[30 November 2009]
Reborn is the sequel to the 2006 direct-to-DVD film Machined and it follows the same basic plot of that first film. Newlyweds Cade and Jess have a minor falling out over Cade’s decision to risk their future by purchasing a junkyard in the middle of the Arizona desert. He believes that they’ll be able to sell it for a large profit someday, making it well worth quitting his high-paying job and selling their home in the present. Jess is less than thrilled at the prospect of living in a tiny trailer in the center of a dump, but loves Cade enough to go along with a plan she thinks is foolish.
Jess’ apprehension is validated within the first few days of junkyard life. Cade’s clumsiness and bad luck lead to him injuring his arm and other mishaps, making the prospect of them turning the junkyard into a profitable venture even bleaker. Enter “Motorman Dan,” the mastermind behind the carnage in Machined, who kidnaps and mutilates Jess and instructs Cade that he’ll have to kill anyone that comes onto the property if he wants to save her life.
Cade’s first confrontation with a trio of burglars doesn’t go very well; he’s shot in the face as the men escape. Dan stops him before he can commit suicide and attaches an imposing metallic suit of armor onto him, turning Cade into a scrap-metal Frankenstein’s monster. Newly-metallic Cade looks like something from the cover of a Judas Priest album, but is now better equipped to dispatch with any intruders.
As expected, a seemingly endless supply of intruders show up in easily handled groups of two, giving voyeur Dan a constant stream of entertainment as Cade hones his homicide and torture skills on the hapless victims. Unbeknownst to them, Dan and Cade have an ally in their crimes in the form of the ghost of Lisa, a victim from Machined, who is haunting the junkyard and inexplicably leads victims right into the villains’ traps.
Infuriated that someone would sell the property where her sister was murdered, Lisa’s sister Teresa travels to the junkyard to inform the new owners of the horrible crimes that were committed there. Naturally, she and her two companions are simply running headlong into Motorman Dan’s killing fields. Teresa proves to be an exemplary “final girl”, exhibiting a resilience and bravery well beyond any of the film’s other characters. Reborn doesn’t grant her revenge, however, stopping the film at a point that precludes such and leaves ample room for another sequel.
Reborn better fits the label “torture porn” than even the films typically associated with the term. The film lacks heroes other than Dan and Cade, and Cade is the only character for which the film attempts to generate sympathy. Films like Hostel, et al., have main characters that aren’t marauding killers thereby giving the audience a chance to identify with someone on the right side of the film’s moral dilemma. Reborn offers no such “good guy.”
The waves of victims that are inexplicably drawn to the junkyard are two-dimensional sketches that announce their impending victimhood when they arrive on screen. The viewer is neither surprised nor moved by their deaths since their sympathy already lies with Cade. Reborn is particularly unsettling because it is structured so that viewers are guided to hope that the villains are successful in their campaign of murder and torture rather than the potential victims escape.
If one ignores these overt messages in the film and explores some of the more subtle, perhaps unintentional, concepts at work in Reborn it becomes an exponentially more interesting film. Dan forces Cade to kill for his amusement while monitoring the events through the use of security cameras. The film offers an oblique criticism of horror cinema viewership in this regard. The differences between Dan and someone watching Reborn are practically non-existent. Both are hoping that Cade will murder, maim and torture in spectacular fashion for their enjoyment while they hide behind the safety of the television screen.
By acknowledging that it is Dan who is ultimately responsible for the victim’s deaths, Reborn assigns a measure of culpability to the horror film viewer, placing them on essentially the same moral level as a serial killer. It is an interesting take on the torture porn genre but one that, if intentional, Reborn unfortunately doesn’t do much with.
The DVDs’ lone special feature is a collection of interviews that give the impression that the entire cast took the film far too seriously with the exception of the wisecracking David C. Hayes, who doesn’t appear to be all that dissimilar from his character Motorman Dan. Call it “torture porn”, “gorenography” or some other variation, but Reborn has little reason for existence apart from showing people – most often women – subjected to brutality.
Filmmaker Craig McMahon handled every aspect of the filming on his own and the film is surprisingly well realized for something that is little more than an exercise in special effects. Reborn fails to be entertaining or engaging and will have little to no use for viewers save those who are simply looking to sate their cinematic bloodlust.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/116289-reborn/