There is a subset of films whose effect is like waking up with amnesia and having to grope your way back to reality. Am I still dreaming? Is this my mom’s basement, or am I in a psych ward? I’m not talking about The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects, where a one-sentence explanation can ruin the whole thing. I’m talking about films like Ex Machina, Enter the Void and I Heart Huckabees that are best experienced by sitting down and letting the weirdness wash over you with as little prefatory googling as possible.
The new film Rebirth, which premiered earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival and drops today on Netflix, is about a young husband and father (Fran Kranz) who gets an impromptu visit from his college roommate (Adam Goldberg) about attending a weekend self-help retreat. Things get weird. The film plays as a dark comedy trapped inside a thriller.
The best guidance I can offer for Rebirth is to read our interview with Australian actress and co-star Nicky Whelan, who talked to us about her role as a sinister member of the cultish self-help group known as Rebirth—as well as her work on the upcoming season of El Rey’s grindhouse thriller From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and and the joys of getting creeped the hell out.
So I saw Rebirth. I feel like I’ve been through a strange ordeal.
It is a strange to watch. When I talk to people about it, I always wish they could see it before we talk about it. Some people think it’s scary and creepy, and other people find it funny and quirky. It’s hard for me to step out of it, but I find it very amusing and an interesting take on cults who say they’re not cults. You get sucked in, and you come out feeling really weird about it.
You play something like a tour guide in a really weird amusement park.
You could say that. She kind of fucks with Fran Kranz’s mind the whole time. You think she’s crazy and evil, but you kind of like her. You’re never sure what’s true and what’s not. In the eyes of the cult she’s trying to shake him up and turn him upside down, but she does it in such an awful way. You don’t know how to react to her.
How do you talk about a movie like this, where so much of the experience of watching it is not knowing what the hell is happening?
That’s what I like about it. You don’t know what you’re stepping into, and the less you know about it the better.
It plays to me as dark comedy: When strange things happen, Kranz’s initial reaction is to laugh at them. Is that how you saw it?
Absolutely, 100 percent. Living in L.A., there are lot of things you can join that will take you down a rabbit hole. Karl Mueller [the writer/director] did a really good job of making it funny but dark.
It’s got an overtone of religious cults. Is that something that you came into the film with a lot of opinions about?
I didn’t think about it with any specific group or any specific religion in mind. I think of it as an overdose on the self-help vibe. You can go too far with anything and let it take over your life. I think faith is a beautiful thing, but this is more about self-help going out of control.
There are some of specific references in Rebirth to David Fincher’s The Game. Was that something you talked about while you were shooting?
I love that you say that. I don’t think we discussed it in particular, but that’s such a brilliant film.
It’s similar to Ex Machina insofar as you come out of the movie immediately wanting to talk to somebody else who has seen it about big ideas.
I loved Ex Machina. I watched Lucy last night, and that’s another movie that makes you question things.
There are comedic actors in Rebirth like Adam Goldberg and Steve Agee, but they’re all playing straight, dramatic roles here.
I’m such a fan of Harry Hamlin. Those guys commit completely to what they’re doing, and you believe what they’re doing. I love Tom Cruise because he does that same kind of thing.
You’re appearing on Season 3 of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. You had not been on the show before this season, right?
No, this is a new character. It’s a character that Robert Rodriguez has intertwined through the project and in the film. Like the movie, the series is intense. It’s hardcore. This is a cool thing to be a part of because it has such a cult following.
Can you say what kind of character you’re playing? I think people who watch the series will know what I’m asking.
[laughs] I’m not allowed to say too much about it, but I think the serious viewers will know who I’m playing.
You had worked with Robert Rodriguez before, right?
I worked with him on his series Matador, and he directed several episodes of that.
You’re from Australia. Are you still interested in working there, or do you feel like you’re here to stay?
I’m definitely in America to stay. I’ve been here 10 years, and this is my home now. I’ve gone back to visit family, and it would be great to go back to work on a project. I’d love to go back to work on a film there.
You’re engaged to Kerry Rhodes [who played for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals]. Do you have a date set yet?
Not yet. Getting married is a whole new experience for me, and I have no idea what to do! I have some fantastic friends who are helping me with that. I’m just enjoying being engaged at the moment.