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Birth/Rebirth (2023)

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I saved this for the end of the month. Not out of anticipation, more avoidance really. I had no idea what it was about and frankly, it sounded a bit sloppy for my liking. Just the title conjures up my least favourite word - discharge. "she was suffering from a leaky discharge". Eew.

"Just think of it as taking a big shit."

This Shudder Sundance selection and Boston Film Festival winner stars Judy Reyes (doomed to be typecast as a hospital worker forever) as a midwife, Celie, and Marin Ireland as a morgue technician, Rose, who succeeds in reanimating the corpse of Celie's little girl, but not without consequence.

So, with my constitution suitably prepared and bucket kept handy, I have to say that this ended up being much better than my admittedly transient expectations suggested. Yes, there is some blood, meat and gristle involved but as they often say, your imagination is usually much worse than the reality. So much so here too.

Given this heavily female-centric story (not a misogynist, just not seen any pregnant men lately) this comes across as more clinical and less emotional than I would have imagined. Little is made of the girl's death, for example. It makes sense if she's coming back to life, of course, but Celie didn't know that at the time. So when these two become properly acquainted, it's in the home of Rose, where the two of them care for Frankenstein's latest (not to mention youngest) progeny.

Given the previous sentence, it's perhaps hard to describe this as innovative, but it still is. A fresh approach to modern horror, certainly, which never relies on a jump scare to make you uncomfortable. Merely the idea itself is unpalatable enough. This goes beyond malevolence and bloodlust, resorting to biological unnaturalness to scare you morally much more than viscerally, dealing liberally with the type of subject matter that would make a gravedigger blush.

The casting is excellent, in Ireland's case especially, as the hollow-eyed morgue technician with all the social skills of someone that's lived underground on their own for a while, relentlessly beavering away at this alleged earth-shattering accomplishment.

The direction is accomplished as is the production design and the performances are all suitably uncomfortable for a most unsavoury story. Reality is always the most frightening thing about horror, after all, as it is unlikely you'll get accosted by the devil anytime soon, but this is frighteningly possible, maybe.

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