Reborn *** Digital release

April 23rd, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Julian Richards | Cast: Barbara Crampton, Kayleigh Gilbert, Michael Pare | Horror US, 77′

This convincing horror movie is actually a tragedy in disguise: one that pays tribute to all aborted babies that many years ago were thrown into the clinical waste and eventually forgotten. But in Julian Richard’s latest feature an act of God sees the past haunting the future, causing one such abandoned life to be reanimated when a lightening bolt hits the cot of a moribund baby and kickstarts her heart – a grisly scenario that plays out in the film’s opening moments.

All very plausible and with its campish Lynchian overtones – Mulholland Drive springs to mind – Reborn is a very watchable B movie horror story. And this is largely down to the serious underlying theme of conflicted motherhood that makes this believable and strangely moving. As mother and daughter, Barbara Crampton and Kaylieigh Gilbert feel like real women who actually care for each other, and we feel for them in their emotional pain.

Barbara Crampton holds it all together as Lena, an actress whose career has seen better days and is now falling apart. Her therapist (Monty Markham in fine form) cuts to the chase and suggests this is down to her not gaining ,closure after losing a baby sixteen years previously, putting her current predicament down to guilt at not giving her daughter a proper burial, instead of simply burying her memory and getting back to work.

When Tess, the daughter in question, finally reaches the ripe old ago of sixteen she is still living with the mortuary assistant who raised her – rather abusively as it emerges – when he makes a pass at her in celebration of her coming of age. Tess uses the electrokinetic powers she has honed over the years, escaping her ‘father’ in the process, and eventually tracking down her mother.

Not surprisingly, Tess has a few other tricks up her sleeve: apart from her sparky schtick, she also has a split personality, due to her weird upbringing as a captive of her lurid ‘father’. Capable of being sweet one minute and demonic the next, she turns on anyone who threatens her security, and it is at this juncture that the film finally has a psychotic outburst of its own.

Short and sleek, this classically styled riff on the Frankenstein theme is a good one, and is well performed with the exception of Michael Pare who makes for a rather cartoonish cop, somehow working to further the film’s dystopian Lynchianism. Gilbert is astonishing as Tess, exuding a surreal vulnerability that really works well in making her a sympathetic antiheroine. Crampton is mesmerising as the vampish actress with unknown depths. The whole endeavour has a cultish retro feel that is enhanced by Brian Sowell’s spectacular nighttime scenes of Los Angeles and the suggestive sinister score. Even the ending is elusive, with its open interpretations. Julian Richards has triumphed once again with a mini cult classic. MT






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