DECEMBER 13, 2009
As I pointed out in yesterday's review, Reborn is actually a sequel to Machined, a fairly terrible film that Lionsgate was right to try to disassociate itself from. I don’t often like to watch two films from a series back to back for the first time, but Lionsgate’s bait and switch forced my hand - I never would have rented Reborn in the first place if I knew it was a sequel to an unseen film. That’s just not how I roll, dammit.
Well the good news is, it’s a slightly better film than Machined, and seeing it back to back with the lesser film probably helped me notice that. Had it been a year (and 365+ movies) in between, I might not have noticed the improvements so readily. For example, it’s still shot on digital, but it’s far more professional looking than whatever the fuck they used for the first film. And Craig McMahon (once again taking on nearly every behind the scenes job himself) has also gotten a little more interesting as a shooter/editor - some of the scenes even approach basic suspense, such as when the killer robot thing is being “stalked” by a pair of cops.
However, he seems to have gotten worse as a storyteller. Reborn is essentially a remake of the first film (Motorman Dan even comes back, despite dying in the first film - no effort is made to explain his reappearance), with an endless series of people stopping by this junkyard and getting killed 4-5 minutes later. But he’s added a few things to the mix, none of which make any goddamn sense. First off, the place now appears to be haunted as well, with our heroine seeing J-horror type apparitions every now and then (and getting momentarily fondled by one, apparently). And the robot thing staples a woman’s scalp to his head for reasons I never quite understood; I thought it was going to be a series of moments where he would attach a body part from his newest victim over his robot shell, but nope. He just has a ladywig.
And instead of breaking down, our protagonists discover the place because... they bought it. Our hero blindfolds his wife and brings her there, and then he’s like “it’s ours!”. When she protests living there, he informs her that he let the lease on their apartment expire. She then brings up the commute, and he tells her that he quit his engineer job in order to run an auto shop (he’s not trained for that, by the way) in the middle of the desert. So we are dealing with who is undoubtedly the dumbest fucking hero ever created for a movie (not to mention a REALLY shitty husband). Of course, he’s dead/robotic 20 minutes later, so at least he doesn’t have to talk anymore, but still, how the fuck are we supposed to care about a guy so wholly idiotic? He makes the average F13 victim look like a Mensa candidate.
He also fails to bring audiences up to speed about the events in the first film (which makes Lionsgate’s retitling all the more frustrating). The murders are vaguely mentioned enough to be annoying, and again, they don’t explain how Dan came back to life. Which he must have done, because if he WAS alive, why isn’t he in jail? And where was he when the real estate people were showing the hero guy around before he bought it? Way to inspect the property, douches. Plus, one actor returns, but he’s not playing the same character, which I only learned from the IMDb as it’s hard to catch any of the character’s names since they’re all killed within minutes of their introduction.
I also began to wonder how Motorman Dan’s robot men survive. They are pretty fucked up when they are put in the suit, but they are then unable to eat or drink anything on top of that. So what sustains them? And their brain function is still intact, so they must have some bodily functions going on, right? What the hell?
The movie also has the strangest cutaway I’ve ever seen. Prior to becoming a killer robot, our idiot hero has gotten his arm caught in some machinery. His wife is working to get him out, and then all of a sudden it just fades to black. When it comes back, they are in the hospital and his arm is bandaged. What the hell? In fact, the movie as a whole has a bit of an overabundance of fadeouts; McMahon utilizes them at least once in pretty much in every scene (sometimes you’ll get 2-3 in a single scene/minute). If he would just slam cut to black and then bring the image back, maybe the movie would actually run the 80 minutes it was advertised as, instead of 86 (either way, its thankfully shorter than the original).
We also get an extra feature this time, a brief making of where the actors talk about their roles (I learn far more about them here than in the film) and the difficulties of shooting certain scenes. Oddly, McMahon doesn’t appear at all in the piece, which is pretty baffling as he was responsible for every facet of the film’s production. Maybe he was tired. Or the one shooting the interviews with the actors. Either way, if you’re looking to get into the head of this guy (who is surprisingly prolific, churning out a film a year), the DVD won’t help you in any meaningful way.
So if you absolutely MUST watch one of the films, I’d go with Reborn. The back of the DVD sort of helps clarify the events of the first film that are alluded to several times in the movie, and trust me, even if you DO see the first one, it doesn’t make this one any more coherent. But it’s slightly more professional looking (the score is much improved too!) and ten minutes shorter, so it has the edge.
What say you?