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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Reborn

August 31, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #521: Reborn


Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Review Marathon: Week 1

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that suspects that actor Michael Pare is a pretty cool guy but really has no idea because he’s never met Michael Pare, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and twenty-one, I begin a five week special series of reviews based on movies I saw at the 2019 Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival. In the first review, I take a look at the all-star horror flick Reborn, starring Barbara Crampton, Michael Pare, Rae Dawn Chong, Chaz Bono, and featuring Peter Bogdanovich.



Reborn, directed by Julian Richards, is a lean and mean horror flick that, while not all that original, it knows exactly what it wants to do, does it well, and doesn’t waste any goddamn time getting to where it wants to go. When I first heard about this movie and saw the cast list, I figured that the listed stars would be in the movie for like five seconds, doing cameos at best. The reality is that Crampton, Pare, Chong, and Bono play actual parts and are actually in the movie, which gives it an extra bit of pizzazz (yes, I just said pizzazz). And they all do a good job, too. It doesn’t appear as though this is just a paycheck because they all had openings in their schedules.

Reborn stars Kayleigh Gilbert as Tess Stern, a troubled young woman with a mysterious past. She knows that the people she lives with are not her “real” family, but, at the same time, those people refuse to tell her who she really is and where she comes from. While confronting her sort of step brother Ken (Chaz Bono) about his now failed promise to reveal all about her past, she runs off into a part of the house she isn’t supposed to go in (Ken’s room, where he has pictures of dead bodies from the morgue. See, Ken works at the morgue and, when he isn’t doing his actual job there, he’s taking pictures of the various bodies brought in for autopsies and whatnot. It was in that morgue sixteen years ago that Ken discovered Tess as a presumed born stillborn baby who was brought back to life by an electrical storm). While in Ken’s room, she removes a weird bracelet she’s been wearing for years, and comes face to face with Ken, who is obviously pissed that she’s in his room, fucking around with his pictures. He attacks her and, in the ensuing scuffle, Tess somehow manipulates the room’s electricity and kills Ken by transforming his hearing aid into a grenade (she causes his right eye to explode). Tess then finds an old ID tag from the morgue and discovers her birth mother’s name.

And who is Tess’s birth mother? It’s Lena O’Neill (Barbara Crampton), a down on her luck B-movie actress who is trying to make a comeback. With the help of her agent Dory Rider (Rae Dawn Chong), Lena hopes to get a starring role in an upcoming movie for noted director Peter Bogdanovich, and she’s nervous about her chances. Outside of teaching acting, Lena hasn’t been in the game for several years and she doesn’t know if she still has it. She talks with her therapist (Dr. Hetch, as played by Monte Markham) about her life, her career, and the ongoing nightmares she has about the time she gave birth and the baby died. Hetch tells Lena that she needs to confront her issues head on and visit the grave of her dead baby, something she’s never done. Lena is hesitant to do anything like that, but she also trusts her therapist’s advice. How is she going to move on if she can’t confront what happened so many years ago?

Now, while all of that is going on, Detective Marc Fox (Michael Pare) is investigating a series of strange murders. Just what the heck happened to Ken Stern and his mother? And where did the young girl, Tess, that apparently lived with Ken, go? And what does any of this have to do with Lena O’Neill? Detective Fox questions Lena, to find out what she knows and to see if she is, indeed, involved in all of this. Lena cooperates, but at the same time she’s already enough pressure. She doesn’t need to worry about a police investigation, too.

And while all of that is going on, Lena goes to the hospital to find out where her baby was buried. When she gets there, Lena finds out that the hospital really doesn’t know where her baby is. Was it buried? Was it “saved” and placed in one of the many jars that seem to be everywhere? Just what happened?

