RAPTURE Advance Review

Rapture poster

Free Man Films, Broken Branch Pictures and Kelmen Studios present RAPTURE. Directed by Royce Freeman. Written by Kurt S. Poulin and Royce Freeman. Starring Kurt S. Poulin, David McKanna, Christian Griffis, Julianna Piechovski and Jon Herak.

Many thanks to Royce Freeman for providing an advance rough cut of the film, with some audio elements still being adjusted, for review purposes.

"Life is pain, son," declares one character in Rapture. "And the minute you stop caring, you're free." Strong words, and a strong film.

Issues of spirituality in modern film are both old-hat and/or life-affirming, depending upon from which spiritual camp they're coming. In the case of Royce Freeman's gritty, violent and ultimately uplifting directoral debut Rapture, it's the latter. Don't let the title mislead you. Jesus doesn't come back to Earth here--well, not yet, anyway. But a lot of so-called followers show up to wreak havoc upon some innocent folks, including one genuine believer whose actions inform the film.

Gene Allen as the enigmatic Preacher.

The prologue takes place in a small, claustrophobic Florida church. A seemingly-fundamentalist preacher (Gene Allen) is giving a fire-and-brimstone sermon to his nervous flock, among them a pair of nine-year-old boys, Wolf and Alvie, whose relevance aren't revealed until gradually later into the film. The preacher also offers some licentious advances towards at least one female in his congregation.

After the opening titles, the scene shifts forty years later, wherein an adult Wolf (Kurt S. Poulin), who is now involved with organized crime, along with an adult Alvie (Paul Murciano) leaves a trail of dead bodies at a sleazy bar. He takes off in a car with Augustin (David McKanna) to a rendezvous house.

David McKanna as the morally conflicted Augustin.

Enter Grace (Christian Griffis) and Spencer (Matthew Mercurio), a Christian couple, with Richie (Matt Vogel), Roxy (Julianna Piechovski), Grace's worldly sister and Trinity (Kristen Ballentine), making up a group of teen-aged partiers. Their mini-van has gone dead on a lonely Florida highway. After walking a distance on foot after not being able to raise anyone on their cellular phones, they happen upon a house and are let in by....none other than Augustin, and the guests are summarily taken prisoners. The stage is set for a tense series of confrontations, especially once Wolf arrives, mirroring the unsettling characterizations in films such as Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects and others.

Relationships are compromised, not only between the teens, but also the paranoid Wolf and the beleagured Augustin, who's clearly not enjoying the situation even though he has part of the upper hand. And the religious implications start during the second act, as racism (Spencer's identity as being non-white) and inter-racial dating come into Wolf's heartless observations; meanwhile, another character's altruism in the face of unimaginable abuse is another. This is not a film which takes anything for granted.

Kurt S. Poulin as the murderous Wolf, the main villain of RAPTURE.

While all this is going on, a lucklessly narcissistic pizza boy (Justin Simpson) stumbles into the wrong place at the wrong time, allowing the murderous accomplice Sybil (Jessica Guadix) to enter into the deadly scenario. She is in collusion with Wolf and Alvie, although the latter is not present in the current entourage. Only the bald and muscular Stevie Boy (Jon Herak) provides additional muscle to Wolf's menacing entrapment.

Director Royce Freeman clearly respects his subject matter and carefully avoids making a mere exploitation picture, even given the gravity of its topic. Actor Herak also provided special effects, while Mike Perez not only scored the film but also portrayed the character Deutra. The script, written by Poulin and Freeman and based on a story by Thomas H. Wermke, tells a harrowing and ultimately uplifting tale of human barbarity elevated to something better. And at the end of the day, Rapture leaves us still on Earth, stumbling along to make a better way. Maybe that's how God wants it.

Review by Petch Lucas, for Pitofhorror.com