Saturday 25 April 2020

Reborn (USA 2018: Dir Julian Richards)

Barbara Crampton, scream queen de nos jours, plays faded actress Lena O'Neill in Julian Richards' latest offering. Lena's last decent role was ten years previously: she now carves out a job as a casting coach, but her agent, Dory Ryder (Rae Dawn Chong, one of a number of the cast with an 80s genre pedigree), is getting worried that her general lack of focus will not augur well leading up to her forthcoming audition for Peter Bogdanovich's latest movie. Yes, that Peter Bogdanovich, and in a number of Reborn's meta moments, he actually pops up at the end of the flick.

Anyhow Lena's a woman with a secret sorrow: sixteen years previously she gave birth to a daughter but because of complications with the birth, and Lena's vanity at not wanting a C Section, the baby died.

Except the baby didn't die, we learn in flashback. While the body was lying in the mortuary, presided over by the perverted Kenny (Chaz Bono, son of Sonny and Cher, don'cha know?) who likes to take pictures of naked dead people, a bolt of lightning from a storm hits the building and puts a massive charge through everything, including the dead baby, who miraculously returns from the dead. Kenny sneaks the baby out and takes it home to raise it as his; well him and his mummified mother, that is. Sixteen years later the baby is now a young woman, Tess (Kayleigh Gilbert). Tess's upbringing has obviously been less than ideal (there's more than a suggestion that Kenny has abused her) and when her adoptive father approaches her for sex, Tess lets rip with her acquired superpower: the ability to harness electricity to do her bidding. With Kenny now out of the picture, Tess sets out to find her real mum, and woe betide anyone who gets in her way, including Detective Marc Fox (Michael Paré, who has been in everything) who's on her tail. And at the same time Lena is doing her own sleuthing trying to locate the body of her presumed dead daughter.

While the 'Carrie Meets Firestarter' quote on Reborn's poster art goes some way to telling audiences what to expect, the film is also a very entertaining meld of 'issue of the week' type TV movie - will estranged mother and daughter be reunited?- and a revisit of straight to video exploitation movies of the 80s and 90s, right down to the font accurate opening titles. Clocking in at a very brisk 77 minutes, Richards keeps the gore low but mounts some great set pieces on Tess's journey to find mum. Of course the movie would be nothing without Crampton, who reaches back to her TV soap roots as a woman with a painful past life whose dream of being reunited with a long lost daughter quickly becomes a nightmare.

Of course none of this is meant to be taken very seriously: a Carrie type ending, posters on Lena's wall indicating that her career followed much the same path as Crampton's, and a sequence where Bogdanovich appears directing a movie called 'Darklands' (the title of Richards' debut feature) can attest to that. But the cast are all good value and wide eyed Gilbert is an effective moppet from hell. Dumb then, but jolly good fun.

Reborn is available on digital download from 4 May.

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