The 1998 film, The Gathering, is about people who keep having visions.
Michael Carey (Daniel Kruse), for instance, is a successful advertising executive who suddenly sees a portal forming high in the sky and people turning into globes of light as they are transported upward.
His wife is at the playground, talking to her best friend about what a drag her husband has become ever since he got on the whole religious kick when suddenly, she has a vision in which all of the children have vanished.
Michael’s mother-in-law gets the worst of it. She’s a professor at the local college and she’s introduced explaining to a student that the only way to pass her class is to be an atheist. (The student needs to call a lawyer, to be honest.) Suddenly, the professor is having all sorts of visions, that majority of which involve her betraying people to a shadowy government organization. She betrays her best friend and colleague. She betrays her own daughter. She betrays everyone.
While his wife and his mother-in-law shrug off the visions and claim that there must be a normal explanation for why they’re all visualizing a similar future, Michael turns into an evangelist and starts telling everyone about what he’s seeing. He is especially upset when he discovers that one of his clients is going to be at the forefront of encouraging everyone to get a microchip inserted under their skin. (We already know from the professor’s visions that people who don’t have the chip will be hunted down and killed in the streets.) People start to feel a bit uncomfortable around Michael. He loses his job and his family but still, when the portal appears in the sky, he’s among those who vanish. His wife and his mother-in-law are not lucky, which sounds like the start of a really sexist joke. (“Those seven years between the rapture and the second coming were the first peace and quiet I got during my entire marriage!”)
Clocking in at 57 minutes, The Gathering was produced and released at a time when the Left Behind books were climbing the best seller charts. It pretty much follows the same formula as those books, with the emphasis less on being a Christian and more on imagining the misery that awaits everyone who isn’t. In this film, if you’re not a believer, you’re going to be stuck in a world where all of the color has been desaturated and everyone has to wear really ugly, communist-style clothes. It’s a world where the government monitors everyone’s actions and where questioning those in charge can lead to you being either executed or sent to reeducation camp. When viewed today, the film feels more like a political tract than a religious one, with the smug but bland and process-obsessed villains serving as a perfect representation of what almost everyone hates about dealing with the bureaucratic state.
Not surprisingly, the film’s budget is low. There are a few effective shots. I liked the way that the clouds would “speed up” whenever anyone was starting to have a vision but then the extremely cheap-looking portal appeared in the sky and ruined the illusion. The film is quickly paced and its portrayal of life under a dictatorship feels believable. At the same time, a lot of the acting is amateurish and the film itself seems to be more about scaring people than making a case for its beliefs. It really does seem like the intended audience for this film were people who just wanted to imagine their atheist neighbors having to dress like Trotsky. But, hey, at least it’s less than an hour long.
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