Editor’s Note: This was review was composed several months prior to the Alec Baldwin set-shooting incident. No offense to that tragedy is intended. The cinematic offenses of this movie, however, are.
And what does all of this have to do with backmasking in music? Read on, brother.
I come here, not to bury a Baldwin brother (in this case, Stephen), but to praise Eric Roberts (most recently of The Arrangement and Lone Star Deception), who, as you know, always gets a pass at B&S About Movies — even when the evil that he does is a Christian apocalypse flick (and shows us that he’ll never not take a movie offered). But, hey, Eric, like Brutus, is an honorable man in our good books, so I shall speak of this film, regardless of the fact that Paul and Jan Crouch’s Trinity Broadcasting Network — with their son, Paul, Jr., as the Executive Producer — bankrolled this script by faith-based actor David A.R. White (“Anthony Roy,” if you’re interested).
By the early 2000s Paul and Peter LaLonde’s Christian-based Cloud Ten Pictures — a studio that specializes in “end-times” films — created a worldwide phenomenon with their contemporary updating of the stuffy biblical prophecy films of old by “born again” drive-in purveyor Ron Ormond, with his debut film, If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971), and Evangelical films vendor Donald W. Thompson, with his debut, A Thief in the Night (1972), and Tom Doades’s own sci-fi take, Six-Hundred and Sixty Six (1972), then there’s the two Christian apocalypse progenitors also distributed by that film’s shingle, Gospel Films: Early Warning and Years of the Beast (both 1981).
The LaLonde Brothers broke home video rental records (at least within the Christian bookstore-verse) and found receptive cable television audiences (secular and non) courtesy of their major-studio slick adaptations of Christian author Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind adult novel series, with the films Left Behind: The Movie (2000), Left Behind II: Tribulation Force (2002), and Left Behind: World at War (2005), each starring the bane of a secular movie goer’s existence: Kirk Cameron (also of the 2008 Christian drama, Fireproof). However, prior to their productions of, and inspired by LaHaye’s books, the LeLonde brothers produced their own proselytizing The Apocalypse: The Film Series tetraology with Apocalypse (1998), and its sequels Revelation (1999), Tribulation (2000), and Judgement (2001).
Paul and Jan Crouch’s TBN, which aired LaLonde’s modernized biblical apocs to ratings success, weren’t going to be “left behind,” so they bankrolled their own “End of Times” flick with Six: The Mark Unleashed (2004). Released amid those rash of LaLonde productions (I binged watched all of them over a Library check-out frenzy, when libraries still had VHS catalogs), White’s contributions certainly don’t tread any new ground in terms of plot points and characterizations, but I kinda liked this one, as it is the most “sci-fi” of the pack.
As with anything touched by the hand of Crouch, secular critics are also not kind to David A.R. White’s writing or acting; and if you don’t like Kirk Cameron, you probably won’t like White, either. Beyond his secular, bit TV series roles as a “Pizza Guy” (Coach), “Room Service Waiter” (Melrose Place), and “Gas Station Attendant” (Sisters), White’s career wasn’t going anywhere in Hollywood. In fact, his most notable role was a six episode support run as “Andrew Phillpot” in the Burt Reynolds-fronted sitcom, Evening Shade. So, White decided to take the “beast” that is Hollywood by the horns and leave his “mark” on Tinseltown.
As with the struggling Tyler Perry before him, David A.R. White formed his LaLonde Brothers-styled studio, Pureflix (like Netflix, only for the Church crowd), along with his partner, Kevin Downes (as Christianity’s version of the secular Ben Affleck and Matt Damon), to produce (and stream, by others) faith-based films — which they sausage-vanity press one after another. Pureflix’s first films were the analogous apoc’ers The Moment After (1999), The Moment After 2 (2006), In the Blink of an Eye (2009), Jerusalem Countdown (2011), and the (very Mad Max-inspired, well, kinda sorta) Revelation Road trilogy. Perhaps you’ve encountered White’s dramatic God’s Not Dead series (which made it to theaters; “Part V” comes in 2023), since they starred Kevin “Hercules” Sorbo (Herc’s other for the studio is Let There Be Light). Another studio, the one that really injected new interest in the Christploitation genre was Albany, Georgia-based Sherwood Pictures, with 2003’s Flywheel. Like the Christian Cinema films of the ’70s from Ron Ormond and Donald W. Thompson, that studio’s overseers in the Kendrick brothers got their start rolling out their debut film “roadhouse” style.
As for Six: The Mark Unleashed, having Eric Roberts on board certainly pushes us through the digital propaganda (well, VHS for me), but it’s a pre-stardom Jeffrey Dean Morgan who, as expected, is instantly likeable and engaging (as a “born again” smuggler-cum-resistance fighter sold out by his “Marked” wife), which helps one accept White’s and Downes’s (who also directs) meh-to-serviceable acting (as fellow political prisoners to the new order; Roberts gets them busted, by the way). And while it’s fun to hate on a Baldwin brother, Stephen (best known for the Bryan Singer career starter, The Usual Suspects, and the Pauly Shore abomination, Bio-Dome), is good, here. Now that’s not saying the acting is great, it’s still strained and hokey, but it’s better than most Christian apoc’ers and, overall, the film is a cut above the Jack T. Chick bible-tract inspired flicks of the ’70s.
