In Steven Shainberg’s inane thriller Rupture, one Renee Morgan (Noomi Rapace) is abducted from a Missouri roadside and taken to a secret lab that looks just like a Halloween haunted house. It’s got gurneys, barred windows, purple lights, extra-large syringes of mad-scientist mystery syrup—the general aesthetic of a place that might be called the Screamatorium or the Shoe Factory Of Terror, but without the sickly sweet smell of glycerin vaporizing in a fog machine. There she is subjected to bizarre experiments by pod-person-esque creeps (played by the likes of Michael Chiklis, Peter Stormare, and Lesley Manville), who occasionally put on binocular glasses and yammer on about genetic codes, fear, and evolution. There are other test subjects, too. One tries to talk to her through a shared vent before what sounds like a drill is put through his eye. And poor Renee—she just dropped off her teenage son at her ex-husband’s house for the weekend, so no one will realize that she’s missing for another few days.
That’s basically it. One has to give some credit to Shainberg, who previously made Secretary and Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus. In directing his first feature in 11 years, he has created something that no one would mistake for a desperate comeback attempt. Sadly, that something is a bottom-of-the-bucket sci-fi abduction movie that is much less weird than it perhaps imagines itself to be. Once its surreal intrigue dissipates into overheard conversations, experiments, and escape attempts, the script (by Hard Candy’s Brian Nelson) turns objectively stupid, relying on Z-grade suspense logic. A critic might waste a reader’s valuable time here by listing all the holes in Rupture—an apt title, in retrospect. But the truth is that what sinks the film is Shainberg’s insipid direction. This is what an intentional B-movie looks like when it’s made by someone with zero interest in genre film or the ingenuity involved: cheap effects, cheap props (one noticeably blacked over with gaffer tape), cheap filmmaking, and way too much time spent crawling between rooms via ventilation duct.
But Shainberg does include a reference to The Shining—the iconic Overlook Hotel carpet pattern as wallpaper—to show that he is aware of the existence of better movies that share little with Rupture apart from a nebulous genre and a theme of isolation. The lighting (which Rupture, bless its heart, actually bothers to explain) might in turn be a nod to the classic Suspiria, but it amounts to a failure of style: unseemly blobs of randomly gelled light. Rapace has her more-than-they-bargained-for imperiled heroine role down pat; given that she also spent part of Prometheus evading a possible extraterrestrial metaphor for motherhood, one might even call this a reprise. And there is a tinge of a sick thrill in watching the angry bowling ball Chiklis (here wearing a mirror-universe goatee) play a ludicrous role completely straight, walking around with his clipboard and goggles.
One almost wonders why Shainberg bothered hiring professional actors for a movie so forgettable that a viewer will probably spend most of their time remembering other movies. Nelson’s last film script was for the M. Night Shyamalan-produced Devil, and this one has many cosmetic similarities with Shyamalan’s recent (and very entertaining) Split: the inexplicable behavior of the captors, the pulpy premise played straight, the whole idea of trauma as an agent of self-transformation. There is even a visually similar chase scene in a utility tunnel. But the difference in attitude and basic artistry between the two films just goes to show that trashy B-movies don’t just make themselves.