Guest Review: THE KINDRED

Posted by Peter Hall - May 10th 2008 @ 9:35 am

Guest Review by R.J. Sayer

Directed by Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow, 1987
Written by Stephen Carpenter, Earl Ghaffari, Jeffrey Obrow, John Penney, Joseph Stefano

One of the biggest challenges to a horror geek, whether writing a review or simply describing a film to a friend who’s never seen it, is resisting the temptation to spoil shit. And I’m not talking about twist endings or major plot reveals. I mean the good stuff.

The set pieces. The gore. The effects. The best bits of dialogue. The crazy shit.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to all films. You can leave the most of the subtle ghost stories and even the tamer monster fests out of this discussion. And to clarify, I’m only concerned with the movies that one loves in this scenario.

For example, when I meet somebody who hasn’t seen FRIDAY THE 13th, after I get over my initial, “what the fuck is wrong with you that you ain’t seen that movie”, I move on to trying to convince said somebody to see it, as soon as humanly possible. And when it’s a tough sell, I have to tread carefully. I get all excited and feel like freaking out and going, “oh man, you gotta see it. There’s this scene where Kevin Fucking Bacon gets stabbed with an arrow from under a bed. And the point comes out through his throat and spins and there’s all this blood and shit pooling up and Kevin is coughing up blood and it’s so fucking awesome you have to see it, it looks so real. Tom Savini is GOD!”

But I can’t, right?

I mean, sure, letting someone know about that scene may give them the incentive they need to overcome their apprehension. “Kevin Bacon stabbed through the neck with an arrow? And it’s graphic? Fuck, I gotta see that!” But, simultaneously, you’re taking the piss (or what-have-you) out of a money shot. That scene will no longer have the impact it was intended to. It will not mean as much to that person, when they finally see the movie, as it did to you when you first watched it (assuming some asshole didn’t ruin it for you, too).

Thankfully, nobody ruined THE KINDRED for me in that fashion. And so, I will try as hard as I can to extend the same courtesy. To be vague when describing exactly why you need to see this fucking movie.

And believe me, kids, it will be difficult.

Right off the bat, I feel it necesary to mention that THE KINDRED was (SPOILERZ ALRT!!1!) distributed by Vestron Fucking Video.

And if you’re like me, that info right there should be enough to convince you. Seriously, stop reading. Go out (or open a new tab or whatever) and track down this fucking thing and watch it. MAKE IT PRIORITY NUMERO UNO, GUY.

However, if you’re not like me, and you need a stronger argument, I’ll continue.

THE KINDRED seems like an anomalous transition piece. Though it was produced long after that genre shift from the subtle, semi-prestigious suspense and ghost story films to the FX-driven mutation and monster movies, it carries artifacts of both. Classy orchestral music, moody camera work and the inclusion of Rod Fucking Steiger and Kim (Dr. Zira, PLANET OF THE APES) Hunter – yeah, that’s right, I dropped a damn, dirty apes reference instead of STREETCAR, deal with it – give it the credibility of the former. While buckets of red-dyed karo syrup and slime, rubbery tentacles and a stock of almost-slasher-flick-worthy supporting characters pack it with all the fun factor of the latter.

There are definitely elements of the trailblazers that came before: THE THING, ALIEN, RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, etc. Even a little nod to THE WOLF MAN near the end. But they feel more like riffing-on than ripping-off. You know, like an improv solo or scat singing or some shit over the chords of an old jazz stardard, instead of just playing the shit note-for-note and trying to say “hey, I wrote this. Applaud, motherfucker.” It’s a sort of clunky love letter. Not identity theft. Hey, let me know when these limp metaphors get annoying. Now? Okay.

The story concerns John Hollins, a scientist and son of scientist Amanda Hollins. From her hospital bed (following the opening sequence of one awesome-as-fuck car crash and one not-so-awesome-as-fuck ambulance fender-bender), Mom (played with crazed intensity by Kim Hunter) instructs Junior to return to his childhood home and destroy the experiment she’d been working on.

And of course, he’s like “whoa whoa whoa hold up a fucking second. Experiment?” I mean, you’d be pissed too if you discovered that your mom turned the bedroom you grew up in into a mad science lab.

