Review: Birth/Rebirth is an intimate and small-scale genre entry that finds strength in its focus on the relationships between the three main characters. Laura Moss’s direction elevates a film that is both ambitious and delightfully weird.
In the dimly lit history of the horror genre, where the echoes of Frankenstein’s legacy persist, director Laura Moss emerged with a chilling and intimate spin on the classic source material, Birth/Rebirth. Streaming on Shudder, this unsettling exploration of life and death, and the ghastly spaces in between is a unique riff on Mary Shelley’s classic tale, weaving a narrative that is simultaneously sincere, thoughtful, and deeply disturbing.
The emotional core of the story revolves around Celie, portrayed with haunting vulnerability by Judy Reyes, a single mother grappling with the profound loss of her daughter, Lila (A.J. Lister). In a stroke of mad science, Dr. Rose Casper, a morgue technician played with eerie detachment by Marin Ireland, reanimates Lila’s corpse. What follows is a deeply unsettling journey into themes of mortality, and the moral gray areas that often accompanies scientific pursuit.
Moss’s directorial debut, while relatively lean with a 98-minute runtime, packs a punch with its commitment to exploring the emotional ramifications of loss and the desperate measures one might take to fill the void left by death. The narrative hinges on Celie’s grief and Dr. Casper’s lack thereof, effectively using both as the emotional engine that propels the story forward. The sincerity with which the film tackles themes of motherhood and trauma adds a layer of complexity to the horror, elevating it beyond mere shock value and grotesque imagery.
The director’s understanding of the horror genre is evident in the deeply unsettling design scattered throughout the film. Laura Moss doesn’t shy away from crafting moments that linger in the viewer’s mind, evoking a sense of discomfort and fascination simultaneously. The scares, though few, are well-executed, relying on psychological unease rather than cheap thrills.
Birth/Rebirth is an intimate and small-scale genre entry that finds strength in its focus on the relationships between the three main characters. Dr. Rose Casper’s preference for the company of cadavers over the living is portrayed with a nuanced touch, revealing a character with a slightly empathetic side buried deep within layers and layers of her personality. Moss excels in creating an atmosphere that is both unnerving and contemplative, inviting the audience to question the moral implications of Dr. Casper’s actions.
However, the film takes an unexpected detour in its second half, diverging from the tightly woven thriller that revolves around the central trio. As Celie, a maternity nurse, is thrust into a quest to collect biological material from her pregnant patients to sustain her reanimated daughter, the narrative takes a jarring turn. This shift transforms the film into a different beast altogether, severing the close-knit ties that initially anchored the story.
One of the film’s challenges lies in its request for a suspension of disbelief, particularly regarding the process of bringing Lila back to life. Dr. Casper’s methods are shrouded in mystery, taking place mostly off-camera and between scenes. This intentional opacity leaves the audience with a reanimated human but minimal understanding of the motives and technical aspects involved. While the film’s ambition is commendable and focus is elsewhere, the lack of clarity in this crucial aspect leaves certain narrative threads dangling.
Reviews for Movies like Birth/Rebirth (2023)
Nevertheless, Birth/Rebirth is an array of intriguing ideas and disturbing moments. Laura Moss’s direction, coupled with Chananun Chotrungroj‘s evocative cinematography and Ariel Marx’s skeletal, dreary score, crafts a film that is both ambitious and delightfully weird. The film, though a somewhat mixed bag at times, offers high highs that will resonate with those who appreciate horror as a genre that can push boundaries and challenge norms.
As the narrative hurtles towards its conclusion, there is a sense of uncertainty in how to satisfactorily land the punch it promises. The film, in its finale, appears to whimper rather than finish strong, leaving questions lingering in the air. Despite this, Birth/Rebirth is still an intriguing addition to the horror landscape, showcasing a new director’s potential and a willingness to explore the fringes of fear and morality.
Birth/Rebirth is surely an interesting journey, with moments of brilliance and a few dissonant notes. Its unsettling highs, coupled with Moss’s intimate directorial touch, make it a horror experience worth the experience for fans of the genre.
Watch Birth/Rebirth on Shudder and VOD
Film Cast and Credits
Marin Ireland as Dr. Rose Casper
Judy Reyes as Celie Morales
A.J. Lister as Lila Morales
Breeda Wool as Emily Parker
Monique Gabriela as Rita
Director: Laura Moss
Cinematography: Chananun Chotrungroj
Editor: Taylor Mason
Composer: Ariel Marx