The Cabin [2019] (Movie Review)

The Cabin (2019)

Plot Summary

Roy, a former pastor, has decided to go out to a secluded cabin in the woods to determine whether or not the spiritual realm exists. He’s determined to lock himself in until something spiritual manifests, which attracts the undue attention of various supernatural forces, both good and evil. In the end, Roy will have to battle for his soul, using homemade armor, against poorly animated demons!

Production Quality (.5 point)

Although the video quality of The Cabin is fine, this is the only positive production element. The camera work is very shaky, including some really wacky camera angles, and the audio leaves something to be desired due to its background sounds, constant generic soundtrack, and weird sound effects. Also, the sets, props, and locations are quite cheap, and it goes without saying that the special effects are terrible. Elsewhere, the flashbacks are unnecessarily black and white, and editing is sub-par. Essentially, this is an unacceptably bad production, but it’s not even the worst of what this awful film has to offer.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-3 points)

Although The Cabin‘s plot begins with boring sequences of activities of daily living and vanilla dialogue that produces cardboard characters, things quickly become much more outrageous. Through a combination of stupid jump scares, blank scenes where basically nothing happens, cheesy found footage sequences, and drug trip montages that are nearly impossible to quantify, this film successfully finds its way all the way down to the bottom of the barrel. Besides the forced drama that has no logical lead-up, the narrative is so vague that it’s barely even a story and completely lacks purpose. However, this doesn’t even though the fact that many of the plot points lack realistic support and that the spiritual elements of the story are either portrayed in juvenile ways or through very bizarre methods that cause the viewer to question whether or not the screenwriters actually comprehended the serious subject matter they wrote about. Basically, the movie’s second half is utter nonsense and full of over-the-top sensationalism such that it makes a laughingstock of otherwise important spiritual topics. It’s incredibly difficult to include all of the complete madness that’s contained within this one screenplay without asking the audience to see for themselves, but that would be a total waste of their time.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Despite other glaring problems in The Cabin, the acting is actually quite average, considering the fact that there’s not much for the cast members to work with. Not many lines are demanded of them due to the abysmal writing, but many of the performances contain forced emotions. Nonetheless, this section isn’t all bad, but it’s not enough to salve the utter disaster that is this film.

Conclusion

The Cabin puts the proverbial icing on the bad cake that JC Films made in 2019. Flooding the market with tons of sub-par movies is never the way to go, as we’ve previously stated. Doing such will inevitably lead to horrific disasters like this one that further tarnish the reputation of Christian entertainment. All that can really be learned from train wrecks like this are how not to do it and how important it is to continually produce more quality creations in the future.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

John Light [2019] (Movie Review)

John Light (2019)

Plot Summary

John Light is a prisoner nearing the end of his sentence, and he’s paired with Matt Garrett as a part of a prison ministry mentor program. Though Matt is ambivalent about the experience at first, he quickly becomes friends with John, who has no one else in life who cares about him. Thus, when John is released, Matt is there to help the ex-con get back on his feet. However, John has to face some dark elements of his past in order to move forward with his life.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

In the beginning, the production of John Light is as poor as those from other JC Films offerings. One example of this is inconsistent audio quality, including some background echoes and noises as well as a generic soundtrack that never stops playing. Also, some scenes obviously begin right after the camera starts rolling rather than already being in motion. However, on the bright side, sets, locations, and props are all acceptable, and video quality and camera work are both fine. While the editing is basically average, the good thing is that all production areas show concerted improvement as the film goes on, which is enough to warrant an even score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

From the get-go, John Light is one of the most noteworthy ideas put forward by the JC Films team, probably because it’s based on true events. However, in the beginning, the characters are a bit blank due to some rushed conversations and some unsubstantial dialogue that fails to properly develop them. This makes it difficult to grasp the overall flow of the plot as the narrative tends to meander without clear themes to guide it. In the first half of the movie, it feels like a bunch of random scenes were strung together, but somewhere in the middle, things suddenly take a turn for the better. While the central purpose is still unclear, there are some realistic attempts at family systems issues and some considerably adequate conversations that make the characters a bit better throughout the storyline’s second half. There is some slight focus on the latter parts of the film, and the characters become more accessible, but the plot’s beginning causes the entire experience to be disjointed. Nonetheless, there are enough noteworthy concepts explored after the midpoint of John Light for it to warrant a modest score.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Although some of the acting is a bit forced at first, including some unnatural line and emotional delivery, like other elements of this movie, these problems do improve with time. Throughout the screenplay, some cast members are better than others, but they all show good effort by the time it’s over. Also, the culturally diverse cast is commendable, so this rounds out a mostly average film effort.

