Steven Shainberg’s Rupture begins with an image of something I hate – a spider – and ends with another image of something I also hate – another spider. Is there any correlation between my hatred of spiders and my issues with this film? No, I’ve survived the likes of Eight Legged Freaks and Spiders 3D. My qualms are instead with Brian Nelson’s screenplay, based on a half-baked “idea” torn from one single sequence in Tim Miller’s Deadpool. While I might hate surprise spiders, (others do too, so you’re welcome), steadfast direction and tingling thrills are worth any arachnophobia jolts. Alas, these are two things that escape Shainberg’s cold, imprisoning experiment. Two of many.
Noomi Rapace stars as Renee, a single mother living in Kansas City who’s about to conquer her fears! Not in the way she expected, though. Renee’s plans of skydiving are derailed when two men throw her into the back of an escape-proof van. With her face electric taped and extremities bound, Renee is hauled to a secret location. A stern, balding man (Michael Chiklis) instills little hope, but ensures his new subject that she’s only being freed of human restrictions. Doctors come in and out of Renee’s room, testing her limits in the hopes she’ll “rupture” – basically evolve into a higher-level being with no fear. Toxins are injected, tortures are unleashed and people obsess about skin. Who are these mad scientists?
Seriously. I’ve seen the movie and I’m still asking.
Shainberg’s secret society is baffling upon introduction, too caught up in remaining indiscernible. Are they Government? Renegades? Aliens? We know they have certain defining qualities hidden behind contact lenses, yet their only other quirk involves non-stop compliments about Renee’s skin. Aside from automaton observation faces, these nameless vessels blandly exploit humanity’s most rampant fears just to get audiences squirming. No drive, no development of necessity. Quite frankly, anyone can do that.
Then there’s the act of “rupturing,” which – even by today’s minimal CGI standards – is a laughable attempt at facial deformation effects. When you “rupture,” you (apparently) turn into the Elephant Man. Fear seeps into your bones and alters your physical/genetic makeup. Why? Probably because no one had a better idea and Shainberg watched Deadpool unlock his superpowers after being pushed to the brink. Captives are injected with a serum (Deadpool did it) that’s accelerated by coming face to face with paralyzing terror (Deadpool in the oxygen deprivation tube). Except instead of turning into a superhero, Renee’s therapy is to make her fearless – kind of like a superpower in a way? I guess Chiklis wants to increase his ranks, but for the billionth time, one must ask why.
Performances range from chained-and-gagged to uncomfortably campy, never setting a consistent tone. You’ve got Rapace flipping out whenever spiders crawl around her, but her pre/post-torture dialogue is just tired begging. Her victim’s scream is loud, and it better be because that’s Renee’s only weapon. She’s not allowed to ham it up like Chiklis (which he does, and not in a Nic-Cage-y, entertaining way), who’s in a role better suited for the otherwise wasted Peter Stormare. Kerry Bishé and Lesley Manville push the crazy-strict-doctor arc with little enthusiasm or charisma, while Ari Millen shares in Chiklis’ obsession with Rapace’s “interesting” skin. This all sounds like B-movie madness, doesn’t it? You couldn’t be more wrong. These actors turn psychological manipulation into a drab medical procedural, complete with tarantula vacuums and a vent escape sequence filled with America’s favorite phobias.
Rupture is repetitive, reluctant and so horrendously mapped. Steven Shainberg shows little creative intrigue besides unexpected facial hair and an off-the-grid concept, but even his orange-y light tints grow tiresome after mere minutes. There’s a thematic nightmare about achieving perfection lost somewhere in this tormented mess, somewhere never to be found. You’ll be left questioning why an organization with unlimited resources is using black-and-white surveillance, or how Noomi Rapace went from Prometheus to a forgettable sci-fi prototype. And the worst part? There’s no more horrifying visual in Rupture than handlebar-mustache-Chiklis rubbing his face against Rapace’s soft cheek. It never gets any better, people – just a whole lot worse.
Rupture is the kind of ill-conceived film that gives Michael Chiklis the campy role while keeping Peter Stormare on background duty.