Reel Reviews | Birth/Rebirth (Sundance ‘23)

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

A guilt-ridden mother and a cold and calculating morgue technician work together to discover whether death is truly the end in the horror/thriller, Birth/Rebirth.

Celie (Judy Reyes) works in the maternity ward of the hospital. She is a dedicated and thoughtful nurse. One morning, her daughter, Lila (A.J. Lister) gets sick and has to stay home from school. Celie gets her neighbor to take care of Lila while she goes off to work. While Celie is working, Lila dies from a case of meningitis in her hospital. Rose (Marin Ireland) works in the morgue of the same hospital. Devastated at the news of her daughter’s death, Celie goes to Rose’s office to claim her daughter’s body only to find it missing. Shockingly, Celie discovers that Rose has found a way to bring her daughter back to life.

Written by Brendan O’Brien and Laura Moss, Birth/Rebirth stars Lister, Reyes, and Ireland in a dark tale about overcoming fear and death. The film is directed by Laura Moss.

Birth/Rebirth is billed as a horror film but it lacks an amount of gore and/or violence to really qualify it for such a designation. The film is definitely chilling and has some really interestingly placed moments of gruesomeness but it does not attempt to gross the viewers out. Nor does it employ the jump scares that are almost requisite for a horror film. Instead, this is more of a thrilling exercise. It is certainly closer to being the female version of Frankenstein than Pet Sematary. But where the Frankenstein monster was kinda cute when it should not have been, the re-animated Lila is not cute even though she should be. (Kudos to A.J. Lister!)

Moss and O’Brien’s screenplay is actually very well composed and the actors are excellent in their roles. Ireland is sufficiently creepy as the cold and calculating scientist struggling to find her answers to the keys to life and death. Reyes is perfect as a single mother who is desperately struggling just to be a mother again.
Separated by their work and their floors, the two women are brought together in a strange and tenuous union while working together on a common goal.

Is the film scary? Yes and no. It is more the psychological type of thriller that encapsulates the viewers of this film. It certainly had the ability to be so much gorier and thankfully it was not. In fact, the one autopsy scene in the film seemed more perfunctory than anything else.

Birth/Rebirth is a sad story about obsessions and how they can take over your life. All credits go to Ireland and Reyes who magnificently bring this story to life.

Grade: B-