Conclusion

John Light really does deserve a remake since it contains such an interesting true story. In reality, the JC Films team should have nixed all of the other movies they had planned for 2019 and instead put all their eggs in one basket for John Light. In doing so, it’s highly possible that it would have had enough funding (and maybe expanded collaboration) to propel John Light to the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, however, we’ll never know what could have been, yet it’s still an excellent lesson for all Christian entertainment creators: don’t rush to make more films just for the sake of making them; wait to make a quality offering that God actually wants you to make.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Jack Jonah (Movie Review)

Image result for jack jonah movie

Plot Summary

Each family member of Jack Jonah dealt in different ways with the teenager’s untimely death to opioid overdose. Kirk Jonah, his father, launched himself into a non-profit designed to provide anti-drug education to whomever will listen. Both of Jack’s parents believe they can still communicate with the dead boy, and this drives them in their efforts to save other lives from deadly overdoses. However, all of those close to Jack must ultimately come to the point where they trust that good can come out of tragedy.

Production Quality (.5 point)

While the video quality of Jack Jonah is acceptable, the camera work is often quite shaky, and the audio quality is quite poor, including loud background sounds, painfully obvious overdubs, some bouts of over driven audio, and a cheesy never-ending soundtrack that tries to cover up these problems. Additionally, lighting is inconsistent in both the outdoor locations and the indoor sets. Further, the special effects that are used are quite bad, and the editing is marred by abrupt cuts and transitions, which tops off an unacceptable level of production quality that should never be approved in the current entertainment field.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-2.5 points)

There are a myriad of problems with this film’s plot, beginning with its heavy-handed message pushing, which is joined by endless, meandering conversations that are full of forced information-dump dialogue. This causes the characters to be cardboard cutouts who represent issues rather than real people. Also, the choppy story presentation makes the passage of time seem unclear to the viewer, especially since there are many random characters and spider-webbing subplots that only have loose connections with each other. Besides the fact that many of the scenes are blankly vague and hard to understand, the plot becomes more and more bizarre as it progresses due to its weird exploration of other dimensions wherein people who have passed away can come back and talk to those who are still alive. What begins as a typically vanilla story quickly becomes a wacky drug trip into the strange, and it’s laced with an unusual air of mystery that’s not well-explained. Then, the narrative suddenly ends with little to no purpose or clear message to offer to the audience. For all of these reasons, this section receives a negative score, which drags the overall movie below water.

Acting Quality (1 point)

To cap off the other issues in Jack Jonah, its acting leaves much to be desired since most of it is robotic and stilted. Emotions are difficult to believe, and line delivery is mostly vanilla. While some cast members are somewhat average in their performances, others are simply too poor to warrant any higher score than this.

Conclusion

In their race to make as many films as possible in 2019, the JC Films team produced indefensible projects like this one. This is unfortunately yet another example of why quantity over quality is never the way to go in Christian entertainment. Additionally, this may be the only lesson future creators can learn from Jack Jonah: how not to go about it.

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

The Follower [2018] (Movie Review)

Image result for the follower christian movie

Plot Summary

Elisha just wanted to get to Pittsburgh on time, and he never intended to cross paths with an eccentric character named Elijah. Elisha reluctantly decides to aid Elijah’s hitch-hiking, but he immediately regrets the choice as Elijah continually delays Elisha’s plans and hampers his progress. Thus, Elisha keeps trying to get Elijah off of his back. However, little do either of them know that they are about to both learn something valuable that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Production Quality (.5 point)

The cheapness of The Follower‘s production is very evident from start to finish. There are loud background noises and a generic soundtrack that tend to cover up other audio, and video quality is inconsistent throughout. The camera work is randomly shaky at times, and there are some obvious overdubbed lines in some portions. In other parts, cheesy sound effects are inserted on top of the video, and there some instances of weird camera angles. Further, the sets, locations, and props are cheap-looking, and the editing has a handful of glaringly obvious cuts. Thus, while there are some slightly positive moments in this production, it’s overall quite negative, which warrants the low score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s unclear whether or not The Follower is supposed to be another modern-day Bible application, but character names like Elijah and Elisha make things very confusing. Besides this, the dialogue is full of corny attempts at comedy, and the cheesy conversations mainly waste time. This causes the middle of the film to be very aimless since it’s appearing to just kill time until the ending, but the storyline actually makes less and less sense as it progresses. The more some hidden purpose is kicked down the road, the more the narrative seems to get lost in its own mind. The story pretends to conceal some great secret, yet the whole concept is too vague to be grasped and only leads to a hollow conclusion. In the end, while there may have been some interesting ideas here, it’s all too rushed and slapped together to make any sense.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Surprisingly, the acting is actually the strongest point of The Follower as Goodwin and Sigler post their best performances to date. They seem very comfortable with their character roles and demonstrate niche talents. Even still, the few cast members that there are seem to be trying way too hard to be funny, and many emotions are quite forced. Line delivery is also uneven, and the acting overall gets worse as it goes even though it started out semi-okay. Therefore, this rounds out a very underwhelming effort.