Enter Rod (Fucking) Steiger as the villainous Dr. Lloyd. Steiger is goddamn brilliant in this role, chewing the scenery with a sort of psychotic laziness. Like a goddamn Komodo dragon or some shit. He just sort of belly-slides up to each scene and takes a big, wide bite, then sloppily and deliberately munches it down for a long, slow swallow. Some might consider this to be a half-assed performance. Ol’ Rod’s heart wasn’t really in it. Just sort of phoned it in and all that. Whatever. Even if that’s the case, I think it’s a perfect turn. It makes the character unique. He’s not the wild-eyed, hair-tearing rabid Frankenstein. He’s more like Lou Grant as a mad scientist. A slow burn until he really loses it (and then only for a moment or two) at the end. And it works, goddammit. I tell you, it works.

See, Amanda and Dr. Lloyd were working on some kind of genetic mutation experiment thing. And, get this, the experiment was supposed to be John’s little brother, Anthony.

Oh, Anthony, what a brilliant piece of practical ingenuity you are. A beautifully grotesque amalgamation of latex, animatronics and puppetry. Does he look kinda like a Chestburster fucked Xtro and then raised the kid in a trailer park under power lines? Yeah.

But you’d be scared of that shit if you ran into it in a remote barn, too.

And it’s not just Anthony. The FX work all over this thing is excellent. Great kill gags (including a lethal facial massage with tentacles), some convincing mutants (and a charming – if not completely convincing – little creature in a jar), and a totally Lovecraftian transformation sequence that rivals even the werewolfing-out in THE HOWLING. I’m not kidding. I won’t give any more away, because that would be violating my aforementioned ethical issue, but you have to see this shit. I mean, really.

The story is pretty complex and all the character relationships are full of tension and back-and-forth dynamics and all that shit. Really well written stuff (thanks in part to PSCYHO screenwriter, Joseph Stefano) coupled with decent-to-strong performances that pull you into the human side of the drama. Lots of semi-clever foreshadowing, too. My favorite is a reel-to-reel tape of Mom singing a lullaby. Haunting on its own, and creepy in its context.

Also, all of the mad science labs (that’s right, kids, there are more than one) are really cool, and the lighting in them is great. Purples and greens and oranges and shit. Very moody. Very Stuart Gordon.

Oh, and there’s not one, but – count ‘em – TWO spearguns brandished threateningly in this film. Yeah. I said it. Fucking Spearguns. How many movies have you seen where people are pulling Fucking Spearguns on each other? Huh? Really, I want a goddamn answer, guy. How many?

Now, before somebody starts calling me a plant (get it? it’s funny. a plant for a movie that was released almost twenty years ago. ha ha) or accusing me of getting a blowjob from Kim Hunter or something, let me just state, for the record, that THE KINDRED is not a perfect film. Hell, if it weren’t for my particular taste and obsessions, I probably wouldn’t even call it a great film. It definitely has its fair share of flaws.

Firstly, Anthony is revealed (in all his disgusting, fanged glory) a little too early. This premature cinematic ejaculation is made even more frustrating by the presence of several “build-up” scenes that follow. You know the kind I mean. Like all the teases in JAWS and AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. The scenes that kind of show you a little bit of the monster, or reveal something in the environment or whatever that only hints at the sort of badassness the thing can perpetrate. It just doesn’t make any sense for these moments to come after we’ve already seen the vicious motherfucker. It nullifies the purpose of such scenes and destroys the suspense they could’ve had. Shame too, because otherwise, they’re pretty interesting. Sorry, dudes, I just wish you held off a little longer. Maybe you could’ve thought about baseball or your grandmothers or something.

Another problem is that aside from the house, the barn, and all the labs, there are a lot of scenes that take place in hospital rooms and offices. And everything technical about them (non-script-and-performance-wise) sucks. The lighting, the set decoration, even the camerawork. Totally bogus. There’s no geography to the spaces and the scenes. They’re actually a little painful for me to watch. Thankfully, none of them last too long. Thanks, Jesus, you really came through on that one.

Regardless of its shortcomings, however, THE KINDRED is one of my new personal favorites. Plenty of goo, some great gore, mutants, three demolished cars, a mad scientist, and some absolutely CLASSIC lines of dialogue make this one incredibly entertaining experience. My suggestion? Get some like-minded friends, a twelver (or a case) of cheap beer, and scoop this fucker up when Synapse releases it on DVD later this year.

