bout 40 minutes into "Birth Rite", a school
counselor mentions to a student that he knows what she's going through. The
student replies that he has no idea, to which the counselor responds: "I
know it's not the same, but it's similar." Say what now?
By the hour mark our heroine (an 18 year old teen who has
just discovered that she is a witch, and that her adopted father was actually
the one responsible for killing her witch parents) has done these things: slit a
girl's throat, chopped a man's head off with a mirror, seduced her step-brother,
used a toilet as a deadly weapon, then literally ripped another girl apart limb
by limb. But wait -- that's not the interesting part. Having accomplished this
rampage of death and destruction with psychopathic glee, our teen witch meets
her mentor, a warlock who congratulates her. She responds by chastising him with
this immortal line of dialogue: "You'll excuse me if I'm not as cold
hearted as you." Er, aside from a half dozen other gruesome murders, didn't
you also just command a public toilet to literally suck a girl down into
Devin Hamilton, who wrote and directed "Birth
Rite", makes the mistake of not turning his movie into pure camp. Instead,
most of "Rite" is played with a straight face, thus we get endless
minutes of Rebecca (Natalie Sutherland) and Roman (Danny Wolske) talking about
warlocks and witches and blah blah blah. The film is mostly all talk, with Roman
doing all the talking and Rebecca doing all the questioning. The rest is taken
up with lead Sutherland flashing skin; there are also some interesting kill
scenes, with the aforementioned toilet bit being the capper.
The thing about "Birth Rite" is this: it's
actually not that bad, but that doesn't mean it isn't bad, because
it really is a terrible film. Director Hamilton even throws in some camerawork
ala "NYPD Blue" during the opening scene for no apparent reason.
Toward the end of the movie, we get a martial arts battle between Erin (Laura
Nativo), Rebecca's stepsister, and Roman. This battle of skills has got to be
one of the most silly, ridiculous, and poorly constructed fight sequence in the
history of movie fight sequences. It is truly astounding to behold. You must
see it for yourself in order to truly understand just how atrocious it is.
As the lead, Natalie Sutherland is either too old for the
role of 18-year old Rebecca or she just looks too old. Our first view of
the adult Rebecca is in loose overalls; I guess we're supposed to immediately
think "young and innocent". It might have worked if Sutherland didn't
have such an old face, or the fact that Sutherland plays Rebecca as seething
with animal lust -- or at least a very horny disposition. And along the line of
Sutherland looking too old, she also looks way too promiscuous, not to mention experienced
(if you know what I mean).
Even less successful than Sutherland is Laura Nativo, whose
Big Scene comes toward the end when she has to sob endlessly for about 10
minutes, although we never see any tears. To be honest I don't know if Nativo is
more embarrassed by her performance or if I'm more embarrassed for her. B Movie
queen Julie Strain ("Heavy
Metal 2000") shows up as a history teacher, but she must have realized
"Birth Rite" was even less competent than her usual movies, because
she's unrecognizable in a wig and conservative clothes. Which leads me to this
conclusion: When Julie Strain is embarrassed to be in your movie, you know
you're in big trouble.
"Birth Rite" is a low-budget feature, but that
doesn't stop cinematographer Keith Duggan from pulling off some decent shots. In
fact, the look of the movie is thoroughly well put-together from beginning to
end. I'm not saying "Rite" is a good-looking movie, but it's
definitely easier on the eyes than a lot of its low-budget brethrens. Even
though Duggan does some good work, it might have all been for naught because the
editor chopped the movie up so badly that nothing really makes sense. Most of
the time the film's editing is so erratic that you have no idea what's going on,
or what just happened a second ago.
Knowing what kind of movie "Birth Rite" is, I
shouldn't even have to mention that the script is quite ridiculous, full of
gaping holes, and makes as much sense as Madonna's continued popularity. And I'm
not even talking about the presence of witchcraft and whatnot. I don't even care
that Rebecca's newfound witch powers seem to be nothing more than telekinesis --
which isn't something you associate with a witch, natch -- or that she can
pretty much do anything (i.e. she seems to possess the power of God) just
by rubbing her little amulet. I won't even mention that although Roman can
teleport between vast distances just by snapping his fingers (not to mention travel
through time), he neglects to make use of this super duper power when he
chases Erin around the backyard.
Yes, you heard me correctly. The Final Battle Between Good
and Evil takes place...in the backyard in broad daylight. It's a good
thing then that the guy mowing the lawn nearby didn't look over and see, or he
might have died laughing from the absurdity that is "Birth Rite".