Conclusion

In the end, The Follower is yet another example of how quantity over quality hurts the Christian entertainment world. Trying to cram more than two movies into one year is very difficult to pull off without sacrificing essentially positive elements. While we do need more Christian movies and series being made each year, we need more Christian entertainment that is not sub-standard and is capable of truly making a difference. Thus, it would be better to have fewer annual releases until the industry is able to consistently produce quality content.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

A Child of the King (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. Wesley King and his late wife were called to the jungles of South America to aid the needy and those who were considered to be hopeless. However, after his wife died, Wesley became lonely in his mission. In the states, a woman named Donna began following Wesley’s story via the letters he sent back to his home church. Then, Donna feels called to join Wesley in his overseas mission field, and God brings them together to minister to the least of those in South America.

Production Quality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there are virtually no good aspects to this production as the audio quality is poor, including echoes in the background, a random soundtrack that sometimes interrupts lines, and some invasive outside noises. Similarly, the video quality is not quite what it should be, and there is some very poor lighting throughout the cheap sets and locations. Props also leave something to be desired, and the camera work is inconsistent at best. To top things off, the special effects used therein are very bad, and the editing is extremely choppy as some scenes drag on while others awkwardly or abruptly end. In the end, any small positives in this production are outweighed by the very obvious negatives.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From beginning to end, the storyline of A Child of the King is very hard to follow since it’s filled with blank conversations between characters and lacks an overall focus or purpose. The stiff and awkward dialogue between characters makes it very difficult to relate to them as people, and the main character is basically perfect. The plot essentially meanders around without the viewer being able to easily follow its progression, and it’s really nothing more than an informational video or mock docu-drama about overseas missions. While there may be some good ideas lost in here somewhere, people who can relate these concepts to the real world are needed to bring them to life. Further, the narrative just randomly ends in an unexpected place without any warning or resolution because that would require something to resolve in the first place.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Surprisingly, the acting of A Child of the King is its strongest point even though it’s mostly pedestrian, generic, and boring. There’s neither anything special nor horrible about the cast members’ performances, despite the fact that they have little content to work with. One bright spot is that the cast, for the most part, is culturally accurate with real accents and dialects, which is unexpected based on the remainder of the movie. Nonetheless, this average section isn’t enough to save this failed effort from itself.

Conclusion

An international film should very rarely be made in conjunction with other projects due to the time and financial freedom it requires. However, 2019 was an indicator of how committed the JC Films team was to producing as much content as they possibly could. The result of this is even more low quality Christian films to crowd out the market. Hopefully, however, the tides are still turning since Christian audiences want and deserve better than half-baked ideas.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

A Promise to Astrid (Movie Review)

Image result for a promise to astrid

Plot Summary

Astrid Nicosia lived in a small town and tries to do good to each person she comes in contact with. She freely gave the little money that she had to those who needed it. She also wanted to walk closely with the Lord and to make a difference with what time she had left. Those who were touched by her kindness and generosity made a promise to return her favors either to her or to other people who were also in need.

Production Quality (1 point)

As a 2019 production, A Promise to Astrid has no excuse to be as bad as it is. While the video quality and the camera work are okay, the audio quality throughout the film is quite bad, including loud background sounds, echoes inside of the sets, and an invasive soundtrack that sometimes interrupts dialogue and others times causes confusion since it doesn’t fit the mood of the scenes. In addition, the sets, props, and locations are quite cheap, and there are some obvious continuity errors between scenes. There are also other editing concerns, such as the quick and awkward cuts and transitions, the high number of fade-outs, and the fact that many scenes do not flow together and seem very disconnected from each other. In the end, this is an unacceptable effort with many unforced errors.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Even though it’s based on a book, A Promise to Astrid is not what it should be, mostly due to the lack of substantial characters. Although this is a heavily character-based plot, dialogue is usually a bit clunky and awkward and does not adequately develop character personality or motive. Additionally, it’s very difficult to understand the true purpose of this narrative beyond random people doing random things. The vague ideas behind the storyline might be interesting, but without effective connections with the audience, it really has nothing to show for its meager efforts. Essentially, the plot meanders around as a collection of random scenes before suddenly ending and leaving the viewer wondering why they just watched the movie, which is why this section warrants zero points.