And try to convince others to do the same (without giving away the crazy fucking watermelon scene, if possible).


rss 13 comments
  1. R.J. Sayer
    May 12th, 2008 | 11:31 pm | #1

    wow. no comments?

    guess i’m going to have to drink more when i write my next review…

  2. Brian
    May 13th, 2008 | 12:24 am | #2

    You said “scat”

  3. R.J. Sayer
    May 13th, 2008 | 2:26 am | #3

    wha?

  4. May 13th, 2008 | 7:46 am | #4

    Wunh, wunhhh…

  5. Brian
    May 13th, 2008 | 8:05 am | #5

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scat_%28disambiguation%29#Slang

    I always wanted to see The Kindred when I was a kid. The VHS box was creepy.

    A buddy of mine swears by another Stephen Carpenter flick, The Dorm that Dripped Blood, a/k/a Pranks. Its 3 star rating on imdb suggests otherwise though.

  6. Sean
    May 13th, 2008 | 9:23 am | #6

    Does Zombi count for spear guns?

    This sounds like an awesome movie, which I’ll have to track down now.

    If only so I can go “hehe, he denied monkey girl gave him head, hehe”

  7. Brian
    May 13th, 2008 | 11:42 am | #7

    THE KINDRED had one of those creepy VHS boxes that scared me when I was a kid. I think I was most terrified of the cover art for BASKET CASE and THE KINDRED.

    Stephen Carpenter also brought us THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD aka PRANKS, which a buddy of mine swears by. I haven’t seen it, but judging by its 3-star rating on imdb I think he is probably wrong.

  8. Sean
    May 13th, 2008 | 6:27 pm | #8

    Yeah, I think that I steered away from The Kindred because of the cover art.

    What happened to good cover art anyways? Now it just sucks, there’s not anything spiffy about it.

    It went from “I Spit on Your Grave” quality to Dracula 2000. :( I don’t want to see who the actors are in it, I want to see the monster!

  9. R.J. Sayer
    May 14th, 2008 | 12:26 pm | #9

    Brian – yep, BASKET CASE was another good cover. and don’t worry about DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, it’s one of my next reviews. that’s right, i’m the miner canary here.

    Sean – totally. you know what really pissed me off? what really let me know that this shit was in trouble? HALLOWEEN: H20. yep. not just the cover art, but the poster too. i mean, what the fuck was that?

  10. Brian
    May 14th, 2008 | 1:23 pm | #10

    RJ, I’m looking forward to that one. You should make it a multimedia review: http://www.youtube.com/swf/l.swf?video_id=8ulpkkFB3B8&rel=1&eurl=http%

  11. R.J. Sayer
    May 25th, 2008 | 2:16 pm | #11

    oh man, after watching that trailer, i was reminded of a bunch of things i forgot to mention in my review.

    like the scene where the killer turns on a bunch of appliances in the kitchen by hitting a fuse. nevermind their individual power switches, apparently.

    oh, and the scene where the killer trashes a table set for dinner. i think that was my favorite kill of the movie. “FUCK YOU, CORNISH GAME HEN!” “TAKE THAT, FRENCH FRIES!”

    seriously, french fries and game hen at the same dinner, apparently.

    and that trailer still makes the whole movie look a lot better than it is. but you can sorta see what i was saying about the lighting and shot composition, right?

  12. PAZUZU
    November 6th, 2009 | 5:25 pm | #12

    This flicks a peach n i aint seen it for time. But some sad news Kindredians Synapse have put it on hold and it doesnt look like there gonna be buzzing this out any time soon, if at all. Dont know why. Some good news from Synapse is that Dark Age and Small Gauge Trauma 2 are coming early Next year. So if you really Dig this tentacled freak of a flick do all us kindredians a favour and drop Synapse a line of what the fuck

  13. Ben Exworth
    November 16th, 2010 | 4:22 pm | #13

    I totally love this film because of the

    transformation sequence from Anthony, the eerie

    forboding music and the cover art. who knew

    that electrifying a monster could trigger a

    slimy transformation. wish it was on dvd though.

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