The Film Review
So, if you haven’t guessed already, it’s the last days of Armageddon (all of these films start with bible quote title cards, stock war footage, along with images of Hitler, Lenin, and Mussolini in short order) with a brutal dictator ruling the masses via forced chip-implant technologies (that triskelion on the video box) monitored by a global satellite network. On the ground, our Antichrist, dispatches his Gestapo-like Community Police Force, aka the CPF, to keep the masses in line. The rules are simple: If you do not accept your implant and become part of “The Community” (or become a double agent for the CPF) — after your mandatory, three week’s prison sentence, where you are tortured into accepting — you’re beheaded. (You’ll notice a pattern in these films with Christians obsessed with guillotines and rolling heads. It’s as if they’re rejoicing in glee that us Sodomities will loose our noggins. The only thing missing is Estus Pirkle’s love of fire in the frames.)
The usual lies and deceptions ensue as White and Downes (who lead here; Roberts and Baldwin, while on the box, are perfunctory players) “Escape from New York” with Morgan (on an obviously low-budget, which is why we’re inside a prison for most of the movie) to a purported safe haven known as Prodigal City. Dean, of course, plays his mission for the CPF — to kill resistance leader, Elijan Cohen (for all “leaders” in these films can never not have a “biblical” name) — close to the chest. As is any rumored “paradise” in these films, it ends up being a Gomorrah worse than the one from which our righteous protagonists escape.
Needless to say, if you’re a secular post-apoc fan, again, of the Escape from New York variety, or a lover of prison break films from the Escape from Alcatraz mold, there’s nada entertainment to be had. Secular reviewers pounced on this TBN production (despite its TV connections, there’s a theatrical sheen), while Evangelical viewers and Christian-industry reviewers, loved it, natch. Granted, it is not as slick as the LaLonde’s larger-budgeted films, but it is certainly not as scrappy-stuffy as those arduous Thompson and Ormond flicks of old.
You can watch Six: The Mark Unleashed — and all manner of Christian films — on the Pureflix streaming service, but we also found a freebie on You Tube. You can also watch it on-demand at ChristianCinema.com.
You can sample the film’s trailer on You Tube.
And now . . . a public service message on the dangers of rock music backmasking, bought to you by the fine folks of the Trinity Broadcasting Network
In the early, pre-Internet days of cable television, with its meager 40-channel (sometimes less) universe, there wasn’t a whole lot to channel surf (once you took out the Spanish and Sport channels), and with lesser channels, you sometimes ended up on TBN’s local UHF outlet and stumbled into things . . . that scared the crap out of you, because “salvation” via fearmongering, is key. So sayeth the Lord.
So, Paul, Jr., for you unaware, new wee-rockers to cause, lead the charge against Satan using rock music to indoctrinate children, with an oft-ran, 1982 two hour-long special on the evils lurking in the grooves of our records and the covers that encased them. Of course, instead of “saving us,” Paul, Jr. made our teeny-boopin’ VHS years all the sweeter, as he inadvertently created the Metalsplotation cycle of films, which we like to call “No False Metal” movies, in the process.
So, a toast and “horn flash” to Junior. Amen. For you put the Metal peanut butter into our horror film chocolate and gave us Billy Eye Harper and Sammi Curr.
Ack! As is the case with all things You Tube, the full special is gone (ugh, again?) But this clip and clip (also embedded below; since video links sometimes break) breaking down Led Zeppelin . . . again, scared us shitless. Then, when Pauly J. explained the meaning behind Ozzy Osborne’s “Mr. Crowley,” then opened the Eagles’ Hotel California gatefold to show us a shadowy, cloaked demon perched a dark balcony, the Electric Light Orchestra with their reversed “Christ you’re infernal” chants, Black Oak Arkansas ranting “NATAS,” and then pondered what the German band Accept was asking us to “accept” . . . we dumped those albums (along with Iron Maiden) at the used record store and put our trade-in money into the church collection plates and prayed ourselves into aneurysms for forgiveness.
And thanks to Paul, Jr., our “Friday Night Activities” at the local Baptist indoctrination center became a weekly “sermon,” with our blue-plaid jacket and pink-striped tie youth pastor, screaming with saliva flying, as he spun records backwards and overhead projector-burned “evil” lyrics and albums into our Playdoh minds. Then he started booking one awful “Christian Rock” band after another — bands that made Stryper look like Metallica. (Rizen and Chalice, you still sucketh. Don’t get me started on the screech that is Holy Right. Please, no more Holy Right. Please. I believe. I believe! Just make it stop!)
TBN was also behind the “young adult talk show” The Eagle’s Nest (. . . come, oh ye little ones to my ‘nest,’ ick), which retreaded the “Rock music is the Devil’s music” torch lit by Paul Jr., on an episode that you can watch in a three-part You Tube upload HERE, HERE, and HERE.
So goes the days our youthful, brainwashed lives.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.