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Total Crap: 11.11%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Rips a familiar horror story open and pulls out something unique."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: By dint of being far from prolific but doing something fairly different each time out, Steven Shainberg is slowly creating an intriguingly eccentric filmography, though one that has a clear personality behind it. "Rupture", his first film in ten years, is every bit as peculiar and discombobulating as "Secretary", but it's also an impressively intense sci-fi thriller.

As much as things seem to be fairly normal to start - we're quickly introduced to single mother Renee Morgan (Noomi Rapace) as she tries to get her son Evan (Percy Hynes White) loaded in the car for a weekend at his father's - there are early signs that things aren't right: Some of the shots of these scenes are obvious surveillance video, and not only are there people sitting in a car just down the street, but they attach some sort of device to her car. Then, once she's alone, they force her off the road and kidnap her, driving days to a facility to test the limits of her fear, apparently believing that it will produce more than screaming. She is, however, more resourceful than they expect.

Remove all the science-fictional trappings and just make the villains plain nuts, and this would still be a damn good kidnap thriller. What Shainberg sacrifices in highlighting the peculiar right away he gains in having the audience watch everything intently from the start, and he doesn't give the audience a lot of down time to introduce people and establish personalities through words, although both the ruthless, practiced efficiency of the kidnappers and Renee's dogged determination say a lot. He's aggressive in having the audience discover what's going on alongside Renee, using both the lack of information and the fragmented, bizarre pieces she does find to help share her sense of panic. A tense score and a great sound mix - doors locking and unlocking are a triple-tap instead of just a single, familiar bang - only make the atmosphere more suffocating.

That stuff is there, though, and while it's not entirely unfamiliar, Shainberg keeps the backstory mysterious enough and everything else loose so that the audience can thematically project a lot of potential themes onto it even as he creates a better link between "next stage of human evolution" and personal evolution than many sci-fi stories do. The environment Renee is in is also engrossingly off, a run-down building that hints at a situation outside of any funding/controlling body despite evidence of mad science all over the place, while her captors are the kind of inhuman true believers that have trouble comprehending her resistance, even if they are well-prepared. Plus, spiders. Shainberg does creepy things with spiders.

Noomi Rapace is the constant throughout the movie, and she's terrific, giving Renee a cheerily unsinkable personality when she's first introduced - dealing with a lot of problems and clearly frustrated at times but also up to them - but when the trouble starts, we see that "unsinkable" isn't just a matter of floating to the surface via positive thinking. There's an intensely determined physicality to everything Renee's doing over the course of the film, and Rapace crashes along fearlessly, getting across what a sustained, draining struggle she's having and also strength and fierce intelligence. And while it's her movie, the rogues gallery she's running from is pretty impressive - Michael Chiklis, Lesley Manville, Kerry Bishe, Brendan Jeffers, and Peter Stormare are all strange in similar ways but manage to make individual characters out of what could be a bland group of body-snatchers.

It's also an unusually great-looking movie; though the budget for visual effects isn't huge, the ones that are pulled off are enjoyably gross. The production design by Jeremy Reed is not ostentatiously unified but everything otherworldly works and everything "mundane" nudges the audience subconsciously in the right direction, as does the cinematography by Karim Hussain. This sort of movie often contains a lot of blacks and grays - bland metallic or generically-biological themes - but Shainberg, Reed, and Hussain opt for bold colors and subtly manipulate the palette as the movie goes on.

Shainberg's next film appears to be a screwball comedy about as far from this as you can get, and that's cool. In the meantime, he's made a horror flick that will stand out from the offerings in that genre as much as does from his previous work, and that's the kind of exciting experimentation that makes a new film exciting no matter how long the filmmaker has been away.

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originally posted: 07/17/16 04:08:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/26/17 STUART TOTAL SHIT!! 1 stars
10/25/17 Mark Louis Baumgart First 3/4 is great, but the ending blows, giving the idea that this is a tv series pilot 3 stars
6/10/17 George Feist I like Noomi Rapace and thats why I rented it 4 stars
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