REBORN - Barbara Crampton is "Phenomenal" in this "Modern Take on 'Carrie'"

The true classics of horror cinema never rest long before their grave is disturbed. Exhumed for a remake to cash in on it’s notoriety, or to be borrowed from, in part or in whole, for a new, younger storyteller and filmmaker to put their own spin on the subject matter. To modernize it, or to fit elements of it into a very different narrative – reinventing the use of the tropes that made that classic a classic in the first place.

Whether writer Michael Mahin and director Julian Richards realized it or not, this is just what they accomplished with “Reborn” - the supernatural thriller that debuted in 2019.

“Reborn” begins with Tess (Kayleigh Gilbert), a teen with a secret gift, who has spent her entire life a prisoner. She was separated at birth and kidnapped by a hospital employee, played by Chaz Bono of all people, and raised to the age of seventeen. Now a little older, Tess is able to put the pieces together that this lifestyle of theirs isn’t normal, and that he isn’t her family.

She uses her “secret gift” of telekinesis to free herself and sets out to find her true family.

Meanwhile, Lena, played by the ever wonderful Barbara Crampton, is struggling to make it as a Hollywood actress. Now middle aged. Lena fights to prove her worth to fickle casting directors with eyes for younger actresses. Between auditions, Lena also offers her expertise as an acting instructor, holding classes in her home for any and all aspiring young actors.

This is all fine and well until one morning, during a class, Lena is visited by a new student, Tess, who is ever so eager to meet her. The two preform a reading together in front of the other students. The scene is an emotional one between a mother who is trying to explain how and why she chose to abandon her now adult daughter. By the end of the scene, Lena and Tess seem to be sharing these same, very real emotions.

These emotions fulfill Lena in two ways. The first is a new spark of enthusiasm for her craft. Lena thinks of Tess as her muse, and surely with help from each other they both will find themselves on the silver screen in no time. The second rekindles emotions for Lena’s own child who was stillborn.

So by now I’m sure you’ve figured out who is related to who, but this is something that Lena must discover herself as Tess keeps the truth of her biology a secret while getting to know her mother. Tess keeps this secret to avoid any possibility of rejection from the woman who she has become infatuated with. Her infatuation is so great that it leads to several murders as Tess puts her “secret gift” to use protecting her mother from backstabbing industry types.

Naturally these suspicious deaths attracts the attention of Detective Marc Fox (Michael Paré) who manages to connect the deaths Tess through Lena.

As the film climaxes, all of Tess is revealed to Lena in one final emotional confrontation pitting mother against daughter, and hard boiled detective work against the supernatural.

While I enjoyed “Reborn”, with it’s combination of police procedural, supernatural thriller and separated at birth backdrop, it does still come off as a “Carrie” rip-off. Much like the titular Carrie, Tess is misunderstood, but still tries to fit in and find her place in the world but is inevitably destined to fail. Not to mention, both characters have a rocky relationship with their mothers. It had potential, but never reached far enough to be truly unique.

What I meant by “never reached far enough” was that “Reborn” has a great opportunity to add subtext and really say something, especially with recent social awareness brought on by #MeToo. Tess is held captive and victimized by a man who she liberates herself from. Lena was a popular actress until she got pregnant and was out of work. Some time passed and now Lena is deemed past her prime for Hollywood – something that many talented actresses face. Mix in a sleazy producer who wants special “favors” from Lena or he won’t allow her in his next big movie and now you have the perfect setting for a mother/daughter duo who kick ass. Lena learns from her daughter how to be independent and stand up for herself, while Tess learns compassion through her mother’s love. Before long Tess’ murderous streak get the better of her and Lena is forced to confront her newly discovered daughter.

With this issue aside, “Reborn” had some great direction from veteran director Julian Richards (“Dark Lands”, “The Last Horror Movie”, “Summer Scars”) and phenomenal performances from Gilbert and Crampton – of course. It’s no wonder “Reborn” took home awards for best directing and best feature at several film feativals including; Fantasporto, Mad Monster Party, Horror Hotel and Festival of Fear among several others.

If a modern take on “Carrie” sounds like something you’re interested in, by all means check it out! “Reborn” is currently available on BLU-RAY, DVD and VOD from the fine people at Jinga Films.


★ ★ ★

"A stillborn baby girl is abducted by a morgue attendant and brought back to life by electrokinetic power. On her 16th birthday, she escapes captivity and sets out to find her birth mother, leaving a trail of destruction behind her. "