Dir. Shreco Bakari (2023)
A family of four finds themselves terrorized on New Years Eve in this reboot of the original indie film.
I'm a big fan of Shreco Bakari, the indie filmmaker from my home state of Georgia who specializes in Black-centered found footage horror. Having reviewed his previous films Maniacal Night and Demoniacal, I knew what I was getting into with this one and was pretty excited. Bakari manages to make extremely realistic found footage horror with next-to-zero budget and a cast of unknown actors, all of whom do a phenomenal job of portraying realistic emotion and showing connections with the other characters as if they were actually family. It's a fantastic thing to see from an indie film, exceedingly rare and helping to make the movies work even better than they otherwise would. Maniacal Night: Reborn, which serves as a soft reboot of the original film, is no different and perhaps even more impressive than his previous two outings.
Mya (Naomi Couch) and her brother Leo (Hassan Goines) are the adopted children of husbands Kayson (Jordon White) and Austin (played by Bakari himself). The quartet are on their way back from Miami after spending the Christmas holidays there and are gathered to celebrate New Year's Eve and the anniversary of the adoption of their kids. Unbeknownst to them, they are about to be stalked by two maniacs who will rip and tear through their family until nothing is left. The family must band together to escape with their lives from two people who are just there to have some fun.
Delivered in a found footage style with some fantastic gore and mask design, Reborn is an excellent indie home invasion thriller that is legitimately scary throughout. The actors do a fantastic job, and while there are times during the actual attack where their emotion is a little less believable, they're on par with some of the best indie acting you'll see from a realistic standpoint. While it's difficult to say that the cinematography was entirely in Bakari's hands, the long takes and the excellent framing of the camera does a phenomenal job of telling the story while upping the scare factor as much as possible.
Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some parts where the film falls short. The behavior of the characters once the attacks begin shows less of a survival instinct than the audience would perhaps hope to see, a consequence of having longer takes and having to maneuver the pieces within a single location without a larger budget that allows for multiple shots and cameras. Reborn feels like a more cohesive version of its predecessor, however, and it manages not to get bogged down in extra storytelling and unnecessary plot (though there is a little bit of this in some of the characters' backstories). The buildup does take forever, with the action only kicking off more than halfway through the film, but the characters are charming and interesting enough that it never feels like its dragging along.
It would be easy for me to see director Shreco Bakari becoming a more influential name in horror. He does a fantastic job with his films, and putting the Black experience on film is so difficult to do without coming across as pandering. He knocks it out of the park, and the inclusion of the LGBT community in the reboot is a surprising and quality choice as well. While I do think his technique as a director and writer could use a little refinement, he's well on his way to becoming a big name in at least the local Georgia horror scene. If you get a chance to check out one of his films, I highly recommend it. As someone who watches a metric fuckton of indie horror, his are some of the more entertaining that I've come across.
Who this movie is for: Home invasion fans, Found footage lovers, Adoptive parents
Bottom line: There's so much to love about Maniacal Night: Reborn, a requel/reboot of Bakari's original found footage indie flick. It's well-acted with fantastic makeup/gore effects, the found footage is done nearly perfectly, and it's definitely a film that I'd love to see get more attention. I enjoyed the original, but the new film is an update on the old in every way. If you get a chance to check out any of Bakari's work, I highly recommend doing so, especially if you're as much of a low-budget indie horror fan as I am.