There are several different versions of fear that horror films attempt to capture and explore. There is the exaggerated fear of the unknown, usually embodied by some demonic force or ghostly apparition, and then there is the more grounded fear, the one based on our own social interactions. Rebound, the feature film debut from Megan Freels, falls very comfortably into that latter type of film. The social aspect that Freels explores is the dark and thorny side of the relationships between men and women.
Rebound opens with a woman being betrayed by a man in the most intimate way possible. From there, our protagonist Claire(Ashley James), is devastated to the point that she feels the need to escape Los Angeles. This subsequent trip becomes an exploration of how terrifying it is to be a woman in a patriarchal world. Every man she runs into feels and looks like a threat, something ominous directly under the surface. From here, she must decide which man is trustworthy and which man is as dangerous as they seem.
This breed of horror, the real life experience of being a woman, is especially disturbing because it’s real. In a world filled with victim-shaming and general feminism scoffing, the narrative of Rebound is especially believable. So while there are no jump scares or monsters waiting in the dark, the real life threats and those associated real life monsters, the ones who hide in plain sight, are everywhere.
The final sequence itself feels like a direct attack from that especially wacky group of Men’s Rights activists. A man hovers above a woman, systematically destroying every sign of her femininity, every sign of what he sees as her power. He deems this as therapy, as some sort of twisted help. Much like the Men’s Rights movement, his help is a perverse way of telling women that they should know their place, they shouldn’t acknowledge their sexuality or their femininity in such an open way.
What makes Rebound especially interesting, though, is the final shot. It will anger some, validate others, and confuse the rest. Is it a commentary on the feminine equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome, is it a validation of the antagonist’s message, or is it something more complex, something speaking to the broken bridge of communication between men and women? While I have my own interpretation, the fact that the film is brave enough to not illicitly provide the answer is what makes Rebound noteworthy.
So while Rebound does have some limitations based on its budget, some of the performances are stiff, some of the pacing is off, and the awkward dialogue might be seen as a little too apt at awkwardness, the narrative and the theme that it explores more than makes up for it. A film can be technically imperfect and still be far more effective than a multimillion dollar, logistically “perfect” film that is hollow at its core. In that sense, Rebound is worth several of its bigger budgeted cinematic peers.