From ReelWorks Studios and Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts department comes one of the worst films I have ever seen… The Trump Prophecy.
Imagine if A Beautiful Mind was about how John Nash really was working for the government to stop the Soviets; that’s what The Trump Prophecy is like. It’s the true story of firefighter prophet Mark Taylor predicting that Donald Trump would be President of the United States, how that started a prayer chain that caused him to be elected, and also a mini-doc about reinforcing the message of the movie part. Does that seem insane?
Judge for yourself, here is the prophecy Taylor penned on April 28, 2011:
“[begin sic] The Spirit of God says, “I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this.
For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America!
For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America.
America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, (other than Israel).
The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged.
The Spirit of God says, the enemy will quake and shake and fear this man I have anointed.
They will even quake and shake when he announces he is running for president. It will be like the shot heard across the world.
The enemy will say what shall we do now? This man knows all our tricks and schemes. We have been robbing America for decades, what shall we do to stop this?
The Spirit says HA! No one shall stop this that l have started! For the enemy has stolen from America for decades and it stops now!
For I will use this man to reap the harvest that the United States has sown for and plunder from the enemy what he has stolen and return it 7-fold back to the United States.
The enemy will say Israel, Israel, what about Israel? For Israel will be protected by America once again.
The Spirit of God says yes! America will once again stand hand and hand with Israel, and the two shall be as one. For the ties between Israel and America will be stronger than ever, and Israel will flourish like never before.
The Spirit of God says, I will protect America and Israel, for this next president will be a man of his word. When he speaks the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him than all the others before him.
This man’s word is his bond and the world and America will know this and the enemy will fear this, for this man will be fearless.
The Spirit says, when the financial harvest begins, so shall it parallel in the spiritual for America.
The Spirit of God says, in this next election, they will spend billions to keep this president in; it will be like flushing their money down the toilet.
Let them waist their money, for it comes from and it is being used by evil forces at work, but they will not succeed, for this next election will be a clean sweep for the man I have chosen.
They will say things about this man (the enemy), but it will not affect him, and they shall say it rolls off of him like the duck, for as the feathers of a duck protect it, so shall my feathers protect this next president.
Even mainstream news media will be captivated by this man and the abilities that I have gifted him with, and they will even begin to agree with him,” says the Spirit of God. [end sic]”
It’s like Taylor had seen how Bible verses were written and tried to copy them using a poor pseudo-poetic style. Every copy I found online had the same bad spelling and grammar. Taylor has written about a dozen works like this. You can find him all over YouTube talking about anything from storms being geoengineered by the government to sound frequencies that news channels broadcast to alter our DNA. I’m not a doctor so I can’t diagnose him, but someone who thinks they’re seeing signs from God in racehorses and calls anyone who opposes Trump inhuman or demonic is at least a little unwell by any reasonable standard. But I’m not here to detail every one of Mark Taylor’s bizarre conspiracy theories and post-hoc prophetic interpretations from the voices in his head. I’m here to criticize this film as a piece of cinematic art because that’s what it’s presenting itself as. The fact that it also functions as a piece of political propaganda is obvious to anyone who only hears the title.
The film begins with a surprisingly accurate portrayal of someone freebasing a drug (I want to know which student production assistant had to Google that process). This of course leads to a fire when the cracked out woman drops her lighter. This is the opening of the film, but what do these images say about the film? Nothing but what they literally are as far as I can tell…
These images may have some moralistic implication, but they don’t say anything about prophecy, Trump or even bring up moral questions about God. It’s just a crackhead setting her house on fire because the firefighters have to show up. This may be the best use of visual storytelling, however. The close-ups and editing tell rather succinctly.
An establishing shot of the actual firehouse is silly and lazy. It’s a digital clock on a white wall telling us the day, time and date. We cut to our hero, Mark Taylor, who is so Christian he sleeps with his Bible like a stuffed animal. When the fire alarm blares, he throws the Bible off his chest and sits up rapidly. You’d think the alarm woke the camera operator up, too; there’s a delay between the actor sitting up and the camera moving to follow him, and in that moment I wondered if it would sit below his neckline forever. After the firefighters leave the firehouse, we see the chief chillin’ and listening to news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, then we watch him go through Mark’s Bible so we can introduce Pops, Mark’s deceased grandfather. I had hoped the film would show Mark trying to contact him in the spirit world or something; needless to say I was disappointed. Pops never matters and is more akin to emotional manipulation than a character.
