“Maybe I’m just fucking with you.”
Every once in a while I will come away from a film thinking, “What the hell did I just watch?” Two types of films fall into this category. There’s the films that are bizarre but wonderful; films that feel subversive, strange, and exciting, unlike anything else, i.e. Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession. And then there’s the other type; films that I watch with a raised eyebrow, completely befuddled at just who exactly they’re for. Films like Rupture, Steven Shainberg’s weirdo abduction thriller that tip-toes close to being the good type of strange before dancing backwards into disappointment.
Noomi Rapace plays Rene, a single mother who has an almost crippling fear of spiders. One sunny day, Rene is brutally abducted on the side of the road, fettered into the back of a truck and driven for hours and hours to undisclosed location. These early scenes involving the abduction and transportation are the most effective; they’re unnerving as hell, and just like Rene we have no idea what is exactly is going on here.
Unfortunately, Rupture then descends into something akin to a Saw clone, full of shadowy warehouse locations and torture-porn scenarios. Rene’s captors, including Kerry Bishé as a wide-eyed nurse and Michael Chiklis as an angry man in a suit, put her through a series of experiments and tortuous scenarios, many involving spiders crawling on Rene’s face and arms. It’s icky, sure — but what does it all mean?
There are other captives at Rene’s location, all of them being subjected to similar experiments that force them to face their fears, whatever their fears may be. You’d assume this was all leading to something, but it’s really not. Occasionally Peter Stormare will show up and do his Peter Stormare thing, which is still always entertaining but not quite enough to salvage Rupture.
Rapace is convincing as the captive woman, and she goes through the wringer here as she fights to survive and escape. But we never really get a sense of just who Rene is as a person beyond the fact that she’s scared of spiders. This lack of development derails the film’s conclusion, which tries to set up something darker and more mysterious but ultimately falls flat.
Director Shainberg helmed the much more inventive, much more memorable Secretary and Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, but the filmmaker isn’t able to translate what made those two films seem special onto Rupture. He does excel at creating several tense moments, most notable a sequence where Rene crawls through an air duct in an attempt to learn more about her captors and possibly get away. But most of the time Rupture is locked into one-room settings that start to tiresome after a while, although cinematographer Karim Hussain does bathe scenes in appropriately eerie purple and red light to help with the mood.
In the end, it’s not that Rupture is a poor film; it’s more that it has the materials for something much better, and it never quite hits the mark. There’s enough strange reveals in Rupture that you may find it worth your time. But more than likely you won’t just come away from this thinking, “What the hell did I just watch?” You’ll also wonder, “Why the hell did I just watch it?”