LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – It's no secret that Left Behind series co-author Tim LaHaye was not a big fan of the original movies.
The reasons were varied, but among them – according to grandson Randy LaHaye – was that he "felt they missed the outreach potential that the books so fully realized."
"A lot of the people who read them said how much they enjoyed giving these books to their unsaved friends and families, because they would get sucked into the story and it would spark a question of eternal things in their own lives," Randy LaHaye, of Tim LaHaye Productions, told the Christian Examiner. "But my grandfather gave the movie rights away long before the books ever became very popular."
Although the adult series was wildly popular, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins also wrote a Left Behind kids' series that was well-received by children and teens – a series that LaHaye and Jenkins never did sale to movie studios.
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, a movie inspired by the kids' series hits theaters, barely two months after Tim LaHaye passed away – and after he gave it his full approval. Called Vanished – Left Behind: Next Generation (PG-13), the film is targeted to teens and young adults, and stars Amber Frank (Nickelodeon's Haunted Hathaways), Dylan Sprayberry (MTV's Teen Wolf, Man of Steel) and Mason Dye (MTV's Finding Carter, Lifetime's Flowers in the Attic). LaHaye endorsed the film before he died, saying, "Finally there is a movie on Left Behind that captures what made the books so successful."
Randy LaHaye said he got the idea for a young adult version of Left Behind while watching Twilight on television. Vanished, he said, does not follow the storyline of the Left Behind kids' series, even though the general themes are still there.
"Kids today have no idea what the Left Behind series is all about," he said. "They haven't read the books. They're not familiar with the brand. So I didn't think I needed to be subservient to the book. I thought: Why don't I just do a fresh young modern version of Left Behind and reintroduce this concept in an exciting way to a new generation of followers and fans? That's how the idea came about."
The Vanished story is one that will appeal to non-Christians, he added.
"You don't have to believe in werewolves and vampires to enjoy Twilight and to get into that story," he said. "I wanted to make a movie that you did not have to believe in God or be a born again Christian to get into the world and the story and to become a fan. That was the heart behind Vanished. But once you're into the Twilight movies, you want to know: What are the rules of this world? What is the relationship between the vampires and this world? It's similar with our movie: We want people to start digging into this – Is this really a Bible story? Are these prophecies really part of the Bible? Asking these types of questions might lead them to deeper, eternal questions."
The movie is part of a one-night-only event and will be followed with a Q&A with the stars and filmmakers, hosted by Doug Fields and Josh Griffin.
Although teens and young adults are the target, screenings have revealed that the audience is broader.
"All of the Left Behind fans really love the movie," Randy LaHaye said.
For more information, visit TheVanishedFilm.com.
Vanished is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violence/peril.