The Rapture (1991)

Is the world over yet? Is it okay if I am disappointed either way? I don’t mind being left behind and unchosen as long as I get some answers. I’m used to being picked last and if God turns out to be some giant bully in the sky collecting belief and love like lunch money, I’m fine with that. Honestly if I were God, I wouldn’t care if anyone believed in me at all, I’d stomp out the human race as a failed experiment regardless and leave the Earth to the plants and animals. I wouldn’t stand for modern culture mucking up my terrarium. I’d ferment all the fruit in the trees and let the monkeys and elephants get wasted! It’s not like they have to drive home or anything. If God created drunk caterpillars, willow trees and fish tacos then I certainly do love him but am I really expected to worship an entity who is more passive-aggressive than me? It’s difficult.

1991’s MICHAEL TOLKIN film THE RAPTURE is simply unforgettable which makes it all the more strange that it is mostly forgotten; I guess asking questions and not saying exactly what people want to hear isn’t the best way to be popular-who knew? MIMI ROGERS brings new meaning to the word revelation as Sharon, a woman bored out of her skull by her stupid job who has a bunch of random sex because it’s almost like not feeling bored anymore. One day she notices that folks who have found God are even happier than folks who have foursomes that include DAVID DUCHOVNY and so she decides to get born again. God’s love has a price though and soon the invisible taskmaster is forcing her to jump through many a hoop. I’ve watched enough Oprah to identify a toxic relationship when I see one. Face it Sharon, he’s just not that into you.

When I first saw THE RAPTURE it shook me like a shake weight. No matter what your personal beliefs are it is sure to challenge them. Rather than painting Sharon as a loon waiting for a ship that never comes in, it pushes her smack dab into the middle of the apocalypse, trumpets blaring and all. Yes, the end of the world does arrive as predicted but not before Sharon has lost everything that made the world’s destruction worth giving a crap about. I think Sharon’s spiritual journey is rather an admirable one. What’s infinitely less admirable is the fact that once she has a child, she drags her offspring along for the ride too. She’s not a bad person, it’s just that her belief system has painted her into a corner where critical thinking is no longer an option. To even question God is an act of treachery. Her faith is strong just not strong enough to withstand a moments scrutiny.

Because it concerns religion, THE RAPTURE is sure to offend some folks but writer/director TOLKIN is hardly being provocative for the sake of being provocative. The film takes its subject matter seriously and has a sincere curiosity about exactly what the unequivocal existence of God would mean. THE RAPTURE bypasses the usual stalemate of belief vs. non-belief and jumps ahead to the next ladder rung. God exists alright but he has some serious explaining to do. Judgment Day arrives but, in a crazy switch-a-roo, it is God who is judged. It may seem blasphemous to some but if the act of wondering and questioning is a sin then damn me now. I don’t know what God you believe in, but mine can handle some constructive criticism without a hissy fit.

You really do not have to believe in anything to enjoy THE RAPTURE besides good storytelling and the power of film. Somehow its low-budget makeshift end of the world is emotionally devastating on an epic scale. TOLKIN’s insistence that the demolition of one spirit be accountable for, coupled with ROGER’s undaunted performance is ultimately as moving as any hymn. If THE MIST got you hot under the collar than you might want to take a rain check but if you welcome an investigation into the spiritual without the usual cowardly boundaries I say step forward, there’s no reason to linger in limbo.

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Will Errickson
11 years ago

Good call, Unk. Cool, strange, unique but forgotten film. Love me some Mimi. Too bad she’s a Scientologist… I mean, she’s the person who got Tom Cruise into it!

Amanda By Night
11 years ago

Love your review Unk. I’m a big fan of this movie, although I’ve only seen it a few times, and that was more than 15 years ago. But so much of it stayed with me. I love… mmmm… I think pacing isn’t the word, but there’s so much space between lines and space inside many of the images. It just puts you in this place that is so unlike any other film. And yeah, it really makes you think about things… both sides. I don’t feel like it’s a condemnation of religion or god, it’s just meant to make you ask yourself some very important questions. Which you actually said above, but better! 🙂

Tom Vaughan
11 years ago

One of my all time favorite films. So glad to see you review it here. What I love about this story is how unjudgemental it is of Sharon. At least within the confines of the film itself. It’s not making fun of her or satirizing her in any way. It takes her life experience very seriously, and takes her beliefs very seriously. In fact, the whole story seems to answer the question “What if these fundamentalist are right?”

It appears the answer is quite horrible!

It’s brilliant filmmaking and a brilliant critique of a belief system.

Thank you for pointing out Mimi Rogers performance. I often forget about that when I think about the film. She really is pretty remarkable here.

I would disagree with you about the comparison to “The Mist” though! 🙂 In the “The Rapture” the ending is the very point of the film, and as we often talked about, the ending of “The Mist” always felt tacked on and unnecessary to me.

If you take away the ending of “The Rapture” though, you have an entirely different film looking to justify why it’s even being made.

11 years ago

“the ending of “The Mist” always felt tacked on and unnecessary to me. ”

– That’s because IT IS tacked on and unnecessary. If you read Stephen King’s short story, the ending shown in the film is completely different. In my opinion, it was a cheap device to make the audience feel profound regret.

In the script writer’s defense, Stephen King saw the new ending and loved it, saying he wished he had thought of it. Nonetheless, I like King’s ending much better.

11 years ago

I love ‘The Rapture’… AND the ending of ‘The Mist’… absolutely NOT tacked on… it’s the perfect, ambiguous, bookend for crazy Mrs. Carmody.
The ‘what if her nutty demands for a child sacrifice DID chase the monsters away?’ is the counterpart of ‘The Rapture’s ‘What if Revelations is literal truth? How nutty would that be?’
Both putting out the question, even if the Bible were true… could you really love/respect a god like that?

Chael Needle
11 years ago

Love your writing!