Of course, we know that Tess is Lena’s daughter, she wasn’t buried or preserved in a jar for later examination or medical experiments or whatever the hell it is they do at this hospital/morgue/clinic, and that Tess has weird supernatural powers (basically, she can control electricity). Tess is also super pissed off about everything. She eventually tracks down Lena and decides to be a part of her acting class, mostly to see what kind of woman Lena is and if she recognizes her. Their first encounter is heartbreaking, as Tess and the audience know who Lena is, but Lena has no clue about what Tess really is. She appears to be just another young actor looking to hone her skills and learn from a professional.

And so Tess and Lena sort of become close, although, again, Lena has no idea who Tess is. And Tess, still pissed, starts using her abilities on the people who get in her way/get in Lena’s way/unknowingly fuck up her budding relationship with Lena. Tess will take out anyone that she deems a threat. Anyone. And Detective Fox thinks he knows what the hell is really going on. His suspicions, at first, sound ridiculous, but the evidence for them keep piling up. Why do all of these people keep dying around electrical disturbances? That can’t be a coincidence, can it?

Since we know what’s going on at all times in Reborn, there are no real surprises to be had, at least in terms of the plot. We know who everyone is, we know everyone’s motivation, and we know that the movie is likely to end one of two ways, either Tess is going to end up killing everyone with her supernatural abilities, or Lena and or Detective Fox are going to stop her. I won’t say how it ends, but at the same time I will say that it ends the way I thought it would. Reborn isn’t interested in throwing the audience a curveball at the end. The movie isn’t interested in being anything more or less than what it is: a slick, well made, lean and mean horror flick. That fact may alienate some people hoping for a big twist at the end, but I love that Reborn is more interested in being well made and well-acted as opposed to innovative or new. Truthfully, novelty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes, the best thing to do is what’s expected.

Reborn features a nice mix of up close and personal kill scenes and big set pieces, one involving an elevator (if you’re leery of elevators in general you will see your worst nightmare played out here). The electricity manipulation scenes aren’t overdone and are, at times, unnerving. The movie starts out with some fairly gross practical special effects (an exposed human brain is a highlight) and then, as far as I can tell, uses CGI for the majority of the movie. The CGI doesn’t look cheap, except for the first big deal CGI effect. Doing this effect practically would have looked great, sure, but if it had been done that way it likely would have taken forever to film, so the CGI here, even if it isn’t as smooth as it should be, is okay. The scene doesn’t kill the movie.

The best jump scare scene in the movie involves a parking garage and a car that Tess can operate with her mind (the car has a battery in it, and batteries use electricity, so there you go). There’s also a pretty cool sequence where Tess takes out a utility pole.

So how did a lightning strike cause a stillborn baby come to life, and how does that strike allow someone like Tess to manipulate electricity? The movie never bothers to explain. It’s just something that happens. Detective Fox doesn’t believe it at first, but, as the evidence piles up, it’s the only conclusion that makes sense. I usually get annoyed when there isn’t some attempt at an explanation for a person’s supernatural abilities. It doesn’t matter if it’s plausible, just as long as there’s a “perhaps this is why this happened” moment of explanation. Reborn just expects you to accept that Tess developed these abilities because of the lightning strike and that’s it. For whatever reason, that approach just makes sense here. It doesn’t matter why it’s happening, it’s just happening. Let’s see how Lena and Detective Fox handle it.

Barbara Crampton does a great job as Lena O’Neill. You totally accept her as a B-movie actress trying to make a comeback (Crampton is a modern horror icon, so it’s not hard to see her as someone like that. Plus, there’s a poster of From Beyond in the background of one scene and that just helps things along). We also get to see Crampton go through a series of emotions as she works with her therapist about her past and, when she realizes what’s going on when it comes to Tess, and it’s all very believable. Crampton isn’t phoning this one in, she’s a major part of the story, and that’s just awesome.

