October Positivity: The Appointment (dir by Rich Christiano)


First released in 1991 and filmed in Arkansas (which means that I might very well be distantly related to half the cast), The Appointment opens with people all across a small town reading a newspaper column that’s been written by Liz (Karen Jo Briere).  Liz’s column is all about how much she hates Christians and how she wishes that they would stop opening up new churches and demanding that everyone give them money.  Judging by the reactions of the people reading the column, this is apparently the only thing that Liz ever writes about.

At the newspaper, Liz is getting angry calls from people who she describes as being “religious nuts.”  At one point, she says that the paper has gotten fifteen calls!  Now, I know that probably doesn’t sound like that many calls to you city folks but we’re talking about small-town Arkansas here.  In Arkansas, for every one person who complains, there’s probably about twenty who are just holding their tongue out of politeness.  In other words, Liz has upset a lot of people but she doesn’t care.  She hates religion and, besides, she’s going to Hawaii in just a few weeks.

But then, a mysterious man enters Liz’s office.  We never actually see the man.  Instead, we just see things from his point-of-view and we hear his voice when he speaks.  He informs Liz that he has a message from the Lord.

“The Lord who?” Liz asks.

“The Lord Jesus Christ,” the man replies.

(What was Liz expecting to hear?  Does she regularly get messages from the House of Lords or something?)

The man tells Liz that she’s going to die on September 19th at 6:05 pm.  She laughs him off and says that she can’t die because she’s going to Hawaii and she’s never seen it before.

“You never will,” the man replies.

AGCK!

The Appointment is a seriously creepy film.  What really makes it creepy is that no one at the newspaper seems to be that upset by this mysterious man who shows up in their office and tell their star columnist that she’s going to die.  Even though it’s established that everyone can see and hear the man, it doesn’t occur to anyone to call the cops after he leaves.  No one asks Liz if she’s okay.  When the mysterious figure shows up a second time, no one seems to be alarmed.  When the hour of what she’s told will be her death approaches, no one volunteers to stay with Liz or to protect her or offers her any words of comfort whatsoever.  I guess the 90s were a more innocent time but still, it seems like people should have been at least a little bit alarmed by all of this.  At the very least, maybe someone could have offered to walk Liz to her car.

The Appointment is one of those Christian films that attempts to convert viewers by scaring them.  I’m not really a fan of that approach and there’s something undeniably distasteful about the joy the film seems to take in counting down the minutes until Liz dies and presumably heads to Hell.  That said, it’s a surprisingly well-directed film and the amateur cast actually does a pretty good job.  The film’s musical score is loud, otherworldly, and totally intrusive, which is exactly right for this film.  The scenes in which the camera creep through the newspaper office feel more appropriate for a horror film than a faith-based film.  Agree or disagree with the film’s message, it’s still effective in its own crude sort of way.

Add to that, the film was shot in Arkansas, which is one of the many states in which I grew up and still have family.  As I watched the film, it was kind of nice to hear some familiar accents.

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