Claire (Ashley James) hasn’t had the best fortune as of late. After the discovery of her boyfriend of three years’ infidelity she decides to pack up her life and travel across country to her home in Chicago from the superficial world of LA. Along the way she faces several anxieties and everything begins to go horribly wrong for her.
**WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS**
Firstly, her phone mysteriously vanishes then she experiences car trouble, breaking down in a desolate area. She is then led into a remote town where a socially awkward mechanic named Eddie (Mark Scheibmeir) reluctantly offers his assistance to fix her car. Events take a turn for the bizarre in what becomes a cat and mouse game for Claire, will she be able to move on from her desperate and lonely situation or is her fate set to be worse than she ever imagined?
Rebound is the first feature film from writer/director Megan Freels Johnston. More female-centric horror created by women is something I’m definitely on board with and there’s clear that effort has been put into the film in terms of its production values, however sadly it’s just not very well executed.
One of the main problems Rebound faces is its pacing; the opening moments are enough to draw the audience in, seeking empathy for this woman who has had something absolutely real happen to her, which many can identify with. We are shown several flashbacks from Claire’s point of view of the moment she caught her boyfriend sleeping with another woman. Rather than directing her anger onto the person who actually betrayed her, the focus is on ‘the other woman’; there are lingering, close up shots of her addressing the camera in a menacing way as she has sex with Claire’s boyfriend, it comes across as freaky (anything staring into a camera for a long period of time weirdly gets under my skin!).
An interesting dynamic is brought in highlighting Claire’s insecurities on why he chose this particular woman over her. The issues with the flashback scenes is that they become too repetitive, even after the second one we understand Claire’s plight, that she can’t remove the images out from her mind but it’s as if Freels Johnston uses these scenes as filler rather than to progress the plot because she’s stuck with where to take it next. For a good portion of this film, literally nothing of worth happens. There’s not really an actual story unfolding.
Arguably with many slow-burning horror films the payoff is usually worth the delay in action, Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon being a perfect example, however Rebound just brings us to a typical torture scene which sees Claire boringly tied to a chair and ‘abused’ by a person who has essentially just met her and has no reason to be invested in her problems. It comes across as unintentionally hilarious particularly when the torturer’s motivations are revealed. Some profound feminist statement is attempted to be made but it feels rather forced layered with too many inconsistencies.
There isn’t a whole lot of gore but there is one particular kill that was laugh out loud terrible and unnecessary, coming right out of left field just as things are about to be wrapped up. Ashley James is competent enough, for the majority of the film her performance is decent however when it comes down to any emotional scenes it’s as if she’s trying her hardest to cry or take the material seriously. How is an audience meant to believe in a character when the actress seemingly can’t even convince herself let alone those who are viewing it? Eddie as a character is one dimensional, there is no justification for anything he does, he’s dangerous and we have to just accept that; Mark Scheibmeir portrays him badly as just another hammy, throwaway psychopath.
The key word to describe Rebound would be disappointing.
What starts off with an interesting premise and intriguing build up leads to nowhere and undoubtedly it’s the type of movie you’ve seen all before. The ending is unsatisfying and pretty much annoying considering all that takes place.
With all things considered, I’m not going to completely write-off Megan Freels Johnston, she does have some potentially interesting ideas and does attempt to challenge typical horror conventions e.g. Claire being cautious about getting into a car with a stranger but realizing she has no other choice!
Understandably, Rebound is a low budget indie horror but even so it would benefit with more creative ideas, polished performances and a less bland piano score.
Despite the positivity on Imdb and Rotten Tomatoes, I’d advise going in with caution as essentially this is a shoddy product that lacks experience and imagination.