Tuesday, May 6, 2008


No, this isn't that old Goldie Hawn thriller. It's "a chilling 21st century supernatural thriller" from Cloud Ten Pictures, the guys who made Left Behind: The Movie and other Christian stuff. Written by Paul Lalonde (the Apocalypse series) and John Patus, directed by Andre Van Heerden (Apocalypse III: Tribulation and Judgment), and released to video in 2001, this is Christian science fiction at its absolute best.

Unfortunately, that's not saying very much. Battlefield Earth was a better SF movie.

The story concerns a radio signal, supposedly from space, which has a duration of 6.66 seconds. A rich guy named Shaw(Stewart Bick), whose company owns the observatory where the signal was detected, thinks this signal will make him rich. His Christian assistant Smitty Turner, however, thinks it's from the Devil. I wonder who'll turn out to be right?

Shaw rounds up a group of people to go to the observatory and find out what's what. It seems he's lost contact with the people there... as if something dark and sinister happened to them. The team consists of Reverend Fletcher(Jefferson Mappin), Shaw's spiritual advisor; Smitty(Michelle Nolden), his assistant; Kara Walsh(Deborah Odell), a plucky investigative journalist who always gets the story; and a deaf technician with a hearing aid named Jack, played by Judd Nelson. Judd has always been a hero of mine since he voiced Hot Rod in the 1986 Transformers: The Movie, so it's a shame to see him slumming here. Jack and Smitty used to be involved with one another, but Jack couldn't deal with the God stuff. And the fact that Smitty wasn't giving him any because of the God stuff.

More trouble is brewing in the form of Colonel Garrett, played by Louis Gossett Jr. It seems he's running a military program involving telekinesis (people who can move objects with their minds, for those of you who didn't see X-Men), and he has his own connection to this strange signal. If you don't like spoilers, bail out now.

Shaw and his team get to the observatory and find the place in bad shape. All trace of the signal was destroyed by the two technicians who'd been monitoring it, so it's up to Jack to put everything back together. Shaw plans to broadcast this signal to the world, proving the existence of extraterrestrial life, while Reverend Fletcher hopes the signal will raise humanity to a new level of consciousness. Kara(the investigative journalist with a knack for digging up the facts) wants to be the one to break the story, which will be excellent for her career. Therefore, they all want something from Jack, who is the only one who can repair the equipment.

When he does, everyone has a listen when the signal comes back. Those who hear it get this cheap special effect thing with their eyes to show they are under the influence of evil. Smitty isn't influenced because she has Jesus, and Jack can't hear the signal because Satan can't bypass his hearing aid. Those who've had the funky eyeball start to exhibit the Seven Deadly Sins, which means they are pretty much the way they were before, but their acting is a bit hammier.

Colonel Garrett arrives and takes control of the observatory with the help of his telekinetic Lieutenant Vasquez(Ramona Milano). He explains the signal is a matter of national security, shortly before he gets eye-funked himself. Bad things start to happen; the Colonel's soldiers hear the signal and go crazy, except for the one with a cross around his neck. Maybe the signal turned the others into vampires. Smitty, now convinced the signal is from Satan, tries to convince the others of the danger. Jack, the deaf guy, is the only one who listens. Colonel Garrett makes dire plans, Vasquez starts hurting people with her mind, the others go nuts and slash one-another, and the truth about the signal finally comes out.

Sad to say, this limply-directed and horribly written piece of crap is one of the better Christian movies out there. It doesn't have Left Behind's epic scope, but it does manage to be slightly less cheesy. The effects are the sub-par quality you'd expect from a direct-to-video feature, but the sets are merely serviceable. Most of them, anyway. The entrance to the observatory(which is underground, by the way) looks like someone stuck a large metal porta-potty in front of a cliff-face.

While the dialogue is woefully pedestrian, the actors do their best with it. Judd Nelson makes the best of his character and actually seems to be having some fun. You'd never think he was really deaf if it weren't for the constant reminders, but he's nevertheless the most enjoyable one to watch. The rest go through the motions like they were extras in a bad episode of Star Trek, and director Van Heerden sticks to obvious cliches when it comes to building suspense and atmosphere.

This leads to unintentional hilarity - the scene where Shaw, Fletcher and Kara go crazy and fight for a knife to stab Jack with had me chuckling, but a scene near the beginning had me roaring. Before he gets on the helicopter to go to the observatory, Jack meets a deaf kid who hands him a wooden cross. Jack looks at it for a moment, then looks up to discover the kid has vanished. Was the kid... an angel? Was it a message... from Jesus? Will Jack pull out that cross during a pivotal scene and become Saved? I laughed till I cried, I really did.

Deceived sends the message that evil can come at us from anywhere, so you'd better get Saved if you don't want to get funky-eyed and go crazy. That may be great for devout audiences, but not for anyone else. And moderate Christian viewers will long for the sinful pleasures of Hollywood and go rent Independence Day or Armageddon instead.

The film also says that if your acting career is floundering, doing Christian flicks is at least more respectable than porn.

Likely To Convert - 0
Production Values - 4
Acting/Direction - 4
Likely To Be Sat Through - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

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