Acting Quality (1 point)

While the acting of A Promise to Astrid is not entirely bad, it’s very marked by incompetent attempts at obviously fake accents. Also, some cast members seem unsure of their roles, even though there’s not much to work with in the beginning. Further, other cast members are either clearly overplaying their roles or half-heartedly trying. Throughout the film, line delivery and emotions are uneven but not all bad, which is enough to warrant at least a point out of this section. In the end, however, this is a very sub-par movie.

Conclusion

Based on their 2019 slate of films, it’s evident that it was the goal of the JC Films team to flood the market with as many movies as they could squeeze into their limited budget. This was an old model PureFlix used in the early 2000s and 2010s, and they had some success due to lack of many other options. However, as the calendar turns to 2020, times have changed in Christian entertainment, and higher quality is demanded. Thus, it’s better to save your funds to make one good film or series and then to see how you can build off of the success of one quality project rather than to get ahead of yourself and to over-extend your means.

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Dawn [2018] (Movie Review)

Image result for dawn 2018 movie

Plot Summary

Carrie Saunders just wants to live her normal life as a businesswoman, but her recurring nightmares about a missing girl continue to haunt her night after night. Her visions cloud her judgment and cause her to begin to suspect her husband of wrongdoing. Police refuse to believe her tales, so she decides to investigate the matter on her own. Little does she know that the wild ride she’s about to experience will change her life forever.

Production Quality (2 points)

At first, the production of Dawn begins in a rocky manner as evidenced by inconsistent camera work and lighting and some slight background sounds. However, the video quality is stable throughout, and the sets, locations, and props are mostly fine. The camera work does seem to improve as the film proceeds, and it becomes quite professional in the end. Another inconsistent area is the soundtrack since it’s generic in some parts yet quite good in others. Further, one other drawback is somewhat dizzying and repetitive nature of some of the psychological sequences, but this is also sometimes an asset. In the end, the editing is good, and the production is a mixed bag that’s overall above average.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Dawn dares to try something extremely different in Christian film as it takes on a very unique plot that’s often hard to quantify yet intriguing at the same time. The attempts at extreme creativity are well-noted, even if they can get a bit head-scratching at times. Although some may not like it, it’s good that the Christian elements of Dawn aren’t too in-your-face as it tries to primarily rely on good mystery plot content. However, the storyline does have a few flaws in that the characters could be a bit more developed than they are, which means the time could have been better spent on this venture rather than on repetition of key elements the audience is shown over and over again. Still, the characters are fairly good as they are, even if the villain characters are slight strawmen. The psychological elements of the plot are interesting, but they could use a bit more explanation as to why they are occurring. However, the ending isn’t quite expected, and Dawn is an overall very creative attempt at a complex mystery plot culminating with an actually effective climax that’s built throughout the entirety of the film. This is finally a real suspense plot worth watching, but it would be even better as a remake or a similar replication.

Acting Quality (2 points)

On the whole, the acting of Dawn is fine with only a few minor errors to contend with. There were definitely some opportunities for improved emotional delivery and more dynamic line delivery. However, the cast does enough to make this an above average performance, which rounds out an overall above average film that’s worth your time.

Conclusion

The potential that this creative team showed is very encouraging because it could be the start of something great for them. It’s highly possible that streaming series are in their future if they are allowed to collaborate with larger budgets and tighter writing. What we need is more psychological suspense and mystery stories, and seeing these in the context of Christian series would be awesome, so we can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Follower (May 2019)

Coming in May 2019

Writer(s): Robert Stark

Director(s): Jason Campbell, Ryan Crossey, Timothy E. Goodwin

Producer(s): Jason Campbell, Robert Stark

Starring: Dean Cain, Michael Sigler, Timothy E. Goodwin, Lea Hutton Beasmore, Gary Lee Vincent, Zoe Scarborough, J. W. Myers, Ramona Bowles, Chuck Winstead, Veronica Rogers,

Plot Synopsis: A modern, comedic retelling of the Biblical story of Elijah and Elisha.

