Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but when I heard there was such a thing as a Christian UFO movie, I just had to check it out. Little did I know before going in that what I would be treated to while watching writer-director Rich Christiano’s 2006’s straight-to-DVD release Unidentified would be the most hateful, self-righteous, and paranoid piece of religious propaganda since Ron Ormond’s christ-spolitation classic If Footmen Tire You, What Will The Horses Do? But while Ormond had the “evil” Soviet “menace” to provide an actual earthly source of worry, these days the Born Againers have to search a bit further afield to find proof of demonic activity here on on our world, and the UFO/alien abduction phenomenon provides a ready-made avenue for their — ummm — “philosophical explorations.” After all, if you don’t believe in life on other planets, but are convinced that something must be happening to account for all these sightings and reports — and your whole view of life, the universe, and everything (sorry, Douglas Adams) is based on an absolutely, independent-thought-crushingly literal reading of the King James Bible, well — the answer to all of this must be in there somewhere, right?
Well, Christiano thinks he’s got the answer, and he was willing to hustle up a reported $600,000 to get his point across in this shot-on-video sermon hung over the barest skin of a “plot.” All these UFOs, you see, are — drumroll please — manifestations of demonic entities!
You saw that coming, right? Honestly, if there’s one thing Bible-thumpers possess in even greater quantity than lack of imagination, it’s lack of intelligence.
Anyway, our erstwhile “hero” here is a schmuck named Keith who works at a supposedly “respectable” news magazine called “Both Sides” with his Australian buddy, Brad. Keith’s a lukewarm believer, while Brad is a devout nonbeliever. One day on a lark, their nice-guy editor sends them down to the heart of Texas redneck country to check out a report of a UFO sighting filed by a local auto mechanic. Since the magazine’s shtick is to cover “both sides” of every issue, Keith is assigned to take the view that the guy might be telling the truth while Brad’s covering the he-must-be-full-of-shit angle. The simple-minded grease monkey is reluctant to talk, though, and even though the boys have at this point essentially got no fucking story whatsoever, the aforementioned nice-guy editor decides there might be “something to all this,” and tasks the boys with writing a three-part series on UFO culminating in a big cover story in a few weeks.
Fortunately for our intrepid reporters (notice I haven’t provided one single actor’s name yet? That’s because they all suck — and I mean painfully suck — and don’t deserve a mention), more sighting reports start to pile up on their desks and soon they’re on their way to Louisiana to talk with a couple good ol’ boys who got abducted while they were out night fishing and a local woman right across town (the specific locale here is never mentioned, but the entire movie was shot in and around Riverside, California, mostly in a half-assed obviously-vacant-the-day-before office space that’s meant to serve as the “worldwide headquarters” of a major news magazine but looks a hell of a lot more like a disused former insurance office or travel agency) who got nabbed getting into her car after work one night.
Keith’s at this point getting some inside help with his investigative legwork from a fellow writer at the magazine named Darren, who just happens to be a hard-core holier-than-thou Christian who also happens to be the biggest asshole in a movie full of them (a role that’s supposed to fall to the dastardly unbeliever Brad, who actually comes off as the only moderately sane individual around). Darren notices a pattern in all these sightings — all the witnesses report smelling sulphur, and he immediately thinks of the brimstone stench the Bible apparently says most demons give off. Also, the young woman was abducted right across town has interests in the paranormal and the occult, the Louisiana yokels had been drinking before they were abducted, and the hapless Texas garage mechanic, well, his wife’s a — gasp! — Wiccan, and they found some porno rags in his truck! Ya see the pattern here? These people are all into bad, bad things (or their wives are) and the devil is using that as a foothold to get into their lives before taking over completely! Souls are on the line here, people, and it’s time for God’s army to fight back!
But first Keith’s gotta get right with the Lord himself. His wife Colleen is a devout believer/sucker, but Keith’s been slacking. He hasn’t found much time to read the Bible these days. His work’s been consuming his life and he’s been ignoring the missus. He hasn’t even been going to church regularly. And like Darren says — you’re either with Christ, or you’re against him. Keith has a hart-to-heart talk with God and decides to get back on board the team. He’s headed for heaven! Not even Brad can stop him!
