- Movie Rating -

Birth\Rebirth (2023)

| August 26, 2023

About halfway through the horror-thriller Birth/Rebirth, I knew that I wanted to shake the hand of writer/director Laura Moss and her co-screenwriter Brenden O’Brien, not because I thought that I was seeing any kind of a masterpiece, but because it was nice to finally see at least one new horror movie that wasn’t lazy or riding on forgettable supernatural hoo-ha.  This is a movie very much about body horror but it does so through a smart screenplay that uses medical science to build its story.  Given the sapping of creativity of the genre as of late, this movie was a breath of fresh air.

The movie is grounded, sort-of in reality.  It’s a remolding of the Frankenstein legend with a 21st century sensibility, and has been rumored to be excessively gory.  That’s true in part.  Yes, it is gory but not in a exploitive way, more along the lines of what someone might see while working in a hospital.  The movie focus on Celie (Judy Reyes), a maternity ward nurse and single parent who’s adorable six-year-old daughter Lila (A.J. Lister) dies suddenly of bacterial meningitis.  Celie’s response surprised me.  Instead of screaming in torment, she walls up her grief behind a mask of confusion and sorrow almost as if she’s been through this before (the movie doesn’t tell you that, but it is indicated).

Problem: Lila’s body goes missing.  Further, on the way out of the hospital the day before, Celie passed by a woman stuffing a large suitcase into the back of her car.  This coupled with the news that she had wanted to see her child’s body in the morgue only to be told by the attendant that they didn’t have it.
Furious, Celie tracks down Rose, the pathologist in charge to get some answers, and discovers a surprising development: Rose has Celie’s body in her apartment hooked up to machines to conduct an experiment in reanimating the dead.

What I can say at this point has been spoiled by others, but I won’t be the one to ruin things for you.  What develops between Rose and Celie is not exactly what we expect.  The process of keeping Lila alive (as well as the female pig that Rose has been using as her first test subject) get tricky, messy and certainly illegal.  What we are forced into are questions of morality.  What would we do?  What choices would we make?  Would we do what Celie does?  And what are the morals of Rose’s experiments?

Those questions are wrapped up in a movie that isn’t really about much more than itself, there aren’t many character details to parse out.  This is a pliable thriller that draws you in and questions what you would do.  And yes, its is bloody and gory but not in an exploitive way, it feels more like a medical textbook.  The horror comes from what Rose is doing and to what Celie must do in response.  This is a good thriller, a competent thriller that doesn’t insult your intelligence.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2023) View IMDB Filed in: Documentary