There have been plenty of films in the past couple of years that have served to tackle the tricky concept of cult-like zealotry. Perhaps most notably, acclaimed writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson addressed the particular aura surrounding the Church of Scientology fictitiously in The Master from 2012, which was followed by a full-fledged documentary on the religion from acclaimed filmmaker Alex Gibney, HBO’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief from 2015.
Enter Rebirth, a brand new psychological-thriller produced for Netflix from writer/director Karl Mueller that stars Joss Whedon regular Fran Kranz (Cabin in the Woods) and frequent character actor Adam Goldberg (Fargo) as a beleaguered suburban father and long lost high school best friend, respectively speaking. When Zack (Goldberg) shows up out of the blue and tells his old buddy Kyle (Kranz) about an exclusive self-actualization program called Rebirth, Kyle’s entire life is soon turned upside down when he enrolls and gets himself into far more than he was initially anticipating.
In the first trailer for Rebirth featured above, Kyle’s life takes a turn for the worse shortly following his induction into the eponymous program initially pitched as a pseudo-spiritual rehabilitation retreat, and must face the consequences of attempting to leave what his fellow enrollees intone vehemently is “Not a cult.” The footage featured is nothing short of disturbing and viscerally thrilling at times, and could very well result in a titillating feature film that might serve to border on being a part of the exploitation sub-genre.
Kranz and Goldberg are enticing enough in their respective roles, but the surrounding movie feels like it may be a little too emotionally manipulative or cliche to attract those who aren’t already interested in the premise. There is certainly no shortage of original feature productions being developed for Netflix of late, but Mueller’s new film still has some work to do to stand out from the pack based purely on first appearances.
With any luck, Rebirth will serve up a highly original and contextually surprising take on cults in the twenty-first century that will surprise even the most jaded movie viewer. For now though, Mueller, Kranz, and Goldberg will have to bring their A-game and then some to the table if they really hope to turn heads when their new movie premieres on Netflix later this week.
Rebirth will premiere on Netflix on July 15, 2016.