Of course all the UFO contactees have been paid a visit by “national security” (did you know there was a government agency with that exact name? Neither did I), and Keith catches a break when a grizzled “national security” old-timer decides to talk with him off-the-record a la “Mr. X” from Oliver Stone’s JFK. It seems that according to this former insider he and Darren are on the right track, they just need to keep their noses to the grindstone and keep reading that Bible!
Somehow towards the end the whole thing devolves into an extended harangue about the supposedly-forthcoming rapture and how Satan is going to use UFOs to deceive people into accepting a false explanation as to how and why the Christians have all been taken up into heaven while the God who supposedly loves us puts the rest of us through seven years of trials and tribulations before Christ comes again to apparently rule over a planet his old man has has just decimated. Whatever. It didn’t make much sense to me, either.
A few points stand out here looking back on this stinker —first off, for a supposed UFO movie, there are no actual, you know, UFOs to be seen. The various “abductions” are all represented by a bright light shining on the victims, but no flying craft are ever on display. Secondly, Christiano has a real asshole, absolutist view of Christianity. There’s a long scene where Brad’s arguing with essentially everyone else at the office and demanding that Darren answer a pretty simple question — if I don’t believe in Jesus, am I going to hell? Darren, Mr. “my way or the highway” Christian, doesn’t even have the balls to answer him directly — he just says “I know what the requirements are.” Brad then goes on to ask everyone else if they’re going to heaven, or if they’re headed to the hot room downstairs. This is supposed to be the big “moment of truth”/turning point the whole movie hangs on, but it just comes off as one smug, self-satisfied bastard refusing to give a guy a direct answer before the whole thing spirals down into a big, pathetic harangue designed to make unbelievers looks like scared cowards — even though the only chickenshit dude in the room is the Christian. Nice recruiting job for Jesus, Mr. Christiano. And thirdly, apparently deception isn’t a sin anymore, because the Bible-thumpers do it with reckless abandon. First Darren tells the auto mechanic’s wife “Merry part” (supposedly a common phrase used by Wiccans when leaving a room) in order to discern whether or not she’s a wicked, Godless heathen, and then at the end, when it seems everybody at the office but Brad has turned their souls over to Christ, they all get together and fake a worldwide epidemic of disappearances with scared phone calls, lights going on and off, etc. — one of the women at the magazine even goes so far as to claim her own niece and nephew are missing — in order to fool him into thinking that the rapture is at hand. Then they admit that they were all just yanking his chain and everyone’s fine, but gosh, didn’t that put the fear of God — quite literally — into the hapless atheist from Down Under? I know, I know — ha fucking ha, right?
So that’s Unidentified in a nutshell — Christians supposedly have the answer to everything, if you think you’re already a Christian you’re probably not Christian enough unless all you do is read the Bible all the time, and if you’re not a believer — well, hell, watch this flick ASAP because it will show you how utterly fucking insane and zombified about 1/3 of this country of ours is. Honestly, if you watch this thing with the full awareness that this is how millions of people think, you’ll walk away feeling like you’ve just seen the most shocking horror flick in years. It’s certainly not gonna win over any new converts — only the already-deeply-deluded will think the Christians in this flick seem like anything more than pompous pricks, so Christiano’s really only preaching to the choir here. But if you already viewed the born-again crowd with suspicion, you’ll walk away from Unidentified convinced of their complete and utterly hopeless delusional insanity.
Finally,while I caught this on DVD (since that’s the only format it’s ever come out on), I can’t fairly critique the extras or commentary or anything since I didn’t bother watching them. 85 minutes of this was quite enough, thanks very much. But I did enjoy having all my worst impressions of evangelical Bible-bangers not only reinforced, but amplified. If you see this movie and decide it makes sense, I urge you to seek out professional help — immediately.