Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Quick Look: A THIEF IN THE NIGHT (1972-color)

   Before LEFT BEHIND and THE OMEGA CODE, before the films of companies like Cloud Ten and Affirm Films, there was A THIEF IN THE NIGHT, the first film about the Rapture. Every independent film director/writer/producer/technician should see and study this film. Shot in Iowa in 1972, the low-budget feature was and is a gripping drama and masterpiece of horror film-making. Things start slowly, as we follow a group of young people and their various reactions to teaching on the Rapture, or catching away of Christ's elect in the end time. (The Rapture itself has been the subject of continual debate by theological scholars, as to if it happens before the Tribulation, during the middle of it, or after it. A THIEF IN THE NIGHT, as most cinematic depictions do, places the Rapture prior to the Tribulation, and does a strong job of supporting it's placement.) There's much theological discussion as we look into the lives of assorted younger adults, ranging from a totally atheistic outlook to that of a new Christian. Knowing it's audience, the film doesn't pass judgement, but presents the facts and natural reactions to them, particularly in the midst of the confusing counter-messages prevalent in the 70's. Eventually, the Rapture occurs and from there the film builds to a fever pitch. As haunting as any Twilight Zone episode, made all the more scary for it's reality. The film left a huge impact, and even secular critics have praised the film's effectiveness. The film was followed by a higher-budgeted sequel, A DISTANT THUNDER in 1978. IMAGE OF THE BEAST and THE PRODIGAL PLANET followed in 1980 and 1983, respectively. Collectively known as "the Tribulation movies" the films paved the way for Christian-produced feature films. All four used to be sold at Christian book stores across the country (they may still be, I don't think my town has one anymore), and were for a long time staples of church screenings. Even if you disagree with the theological content of the film, I'd still recommend a viewing. Even with it's budgetary limitations, A THIEF IN THE NIGHT is beautifully shot and masterfully edited.

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