There’s a long sequence of a house burning down as the firefighters attempt to rescue the people inside. What does it mean? I think it’s a metaphor for the Trump presidency; a house fire that the American people can’t escape from. It could also be a case of a cigar being a cigar because the people behind this film are incapable of writing anything deeper than Trump’s knowledge regarding the complexities of healthcare. We’ve spent ten minutes of the eighty-minute film portion of the film on this fire, and we’ve learned almost nothing that can’t be learned from watching the trailer. I suppose it’s necessary to have this action sequence, otherwise the biggest event that this film would offer would be a conference call. The sequence ends with Mark carrying out a dead child in a shot that takes about forty-two seconds. Mark is the only thing moving, though we don’t know where he’s going. He just wanders off with a dead kid as the other firefighters stand in the foreground doing nothing in particular. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how to portray a subject and draw the eye in this shot; it seems like someone was trying to make an “epic” shot reminiscent of a renaissance work for no reason. It’s details like that that betray the amateur quality of this film. I realize this is a dramatization, but a real human felt real distress over a dead child, and we should be seeing how this is affecting the character. It does a disservice to the emotional impact of the moment. As the firefighters exit their trucks in the firehouse, we see Stop signs on the doors. It may be alluding to Mark’s coming retirement, it may be a warning sign to the viewer, it may just be where they put the camera because the shot looked like something that might be in a normal movie.
The dialogue in the scene isn’t just shallow and pedantic, it’s also terribly delivered. This will recur throughout the film. “Today of all days, why’d it have to be a kid,” asks a character. It’s like that person at work that engages you in conversation you don’t want, except morbid. We find out it’s his daughter’s birthday, something that will never matter. This character doesn’t matter. Nobody is talking or acting like anything matters. For all of the eventual talk of God’s purposefulness and Will, this scene itself makes me question whether intention even exists. Maybe it’s supposed to contrast Mark with his overly-emotional co-workers, because he clearly doesn’t care about this dude’s uninvited existential babbling. We don’t see someone who builds walls to deal with issues because we don’t know these characters. After this conversation, Mark falls asleep and sees an Uruk-hai which is supposed to be a demon.
The use of a demon in Mark’s PTSD flashbacks gives the impression that this true story contains a real demon. It may be a metaphor, but I’m unconvinced because the whole point of the film is that Mark isn’t “just having dreams.” He’s supposed to be a serious prophet of God in reality, so I’m supposed to believe this man is really seeing demons. That’s the point where any reasonable person sees why this film is nuts, and this is just a small taste of the crazy to come. On top of all that, the visual effects and look of the demon are just downright dumb. He electric slides into the frame and there’s a zoom like he’s Jim Halpert in Surtur-face. It’s peak unintentional comedy, like what I would expect if Tim and Eric made this movie.
This leads into the visually dull portion of the film (aka most of the rest of it) where everything is shot too clinically, using a lot of one-shots where subjects often occupy opposing thirds of the frame. The camera moves in a way that sounds right in theory (we get closer as emotional tension is supposed to be building) but is executed poorly and with no imagination or soul. The music is weird at best and even the close-ups contain awkward, meaningless negative space. The focus is bland. Color palettes are non-existent. The lighting is either bright natural lighting because it’s daytime, or dark because it’s night. The audio often sounds like it was captured at whatever distance the shot was taken.
While it is incredibly boring, I do begin to empathize with Mark in this portion. Best case scenario, Mark Taylor is dealing with terrible PTSD. He goes to see a doctor and the doctor just puts him on pills, which Mark scoffs at because we need to show the audience that doctors can’t solve your health problems. Despite the attempts to dissuade mentally ill people from taking their medicine, I couldn’t help but see my own struggles with mental health here. I’ve spent days in bed, paralyzed by own inability to get up. I’ve felt that distinct lack of motivation that depression causes. I can see how his wife was affected, watching helplessly as the man she loves can’t bring himself to do anything. As the film goes on, it moves further and further away from treating Mark’s mental health. The holistic doctors say things like “we need to heal the mind, body and spirit,” but there’s a distinct lack of healing of the mind or body in this film, and we’ll find out that healing the spirit just means embracing your delusions about fighting demons and God talking to you (through racehorses and the TV, I cannot emphasize that enough).
