“There’s nothing new in Kingdom Come, not that there needs to be, but the heavy reliance on tired tropes and an incomplete world view hamper the film.”

by C. Rachel Katz

“Sounds like Christian horror,” he said when I told him the title.

“No it’s not,” I whined. Of course I was right but also kind of wrong. Kingdom Come is a morality play with Christian themes, like Flatliners or that episode of Futurama, ‘Hell is Other Robots,’ but without all the singing.

Sam wakes up to find himself in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. No one knows each other or how they got there, but they band together to find a way out. Just as quickly, they split up to cover more ground. As they search in vain for the exit, each person, in turn, is tested or tormented by their past.

Kingdom Come
Directed by
Greg A. Sager
Ry Barrett, Camille Hollett-French, William Foley
Release Date
2 December 2014
Rachel’s Grade: D

If you haven’t already figured it out, the characters in Kingdom Come are in purgatory. I haven’t ruined anything by revealing this—the movie shows its hand early. In fact, the very premise of strangers in a strange place haunted by their histories rings too familiar, and the movie takes no pains to misdirect the audience or subvert the purgatory sub-genre.

Rather, Kingdom Come is a by-the-numbers horror movie. I might add “contemporary” as a qualifier. As is all too common in modern horror, most of the characters are thoroughly unlikeable and some only exist to be killed, adding to the body count. Moreover, some characters aren’t just unlikeable, they’re downright bad people. A racist, a rapist, and a child molester (complete with ugly glasses) are all present in the film, which kinda puts into question this whole purgatory thing.

Not being Christian, I have a rather tenuous grasp of purgatory, informed largely through popular culture and a world religions class I took in high school. I know purgatory is where you are judged or burned for your sins, but I’m pretty sure rapists and child molesters bypass all that and go straight to hell. And if that’s the case, why are these people in this movie?

As it turns out, they’re not tested like the other characters. In fact, one of them is there to test someone else, and the other one…well, he’s just killed by his victims. If this seems like it doesn’t make much sense, that’s because the movie doesn’t establish or follow any rules. There is no clear set of rules that govern the world of the film, so different stuff happens to different people. Moreover, Sam is never tested; he serves as a test for Jessica who, as it happens, is also dogged by a second figure from her past.

Like in any good Christian-inspired horror movie (I suppose in this case we’re taking specifically Catholicism), the Devil makes and appearance and it’s the best part about Kingdom Come. Except for his name, Daniel Levine, which is kind of weird with and maybe a little offensive. Devil-Daniel has with him gatekeepers, these demon-y creatures that harass everyone. Daniel himself is a bit hammy but his gatekeepers look great.

Unfortunately, the wonderful makeup and creature design are overshadowed by a weak script. Additionally, there’s no clear reason why this particular purgatory is an abandoned hospital. If everyone were dying in hospital, it would make visual sense for their trails to be set in an alternate hospital, but that’s not the case here. Finally, the movie insists on ending with a final turn of the screw that only further confuses one reality with another.

There’s nothing new in Kingdom Come, not that there needs to be, but the heavy reliance on tired tropes and an incomplete world view hamper the film. I’m all for a good purgatory story, but I don’t want to feel like I’m the one being tested.