Ken (Chaz Bono) is a sexy but deranged diener (the technical term for an employee at a morgue–not a lazy pun, I googled it) who inadvertently reanimates a baby that died in the womb. (Don’t expect logic here, just go with it.) He decides to take the infant home and raise her as his sister, naming her Tess. Cut to Tess (Kayleigh Gilbert) turning sixteen, fleeing her creepy, abusive keeper and his mummified mother, and seeking out her birth mother. Meanwhile, said mother Lena (scream queen Barbara Crampton) is an actress teaching acting to others and trying to reanimate her career. When Tess finds her, Lena takes her for a student, and they bond. However, Tess is pretty cavalier about electro-killing anyone who crosses Lena, and Detective Marc (Michael Paré) has keen eyes on the case.
I came across this movie while browsing new additions on Hoopla, a streaming service through my library. I decided to watch it after discovering the double whammy of Crampton and Rae Dawn Chong, one of my faves–I had just been wondering where she went. I figured it would be a stinky dumpster fire, going by the synopsis: “A stillborn baby girl is abducted by a morgue attendant and brought back to life by electro-kinetic power.” Indeed, the film has its weak points in addition to the ludicrous premise: bad special effects, random theft from more powerful movies like Psycho and Carrie, not enough Rae Dawn Chong. The characters aside from Tess and Lena are flatly one-dimensional, especially the ones who piss them off.
However, I found a lot to like. Aside from the obligatory horror movie body count, there’s a lot of character development for Tess and Lena. Tess is played skillfully by Gilbert–she’s a delightful mix of campy and creepy. Given the abuse that Tess suffered, her yearning to be loved and accepted (and her adorable, winning smile) make it possible to empathize with her. Lena is the real focus of the movie. A major theme (yes, it has themes!) is rebirth, and Lena is fighting to prove herself. She’s overcoming the lifelong habit of repressing her emotions and guilt from her past to move on with her life.
This movie could totally have been a groundbreaking genre-bender. One of my great film loves after horror is the dramedy about a quirky family getting its shit together, like This is Where I Leave You, The Hollars, and The Family Fang. (It is a very white genre, I’m afraid.) Imagine Ken as less horrifying and an actual big brother to Tess; he’s the lone wolf who still lives at home with their mother. Let’s say she’s played by Margo Martindale and not a dummy. She passes away, and Tess and Ken go on a journey to find her birth mother. Cut to Lena and her agent/wife Dory (Rae Dawn Chong). Lena is forced to confront the guilt she feels about her past mistakes, and the comedy/horror aspect comes in when Tess’s whole family comes together to teach her to control her temper. I’d watch it.
Anywho, I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for a chick flick with poorly executed electricity-related deaths. Or just watch the trailer, it spoils literally the entire movie.