Kayleigh Gilbert is terrific as Tess, the troubled young woman with supernatural abilities. Gilbert manages to be both sympathetic and heinous, sometimes in the same sequence, and that’s difficult to do. Her costuming may be a little too cliché (Tess isn’t Goth but she’s, I guess, Goth adjacent. I know that helps solidify who she is and what she’s about visually, as no one else in the movie is dressed like that, but I think it would have been more interesting to see her in more “normal” attire. It might have been scarier to have her look like everyone else in the movie, that way she can blend in better with the crowd). It will be interesting to see if this role leads to more horror movie work for Gilbert. She has the chops to be a horror star if she wants to be.

Rae Dawn Chong is excellent as Lena’s agent Dory Rider. Chong knows how to straddle the line between being truly supportive of her client and friend and just being in it for the money and it’s her job and all that. Chong also gives Rider a real sense of over importance, which is how I’d imagine most people view Hollywood agents and managers. I was shocked by the way Tess deals with her.

Michael Pare does his usual solid job as Detective Marc Fox. He’s a cop, he’s a quiet badass, and Pare knows how to play that character and make you care even if you’ve seen it from him a million times before (maybe not the cop part but definitely the quiet badass part). His crush on Lena is also a nifty little wrinkle. It isn’t in the story so Lena and Fox can end up together as lovers, but it gives you a little insight into how Detective Fox might be a quiet badass and cynical because he works in Hollywood and she’s seen it all, but he can be a little starstruck, too, in the right moment.

And then there’s Chaz Bono. He’s amazing here. He absolutely no problem making his Ken character the sleaziest guy in the whole world. Sure, you might want to feel sympathy for him because he has a hearing issue and often has to recalibrate his hearing aid, but he’s also a guy that likes to violate dead bodies in the morgue so he can take pictures of them (does he sell them to people? Are the pictures simply for his own amusement? He probably does both, and that should make your skin crawl). Ken is also a guy that wants to rape his step sister. That’s just horrendous. Bono has appeared on American Horror Story and has a bit part in the upcoming Rob Zombie movie 3 from Hell. Is Bono trying to become a reliable modern horror actor? If he is, after seeing him in Reborn, I’m all for it.

And Peter Bogdanovich? I hope the eventual DVD has a special feature on it explaining how he got involved with this, as it doesn’t seem like something he would do at this stage of his career. He isn’t in it for very long, but he is in it, and that’s just cool as hell.

Reborn isn’t anything anyone hasn’t seen a million times before. There’s nothing particularly new or novel going on here. Reborn is, instead, a solid, well-made horror flick with a great cast doing damn good work. Sometimes that’s all the world really needs, a well told tale. I liked Reborn quite a bit. When it gets released (and I believe it is getting some sort of release soon, either home video and or Video on Demand), see it. It’s definitely worth your time.

See Reborn. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 7, unless you decide to count the ones in the morgue, too, but I can’t venture to guess how many that is.

Explosions: Multiple small ones.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: An autopsy, top of the head removal with exposed human brain, photography, lightning strike, dinner, bracelet cutting, attempted rape, exploding hearing aide, exploding human eye, a very dead old woman, therapy hooey, death via elevator, acting class hooey, multiple nightmare flashbacks, parking garage hooey, car attack, a graveyard conversation, a parking lot confrontation, Tiger Claw attack, exploding utility pole, exploding power box in the basement, baseball bat hooey, exploding light fixtures, a shocking graveyard encounter, and a sweet ending.

Kim Richards?: Off screen, yes.

Gratuitous: Chaz Bono, opening credits over a human fetus being formed, “and Chaz Bono,” Rae Dawn Chong, Barbara Crampton, Michael Pare, Michael Pare as a cop, Michael Pare putting on rubber gloves, Barbara Crampton teaching an acting class, babies in jars, impromptu makeup session, a From Beyond poster on the wall, Barbara Crampton explaining her character’s backstory, “Take an Uber. I don’t want to take an Uber,” Tiger Claw to the head, Barbara Crampton wielding a baseball bat, an obvious homage to a mega famous horror movie, and Peter Bogdanovich.

