Director – Roger Conners
Starring – Roger Conners (Teacher Shortage, New Blood: Awakening), Aswan Harris (Alex Cross, Chain of Command), and Alvin Hudson (Alone, Striving for Excellence)
Release Date – 2020
Rating – 3.5/5
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the original Night of the Living Dead. My first horror memory is watching Savini’s remake of the original and once I finished watching it with my grandmother she showed me the original. This is one of the turning points for me to respect the genre. Over the years I’ve seen several remakes and fan films/parodies based on Night of the Living Dead but very few actually focus on the social commentary that the film delivers. A casual horror fan can see that it’s the film the completely reshaped zombies but some completely ignore the social significance the film has.
A few days ago Michael reviewed Roger Conner’s Rebirth for the site. I had befriended Roger sometime back when he announced his dislike of the site… Anyway, I commented on the review and he reached out to me to check the film out for myself. I’m glad I did because it was fucking fantastic. Thanks Roger!
**spoiler Alert** The film follows Adam (Conners) and his brother as they visit the cemetery to pay some respects to a deceased relative. A quick visit to the cemetery turns deadly when the dead begin attacking the living. Adam’s brother falls to the undead and he flees into the country where he runs into Ben (Harris). The two seek refuge in an old farm house. Once they clear it of the undead they discover that the basement is housing some people who are tring to ride this out. Tensions come to a boil when personal beleifs comes between trying to survive and bigotry. **spoiler Alert**
Some of the remakes I’ve seen, Savini’s included, focus on the story more than the social context of the film. Sure, they have a few parts here and there tossed in but the story is always survivors fighting amongst themselves while the undead struggle to get in. However, Rebirth really does focus on hot issues facing many of us today without sacrificing the horror story.
The acting in this one is absolutely fantastic. Conners not only directs but stars. He replaces the character of Barbara with his Adam and it really works. His Adam really does channel Barbara from the original film and is able to flip it into an openly gay character. He does a fantastic job here and he should be really proud of his performance. Aswan Harris is a solid Ben but, unlike the original film, Ben doesn’t take center of the story. He does a solid job but the character is not the focus of much of the story. The most intense performance comes from Alvin Hudson who portrays Cooper. Much like the original film, Cooper is an asshole and he absolutely nails his performance. His character is so easy to hate and that is the brilliance of his performance.
The story for this one is stays true to the main storyline of the original with survivors in the house. However, it speaks volumes about the closed mindedness and bigotry that we still face even though the original film was released over 50 years ago. Some of the struggles many faced there are still very much real today. Having an openly gay character and a religious zealot side by side during a zombie uprising not only creates tension between the characters, tension that made the original what it is, but it shows just how people can refuse to respect others just because it goes against their beliefs. Conners really told a story here that feels familiar but speaks volumes.
Finally, the film has several instances of blood with some solid practical and make-up effects. With that being said, the zombies have this glowing effect on their eyes that I just didn’t care for. It made them stand out from other zombie flicks but the visuals wasn’t that great. Overall, Rebirth is the best remake of Romero’s masterpiece Night of the Living Dead since Savini took a stab at it in 1990. The story really does have impact, the acting is damn near perfect, and the pacing in the story is fantastic. I could have lived without the visual effects but a movie can’t be perfect. I highly suggest checking this one out.