Reborn Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Lightbulb Film Distribution
Directed by Julian Richards
Written by Michael Mahin
2018, 77 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 11th May 2020
Barbara Crampton as Lena O'Neill
Michael Paré as Detective Marc Fox
Kayleigh Gilbert as Tess Stern
Rae Dawn Chong as Dory Ryder
Abducted as a stillborn child, then resurrected using electrokinetic power, a super-powered teenager tries to make it on her own after escaping on her sixteenth birthday. She starts by hunting down her birth mother, an ageing actress with her star power on the wane. As if losing out on work to younger, lazier actresses wasn’t enough, now Lena O’Neill (the mighty Barbara Crampton!) has to contend with an estranged teenage daughter making telekinetic messes all over the place.
Julian Richards’s Reborn is like a lost 90s adaptation of a novel Stephen King never wrote. And not necessarily one of the good ones. It’s Carrie (one of the ones not directed by Brian de Palma) crossed with a TV Frankenstein. Still, Richards has come a long way since his Last Horror Movie and Summer Scars, and this is perhaps his best-looking film yet. In spite of the low(ish) budget, it looks slick and sharp, and its few action sequences are packed with atmosphere.
The casting too, is a cut above the rest of Richards’s filmography, starring genre icon Barbara Crampton as O’Neill. There’s a sense that the film doesn’t really deserve her talent, but it’s appreciated all the same, and fitting, given the B-plot. Thankfully, young Kayleigh Gilbert is up to the task of sharing a film with this genre giant, and does good work in holding her own against the wonderful Crampton. She’s no Sissy Spacek of course, but she has the right eyes for the role, bulging and glaring her way into the finale – Carrie again, just not the bit you’re thinking of.
If only they were given more to work with. Reborn tells two stories at once, and never does either of them justice. The telekinetic teen horror/sci-fi story is toothless and predictable (all downhill after the opening sequence) while its Hollywood satire is suitably meta but also lacking in bite. It’s half sci-fi horror film, half soap opera - all nineties TV movie. It's a wonder Dean Koontz's name isn't on here somewhere.
There are the flickering embers of one or two good ideas hidden in Reborn's duelling stories, but none of them get to come to the forefront. It's slow, dull and mired in cliché, and feels dragged out even at a meagre 77 minutes. Unwittingly, it proves its own point to be true. Give ageing actresses better roles so that Barbara Crampton doesn't have to keep making unworthy nonsense like this.
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