05th May2020

‘Reborn’ VOD Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Barbara Crampton, Kayleigh Gilbert, Bob Levitan, Chaz Bono, Bob Bancroft, Alexa Maris, Michael Pare, Rae Dawn Chong, Monte Markham | Written by Michael Mahin | Directed by Julian Richards

Directed by Julian Richards, Reborn is a Frankenstein-inspired horror with some promising ideas that are never quite fully realised by the script. Barbara Crampton plays faded actress Lena O’Neill, whose problems, her psychiatrist suggests, stem from the fact that she never achieved closure after her baby girl was stillborn, 16 years ago. However, unbeknownst to Lena, her daughter was revived in the morgue due to a freak electical accident and taken home by creepy morgue attendant Ken (Chaz Bono), who named her Tess and raised her with his mother.

On her sixteenth birthday, Tess (Kayleigh Gilbert) demands to know who her real mother is. When Ken tries to molest her, Tess discovers she has the power to control electricity and kills him, before setting out to track down her birth mother and leaving a trail of bodies behind her in the process. Initially, Lena mistakes Tess for a student wanting to join her acting class, but when people in her circle start mysteriously dying, she grows suspicious and seeks the help of investigating cop Marc Fox (Michael Paré).

Casting horror icon Barbara Crampton was an inspired move on Richards’ part, as she instantly lends the film a degree of cachet that it would otherwise struggle to achieve. In fairness, Crampton gives the part her all, particularly during the film’s key sequence, an emotional rehearsal scene (with Tess forced to play Lena’s daughter in acting class) that deliberately echoes the rehearsal scene in Mulholland Drive.

Unfortunately, in terms of an emotional connection to the material, the script flounders after that scene. The film touches on ideas of guilt, grief, perceived abandonment and the release offered by closure (it’s clear that the title refers to both mother and daughter equally), but it never digs deep enough to make an emotional impact, instead switching to a more traditional horror set-up whereby Tess just kills people she thinks are getting in the way of her relationship with her mother.

That in itself would be fine, except the victim characters are very thinly drawn, making Tess’ murderous motivations tenuous at best, to the point where it feels like she’s just thinning out the supporting cast for the hell of it. It doesn’t help that, outside of Crampton and Gilbert, the acting is more than a little flat – Paré is practically sleepwalking, for example.

Another key flaw is that the film neglects to provide any information about Tess’ past – indeed, the film’s 77 minute running time suggests there were a number of scenes with Ken and his mother (who we only see as a corpse) that ended up on the cutting room floor. That means that all we know about Tess is that her adopted brother tried to molest her (her reaction indicates that was the first time, though Ken is creepy enough to suggest otherwise) and she has electro powers. Indeed, one of the best things about the film is the hilarious way Tess’ powers are just taken for granted – at one point Fox nonchalantly says “She can manipulate electricity – I’ve seen her do it”, as if it’s no big deal.

On the plus side, there’s a certain charm to the low budget nature of the effects – the sparks of electricity almost look as if they were animated by hand, which is a nice touch. Credit is also due to the costume and make-up departments, who give Tess a distinctive look that’s presumably at least in part inspired by the Bride of Frankenstein.

In short, Reborn has its moments and is worth seeing for Crampton’s committed performance, but it’s ultimately one of those films where you find yourself thinking up ways in which it could have been better even as you’re watching it.

**½  2.5/5

Reborn will be available on Digital Download here from 4th May here and on DVD from 11th May.


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