Masquerade [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pastor Chris Billings and his wife are at odds and are secretly separated, even though Chris is set to take over as head pastor after the previous pastor, his former boss, is forced to step down after having an affair.  Little does he know that his son knows a lot more than he lets on, and Chris’ actions are having negative consequences he has no idea about.  Will the Billings family be able to be honest about their struggles, no matter the repercussions?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a film school project, Masquerade has a lot of positive elements, despite the limited budget.  Video quality and camera work are good considering the situation, even if there are other issues that come with the territory of a limited budget, such as inconsistent lighting and inconsistent audio quality.  The soundtrack is also lacking, and sets, locations, and props tend to be limited.  However, the editing is fine, which overall rounds out an average production that is an accomplishment for a film school project.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although this story is sometimes hard to follow and is quite slow at times, there is an interesting idea here that could be further utilized in the future.  Though the characters could use some deepening through more substantial dialogue, they are at least partially realistic and are portrayed well as flawed people.  However, there are some other issues here, such as the unnecessary narration throughout and the number of boring scenes depicting characters talking without enough meaningful dialogue.  The ending is also a bit vague, although it makes a profound point.  In the end, Masquerade is like a starter idea for something greater that may or may not come.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As an amateur cast, the cast members can be somewhat robotic at times, even though they mean well.  Line delivery is a bit too textbook at times, and emotions tend to be underwhelming and flat.  Nonetheless, there is definitely potential here that could be brought out with better acting coaching.  There is also improvement throughout, and some cast members are better than others.  Overall, this rounds out a respectable effort.

Conclusion

With a better budget, a more dynamic plot and characters, and improved acting coaching, this creative team could be going places in the future.  Even if they don’t follow up on Masquerade, the idea of flawed church characters can and should be used in future films.  As always with these sort of plots, however, the characters need to be deep and meaningful.  It should be interesting to see what this team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

 

Scattered [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a group of friends gathers at a mutual friend’s house to celebrate her graduation from law school and upcoming bar exam, none of them could have anticipated or predicted what would happen to them that night.  Some of them are frustrated that their old friend has become a Christian and refuses to get high with them, so they decide to have their own ‘party’ secretly in her house.  However, what they do not know is that supernatural forces beyond their control are at work and they will be taken for the psychological ride of their lives—whether they want to or not.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like The Basement, Scattered begins with very poor production quality, including too many tight, awkward camera angles and too much shaking camera work for dramatic effects.  Though video and audio quality are relatively stable throughout, there is really only one set in this film with no outside locations except for within flashbacks.  Props are mostly fine throughout, but there are some cheesy ‘horror’ special effects that really need to be eliminated.  There are also too many choppy cuts and transitions, as well as a lot of disorienting editing to try to add to the psychological effect.  However, relatively halfway through the film, a switch if flipped and it suddenly becomes a respectable production.  Thus, it ends up average in the end, but that is not all that changes throughout this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Scattered begins as annoying as The Basement was throughout, including a lot of stupid and mindless dialogue that makes non-Christian characters very bad and Christian characters too good.  It’s also hard to keep up with all the characters at first as the first half of the plot really has no coherent thought or direction.  However, it is clear that the first half is trying to kick the can down the road to get to the big twist this movie hinges upon, however, this is not done in a very good fashion.  The tone and premise of the first half is very strange and off-putting, including ridiculous horror elements.  Though this part drags on way too long due to wasted, pointless conversations and empty scenes, the middle of the story totally flips the script and suddenly becomes the best Christian horror plot written to date.  Flashbacks are used very effectively to suddenly build the characters into real people and the ‘horror’ elements become justified and actually realistic.  The plot is not afraid to take on realistic gritty issues that people endure and suddenly makes its characters more gray rather than so black and white.  Thus, the ending is interesting and actually makes one want to see more.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Like the other elements of the film, the acting is quite bad at first.  The makeup is a standout problem in the beginning.  A lot of the cast members are trying way too hard at first, including forceful line delivery and wooden emotions.  However, even these issues demonstrate improvement as things completely change in the middle of the film.  The difference between the two halves is so stark that one has to wonder if the creative team completely changed in the middle.

Conclusion

Scattered bears a strong resemblance to Pendragon as a rare film that changes and improves throughout and is actually sustained by a strong and unique plot idea.  Yet the question still remains: since they showed they could improve, would it really have been that hard to go back and fix the beginning?  Sure, it would have taken more time, but think of the impact this film could have had.  This is likely the only good Christian horror concept on the market right now, and it most definitely needs to be reused in some way.  After the debacle of The Basement and the first half of this film, it seemed like JCL Production was just another failed venture, but with the total turnaround in Scattered, they have demonstrated that there is more to them than meets the eye.  Thus, it will be very interesting see what they can come up with next.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points