After the film meanders for a while, Mark has a dream/vision/episode where he sees the burned boy he tried to rescue. Mark wonders how God could let this happen, finally discussing an issue! But as suddenly as the question arrives, it’s gone. Sure it’s a common question and many better philosophers have delved into the problem of evil, but at least it was something. It’s dismissed because the audience already knows the answer; God has a plan. Bad things happen to good people for a reason, and in this film that reason seems to be so Donald Trump can become President. We watch Mark roll around in bed and stand contemplatively at the firehouse. There’s a lot of filler to get the film portion of this film to the eighty-minute mark. Thirty minutes in, there’s been no foreshadowing for Donald Trump (unless you count the demon).
After no debate or discussion, Mark retires as a fireman despite the fact that he’ll receive a lesser pension for stopping at twenty years instead of twenty-five. Watching the scene again, I see this entire story with Mark as an attempt to hide the insane narrative behind a facade of real issues normal people face. Mark is an opportunity to show average Christians that if you fall in line behind Dear Leader, you’ll be taken care of. Mark is just a normal guy like you (if you forget the fact that he’s a nutter) who’s scraping by financially. He works a man’s man, salt-of-the-earth job protecting citizens. Mark didn’t need an ivory tower education to help Donald Trump make America great again. The scene ends with Mark’s chief lecturing him about prayer. The chief is a symbol of authority, so the message becomes that those in authority must instruct prayer. We see that later on with Mark’s new doctors, as well. When Mark finally leaves, he can’t even drive his truck because he’s so traumatized and overwhelmed. This isn’t a man who needs prayer, this is a man who needs medication and therapy.
Mark and his wife woodenly discuss an insane dream he had where a demon, with a physique I would describe as “flabby,” crab-walked across his ceiling. Mark also floated out of his body like the kid in Insidious (I don’t remember astral projection being taught in church). What makes this scene important (aside from the natural lighting cast all over Mark’s face, possibly alluding to his newly discovered magic powers) is his “change in voice.” Apparently he sounds more “deep, resonant” and “authoritative.” I’ve seen this movie more times than I care to disclose, and this actor’s voice doesn’t change. This again emphasizes the importance of authority. Mark sounds authoritative (he doesn’t), therefore we, the audience, should listen to him when he rambles about politics and the Illuminati. The actress’s delivery is awful and there are a lot of awkward, forced dramatic pauses. She’s definitely the worst performer in the film, and the dialogue doesn’t help.
Mark has one more encounter with a demon that tries to “take his voice.” The effects look bad. He’s depressed some more. It’s the same thing we’ve been watching since the fire happened. We’re at the forty-five minute mark, and nothing significant has happened since the opening scene in this eighty minute movie. Trying to take the mundane and turn it into a film isn’t exclusive to this film, though. I’ve seen Christian movies that show the time a pastor started Taco Tuesday and one about someone receiving training to work at a consulting firm. I’ve never seen one this repetitive, however. I could probably re-edit 90% of the scenes after the opening to this point and it wouldn’t make a difference to the story. There is so much redundancy for such a simple concept. Once this movie goes crazy, though, it moves at mach speeds.
Mark is visited by a disco ball that shoots a beam at him. This… heals him? He thinks it’s God. He reads a passage from Isaiah that talks about Cyrus II of Persia, which is supposed to parallel Trump. Mark begins to doze in a chair, and it’s suddenly set on fire (fire has been present in every one of his flashbacks). As it burns, Mark sits in front of a TV watching a Donald Trump interview.
The day was April 28, 2011. Donald Trump sat down to talk with CNN’s John King. Here’s the video of the interview. Around the 4:15 mark, Trump begins talking about running for President. Mark is showing symptoms of another mental episode based on the motifs the film itself presents. Mark writes his ramblings while shown at a Dutch angle, showing that his mind is off-kilter. To any reasonable viewer, Mark Taylor’s “prophecy” becomes even less remarkable. Here’s the thing for all you sad imitations of Goebbels wanna-bes; you don’t have to put the thing that disproves your movie in the movie. If Mark had decided out of thin air Trump would be President (which is unremarkable itself because he has a history of running and the Simpsons did it, but at least then it would seem more unlikely), I could maybe understand. However, he’s watching Donald Trump discuss running in 2012. He didn’t even run in 2012. Boom, prophecy disproven. It would be like guessing that someone who says they’ll run in 2020 will win in 2020. We aren’t shown divine revelation, just a character having a psychotic break while watching CNN. If reality is even close to what the film portrays at its rosiest, the people behind this film are either con-artists or gullible idiots that can’t tell mental illness from magic. Also, if mainstream media’s frequencies can change our DNA, as Mark Taylor claims in real life, how do I know CNN didn’t just alter his DNA to make him think he’s a prophet? Checkmate, Trumpists.