Best lines: “Are you sleeping?,” “It’s my birthday,” “Don’t worry. I’m method,” “She’s not as good as she thinks she is,” “You have to let yourself grieve, Lena,” “Post-partum is more than just not feeling well,” “You will find my daughter’s body or I will sue you!,” “I did that. And that,” “Oh, Lena O’Neill!,” “I’m not an actress,” “Miss O’Neill, you were really good in Little Big Town,” “Congratulations, Lena, it’s a girl!,” “Do you like my shirt? I got it on Melrose,” “Please, I just need to get this done,” “You had an abortion?,” “So unprofessional. I guess that’s why she never made it,” “Don’t mess with me,” “Mom, are you there?,” and “I don’t need help, I just need you!”

Rating: 8.5/10.0


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Things to Watch Out For


Godzilla: King of the Monsters: This is the big hooha sequel to the simply okay 2014 Godzilla and, for the most part, it’s better. It’s not much better, but I found it more entertaining than the 2014 one. The human stories were more engaging (Ken Watanabe rocked in this), and there was more Godzilla and monster fighting in general, which is what I came to see. This movie didn’t blow up the box office like it was expected to, at least in North America (I’d suspect it made decent money overseas but I’m way too lazy at the moment to look that shit up), and it will be interesting to see how this all figures into the eventual release of King Kong vs. Godzilla. Will Warner Bros. retool the fuck out of the “vs.” movie or will it just tweak it a bit? I guess we’ll find out soon enough. I liked this, didn’t love it, and I am looking forward to King Kong vs. Godzilla.


The Brink: This is a new action flick from director Jonathan Li, making his debut behind the camera after a successful career as an assistant director on such movies as Infernal Affairs III, Dog Bite Dog, and Full Strike, among others. The Brink is about a badass rogue cop taking on a smuggler of some sort, and the movie involves a big fight on a cruise ship (perhaps that’s the finale?). The movie is getting a release here via the fine folks at Well Go USA, and you know, with that company’s involvement, at least the home video presentation will be good. Anyone out there see The Brink? Anyone at all?


The Banana Splits Movie: I’m still not completely onboard with the idea of turning a beloved children’s program from the 1970’s into a sort of gory slasher movie. I still think it would have been better to make the movie’s villains resemble the Banana Splits instead of making them the actual Banana Splits. This horror flick has been getting some good to decent reviews, and, again, while I’m not totally onboard with it, I’m willing to check it out anyway. For all I know this movie actually rocks. So, sure, I’m going to see it eventually. I don’t know when but I will. Anyone out there see this yet?


Hell Comes to Frogtown: This, of course, is the cult sci-fi classic starring Rowdy Roddy Piper in one of his first movie roles. I haven’t seen it in years, and I’d say it’s about damn time that someone put out a kick ass Blu-ray of the movie that eventually spawned multiple sequels (I saw one of those, Part 2, starring Robert Z’Dar). The fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome are behind this release, and it’s chock full of special features. If I manage to get my hands on this at some point, I will definitely review it (I’ve been meaning to do a Roddy Piper themed series of reviews. Why not start it off with Hell Comes to Frogtown?). And, heck, if this release is a success, perhaps Vinegar Syndrome will get the chance to release the others (Frogtown II, Toad Warrior, and Max Hell Frog Warrior).


The Widow’s Point teaser trailer is here!

And please check out my Widow’s Point set report here!



Next Issue: The Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Review Marathon continues with The Final Interview!


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.


Barbara Crampton– Lena O’Neill
Kayleigh Gilbert– Tess Stern
Rae Dawn Chong– Dory Rider
Michael Pare– Detective Marc Fox
Chaz Bono– Ken Stern
Monte Markham– Dr. Hetch

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Julian Richards
Screenplay by Michael Mahin

Produced by New Normal Productions

Not Rated
Runtime– 80 minutes