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STUDIO: TLA Releasing
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 95 Minutes
• Commentary with Director Kamel Ahmed
• “Making Of” Featurette with Outtakes
• Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
8 Mile goes six feet under.
Robert Oppel, Debbie Rochon, William Smith, Kevin Van Hentenrych, Joe Bob Briggs
Up-and-coming rapper Rapturious (somehow pronounced rap-TOR-i-us) has a series of violent, drug-fueled hallucinations, which may or may not be visions from a past life. And by “may or may not”, I mean that they clearly are, but the movie insists on insulting your intelligence for a while.
Abracadabra… My crystal ball says this movie will be awful.
He may be evil incarnate, but you have to give the devil his due: he certainly is a sporting little imp. Whether it’s a battle of wills, a loophole-ridden contract, or an old-fashioned fiddle competition, Satan always seems compelled to give his prey some arcane method of escaping their eternal damnation. In Rapturious, the devil is equally generous, though his M.O. isn’t quite so elaborate here. A person doesn’t need extensive legal expertise or legendary fiddle skills to escape their fate. They only need a pair of functioning eyeballs. See, it turns out that Hell actually has an exit door: Unguarded, unlocked, and in plain sight. To liberate themselves, all a damned soul has to do is flee through that door and be reincarnated into a newborn child, another lifetime’s worth of maiming and killing to look forward to. Talk about your revolving-door prison systems.
One such soul is Dead-Eye Pete, a brutal and sadistic 19th century gunslinger who runs afoul of the law and is hung for his trouble. He finds himself in Hell, but upon discovering that Hades apparently functions on the honor system, he makes a break for it. Pete is reincarnated (inexplicably 100 years later) as John Oppenheimer, who grows up with no memory of his former life. John becomes the notorious rapper Rapturious, a name John chose for himself in order to let everyone know what a notorious rapper he is. Though you have to wonder where that extra “u” came from. I guess he didn’t want people to think he was a notorious velociraptor.
“Napoleon, don’t be jealous that I’ve been chatting online with babes all day.”
Rapturious is on the verge of stardom: German hausfraus throw themselves at him. Public access television shows clamor for interviews. He’s even scheduled to star in a poorly-conceived movie about his own life. But Rapturious’s drug problem is quickly getting out of hand, especially when he’s introduced to a new drug called “afterlife”, a name so cartoonishly ominous that anyone who uses it gets exactly what they deserve. While high on afterlife, John has horrifying hallucinations of murder and bloodshed, seemingly stemming from past-life experiences. As John tries attempts to make sense of these visions, meanwhile the demon Marchosias scours the Earth trying to track down Dead-Eye Pete’s fugitive soul like a Satanic Sam Gerard. Faust, this isn’t.
Still, it’s a premise that has potential. There’s something almost Hitchcockian about an innocent man being pursued by supernatural forces trying to make him pay for the sins he committed in a former life. If Rapturious had been a character that we could get behind and root for, this material could have been shaped into an effective horror-thriller. But he’s not: Even sober Rapturious is kind of a jerk, and early in the movie when he’s asked a relatively innocent question about his troubled childhood, he launches into a halting, self-indulgent freestyle that is essentially a huge middle-finger pointed straight at God Himself. And that’s before a series of drug-induced psychotic episodes drive him off the deep end completely. By the end, I couldn’t help but root for Beelzebub.
Then again, maybe we’re supposed to. Writer-director and Jerky Boys alum Kamal Ahmed shows us a world where demons may be snarling beasts, but in the end they’re just doing their job. After all, they only exist in order to punish the wicked, so who can blame them when they do just that? It’s worth noting that every single New York police officer we meet in this movie is apparently an undercover demon in disguise. To Ahmed, it seems, demons are just the spiritual police, hauling offenders off to that eternal prison downstairs. But unfortunately, the movie doesn’t dwell on this idea, deciding that it’s more interesting to send our drugged-out protagonist Rapturious into one blood-soaked fantasy after another, as if somehow they’ll become more frightening by accumulation.
This is the part when I started shouting “Don’t go in there!” at the screen.
The movie smacks of intellectual laziness. Rather than finding a new and interesting approach to demons and devils, Ahmed gives us horned monsters in black cloaks, their voices processed down a few octaves. Instead of thinking up a creative, interesting way for a man to escape from Hell, Ahmed has him simply run through a door. And names like Dead-Eye Pete and Rapturious are so uninspired, one has to wonder what the rejected alternatives were. If any.
The cast is a mixed bag: Robert Oppel is fine, I suppose, as the title character, though he only has two gears here: comatose and psychotic. Former MonsterVision host Joe Bob Briggs appears as a psychiatrist, and while this might have been a fun little cameo under other circumstances, Briggs is actually called upon to act here, a role he’s not well-suited for. Also a mixed-bag is the makeup effects, which is a shame because the movie probably would have been much better off with lousy special effects across the board. Sure, the demon Marchosias’s makeup looks pretty good, but this only serves to highlight the contrast between it and the rest of the creatures we see, who all look like they came straight off the costume-shop rack.
All in all, I’ve probably made Rapturious sound far more interesting and well-conceived than it actually is, since a part of me is fascinated by a handful of concepts that can be found buried deep down beneath the dreck that is the surface. As a horror flick, it’s not the least bit scary, and the movie meanders constantly, scenes running on and on well past their welcome, as if the filmmakers were desperately trying to pad the runtime up over 90 minutes. Don’t do us any favors, fellas.
There’s something about the cover artwork that makes me laugh. It’s of the title character standing back-to-back with a demon, microphone in his hand as if they’re about to engage in an epic rap battle that will decide the fate of humanity. Now there’s a movie I’d pay to see.
“Where am I? And why is this camera in my lap?”
Extras are pretty slim here. First is the commentary track with writer-director Kamal Ahmed. At one point he mentions that he’s afraid to stop talking because he wants to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Quality over quantity, Kamal. Maybe if you had stopped for a moment to think of something interesting to say, the track would’ve been worth listening to. The track is essentially nothing but narration for the benefit of anyone who’s never seen a movie before (“These are credits,” Ahmed helpfully explains at one point). Not since William Friedkin’s Exorcist commentary have I heard a track so full of words and so bereft of information.
Next is the “Making Of” featurette, which is five minutes of outtakes and deleted scenes thrown together with a mish-mash of amateur video shot during production. If you want to see a movie extra in robes and a demon mask popping and locking like a hyperactive Boogaloo Shrimp, this is the featurette for you.
There is also a two-minute slideshow of production photos, set against an eerie silence. These kinds of things are uninteresting enough on their own, at least give me some music to listen to.
Finally, there are trailers for some of TLA’s other discs in release, every one of them an import. Which makes me wonder where Raptorious fits into their overall strategy. If any.
“We’re the devils! The devils! Hsss! Hsss!”
2.4 out of 10