Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Reborn: Mothers & Daughters, Thunder & Lightning

The foundling discovering their true legacy is a triumphant staple of Victorian literature, but it will not work out that way for Tess Stern. For one thing, her mother did not voluntarily abandon her. B-movie actress Lena O’Neill was told her daughter was stillborn. Yet, somehow Stern survived and developed the scary power to control electricity in Julian Richards’ Reborn, which releases today on DVD.

Creepy morgue attendant Ken Stern discovered Tess was still living, even though O’Neill’s callous doctor had cast her aside like rubbish. He brought her home for his mother to raise—and for him to abuse. Somehow, he figured out her uncanny abilities and fashioned her with an inhibitor, but when she slips out, all heck breaks loose. It is a bit problematic screenwriter Michael Mahin makes such a scummy character hearing-impaired, but it provides a handy method for Tess to dispense payback.

Nearly twenty years later, O’Neill is still grieving the daughter she never properly mourned. Prompted by her shrink, she sets out to find her body for closure, only to discover the hospital cannot properly account for it. Meanwhile, Stern starts looking for her too. As their paths start to cross, Stern meets several people who have done wrong towards her mother, but she is much less forgiving. However, the method of their deaths rather baffles Det. Marc Fox, who is also a bit of a casual O’Neill fan.

The basic premise of
Reborn is pretty standard stuff, but it is elevated by some nifty performances from genre veterans. Barbara Crampton is absolutely terrific as O’Neill, especially in scenes where we see her channeling her emotions into her craft. She also has some subtly turned chemistry with Michael ParĂ©, who makes Fox a surprisingly thoughtful and mature figure, in what could be his best screen performance in years. As a cool bonus, Monte Markham brings commanding genre authority as O’Neill’s analyst, Dr. Hetch.

Kayleigh Gilbert’s squirrely awkwardness as Tess arguably works well within the film’s dramatic context. Rae Dawn Chong also brings a blast from the awesome 80’s past playing O’Neill’s agent with tough-talking conviction. However, Chaz Bono’s bug-eyed, hearing aid-wearing Ken Stern is not exactly a cinematic high-point.

is an uneven film, but Crampton and ParĂ©’s side of the narrative works really well—as do they. Recommended for fans of the distinctive, veteran cast, Reborn releases today (7/14) on DVD.