The Apocalypse saga continues with 2000’s Tribulation! This is the film that answers the question: How do you get an outspoken atheist and a prominent Jewish entertainer to star in your evangelical Christian propaganda film? Apparently, you do it by not revealing what type of film that you’re making.
At least, that’s what Margot Kidder said happened. In an interview with the AV Club, Kidder said that neither she nor Howie Mandel realized that they were appearing in a Christian film until they got on the set, looked at the complete script, and asked why Kidder’s character mysteriously vanished from the film. According to Kidder, this was a film that she did because she was broke, she couldn’t get a job because she had a reputation for being difficult, and she was offered a lot of money to go up to Toronto for a week and shoot a few scenes. And so, Kidder, who was not a fan of religion in general, was cast as Eileen Canboro, the outspoken Christian who tries to teach everyone about the rapture.
To quote Kidder: “And I still get stopped by those freaky fundamentalists going “Oh, I’m so glad you did Tribulation.” And I wanna go, “Don’t count me into your group, honeybuns. I’m not one of you.”
As for the film itself, it stars Gary Busey as Tom Canboro, a police detective who is indifferent to religion. His brother-in-law is Jason Quincy (Howie Mandel), an occultist who, early on in the film, gets possessed by a bunch of Satanists. The film never really makes it clear why Jason was possessed, beyond I guess to warn against using Ouija boards or reading New Age literature. After Jason is briefly possessed, the Satanists decide that they have to kill everyone who saw him possessed so that no one learns of their existence. (But it seems like it would have just been simpler to not possess anyone in the first place.) All of this leads to Tom eventually slipping into a coma. Don’t ask how. It just does.
While Tom’s out of it, the events of the first two movies happen. Franco Manculousso (Nick Mancuso) magically rids the world of nuclear missiles and declares himself to be the messiah. Millions of people — including Margot Kidder — mysteriously vanish. An underground rebellion — labeled “The Haters” by Manculousso — forms against the one world government. Everyone in the world is given a VR headset that will allow Manculousso to either kill them or steal their soul by giving them the mark of the beast.
(In this film, getting the mark of the beast means that you literally end up with 666 tattooed on your hand. One thing I always find interesting about films like this is how they take everything in Biblical prophecy so literally. For instance, 7 is the number of God so therefore it makes sense that the number of the Beast’s number would be 6 because the Beast will always be powerful but ultimately inferior. He’ll be “one away” from God. However, films like this always feature people wandering around with 666 prominently displayed on their body and oddly, no one ever says, “Hey, have you ever seen that Omen movie?”)
Anyway, Tom eventually wakes up and finds himself trapped in this brand new world. It turns out that his sole remaining brother is now prominent follower of Manculousso’s and Jason is now involved in the Hater underground. A few characters from the previous films pop up, largely so they can be executed by Manculousso. You know how it goes.
Anyway, if Apocalypse was basically a found footage film and Revelation was an action film, Tribulation is a horror film, complete with demonic possession, exploding heads, and virtual reality snakes. It’s also a bit slow — it takes forever for Tom to actually enter that coma — but it has a few effective scenes. Howie Mandel, for instance, really throws himself into being possessed. As for Gary Busey, Margot Kidder said in that previously cited interview that he was a “pain in the ass” to work with but he actually gives a …. well, I don’t know if it’s really a good performance but it’s definitely interesting. He’s credible during the first half of the film and then, during the second half of the film, he seems to be genuinely confused. There’s a few weird moments where he smiles when he definitely shouldn’t be smiling but otherwise, Busey’s okay in this film.
There would be one more film in the Apocalypse saga, Judgment. I’ll be posting a review of that film in 15 minutes. Hope to see you there!