It’s at this point that Mark’s holistic doctor sends him to Dr. Don Colbert, the self-proclaimed number one doctor in faith and medicine. His real life wares are prominently displayed in the background of his practice, and I’d imagine he violates a few ethics rules when he asks to share his mentally ill patient’s diary with his wife. At first I thought it would be so they could have a giggle at a guy who really thinks he’s a prophet, but it turns out it’s because it’s just so true. As Mary Colbert, the doctor’s wife, puts it, “it’s got that rhythm of truth to it.” That’s exactly how we learn true things, by how true they feel, right? “Yeah, sounds true to me.” This is also the point where the narrative shifts, and Mark is no longer the protagonist. Stand aside, crazy person, rich white people will take it from here. Mark will show up infrequently to show just how much he loves Trump and is concerned about him winning, but he has played his part. He’s a pawn for the self-serving upper class to stand on to loudly declare their accomplishment. But how does Mary get Trump elected?
She starts a prayer conference call. That’s the action in this film, watching people on the phone. There’s a scene where Mary prays loudly in a bathroom on an airplane (imagine reactions if a Muslim did that) and it’s played for comedy. It’s such a bizarre turn because nothing in the film has led us to this point. We haven’t been following Mary, intercutting their stories to show parallels and how prayer fixes them. Mary isn’t even a character, so much as a caricature of the moral majority, a stereotypical conservative Christian woman. This isn’t some crazy development for a character we know, this is just how this character is. For all I know, she loved Donald Trump before he decided to run. We do see a couple of characters smirk as they so cleverly announce how they “aren’t a fan of Donald Trump.” There’s no explanation of why they don’t, though. There’s a glaring lack of opposition and debate in this film.
There is an intellectually dishonest attempt at showing a moment of doubt. Mary is scared of looking stupid. Is it because Trump is mocking disabled people and bragging about his penis size on stage? No, it’s because the polls say he can’t win. Setting aside America’s fundamental misunderstanding of how projections and probability work, the film can’t even come up with a real stumbling block or maintain it beyond a couple of minutes. It doesn’t discuss Trump’s sowing of racial division or even attempt to justify it. It ignores the Wall entirely. It paints Trump and his followers as persecuted tools of God, and it appears that the biggest fear you’ll ever have following Trump is looking dumb because the lame-stream media hates him. Little did she know that she’d also look like someone taking advantage of a mentally ill man to prop up the embodiment of the worst things about America. Not that I’m saying she is, but it could come across that way.
The climax of the eighty-minute film portion shows Mary and Don watching Christian Broadcasting Network coverage of the election. We also get a couple of moments with Mark, but mostly Mary. Trump wins, of course! Mary brags about people in Israel hearing about her blowing a shofar (I’m not going to get into it), and Mark is awoken from a disappointed slumber to the news that the Donald did it! He beat the spirit of the Antichrist that Hillary Clinton embodies, and Mark praises God.
This movie is so dumb I can’t go on anymore. I can’t analyze this film as a film when it ceases to tell a story. Real stories aren’t blown off course like this one is. For all of Rick Eldridge’s talk about how it’s just an inspirational story about prayer, the fact is that it can’t even be called one movie. The last thirty minutes are a documentary which shows talking heads giving short essay answers to questions about what MAGA means and something about how America and Israel are co-dependent. There’s nothing more American than latching onto someone else’s divine destiny as God’s chosen people, and you will die of alcohol poisoning if you drink every time someone shoves America into Biblical prophecy.
The Trump Prophecy hasn’t driven me mad, but I think multiple people behind it might be. It’s almost understandable that someone could publish this into a book, but I was baffled thinking about why it got a screen adaptation. It’s because this is not a normal film; it’s a glorification of ignoring real solutions to mental illness that takes a turn into political propaganda. I can’t imagine any reasonable person watching it and going, “yeah, this is a good piece of filmmaking,” and I challenge anyone to defend it to me. Any well-functioning adult that was behind this work needs to take a hard look in the mirror and really ask themselves if they’re proud of the garbage they put on screen. I’ll take solace in knowing that no one capable of turning obvious propaganda into a skeptic-proof work of art supports Trump.