the Mad Max films) and the under-appreciated, 2011 action film, “Jerusalem Countdown.”

As far as scares go, nothing can compete with the original turn-or-burn films by Russell S. Doughten. While his name may not sound familiar, his credits include 1958’s “The Blob” of all things. He is better known amongst Christians for the “Thief in the Night” films.

Still from the upcoming reboot of "Left Behind" with Nicolas Cage.
Still from the upcoming reboot of “Left Behind” with Nicolas Cage.

The original “Thief” film was released in 1973 and running a short 69 minutes in length but was long in its bad acting and un-special effects. Still, it managed to scare many a Christian child that went to see it in their church’s basement. It shared a story about Patty who wakes up one day to find that her husband, and many others, has been raptured and she had been “left behind” to fight having to take the mark of the beast. The cheesy film was followed by three more chapters including, “A Distant Thunder,” “Image of the Beast” and “The Prodigal Planet.” The stylized yet poorly made films featured Doughten himself in all four films as Reverend Matthew Turner, a survivalist who doesn’t completely believe the Bible.

Poster for "A Thief in the Night."
Poster for “A Thief in the Night.” Mark V Pictures

There is no doubt that the writers and directors of these films had and continue to have the best intentions, but it remains debatable if these films really help to spread the “good news.” In many cases, the audience that comes to these movies are already Christians and some leave the screenings questioning if they are really saved.

Not all Christian filmmakers are aiming to scare the hell out of people. Some just want to make unbelievers think. Meanwhile, others in Hollywood are taking advantage with the fascination of the end times by producing their own rapture movies. “This is the End,” a hit, and “Rapure-Palooza,” a bomb, went with similar end-of-the-world fare this year but with a comedy angle. Both could be considered a slap in the face to believers especially “Palooza” as it attempted  to make fun of God and Jesus, which is scarier than any of the above mentioned films.

So, what do you think? Do you enjoy these films? Are they effective in reaching the lost? Is there a better plan? Join the discussion and share your thoughts below.

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