After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
This is the kind of movie that would fit well into one of the other regular features here on Horror’s Not Dead. In my mind this is a great candidate for Terror Tape of the Day. During my many visits to the local video store, and even when working in a couple, this was a tape that always caught my eye. The image of some sort of creature trapped inside a baby bottle and that tagline, “Anthony isn’t your typical bottle baby…” just has to make you curious. For one reason or another I never actually rented or watched the film. Finally I can say that it has been viewed and it is great! From the directing duo that brought us The Dorm that Dripped Blood, Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow, comes a terrifying little monster movie from 1987 known as The Kindred.
After waking from a coma, a scientist/mother tells her scientist son that he must go to her house and destroy her research. Destroy everything. The notebooks and tape recordings have to be burned and something must be done about Anthony – his brother. Only problem is John (David Allen Brooks) never knew he had a brother. Soon after this incident, she dies. So John never gets to find out anything else from his mother, but takes his girlfriend and a small crew of colleagues up to her remote home to investigate the mystery. With them is a strange woman, Melissa (Amanda Pays), who followed John’s mother’s research but seems to have other plans. Her plans aren’t the only problem. Anthony is there but he is not who, or what, they expect.
This is a perfect example of a movie to show to those 80s movie naysayers. We all know them, the kind of people who, evidently, don’t like to have fun with horror–or movies in general for that matter–and don’t find the extravagance of the decade as charming as the rest of us. There’s even a member of my local Dallas chapter of HMN who feels this way. I don’t understand it one bit, but this is the movie for him. Not only is it made and take place in the mid to late 80s, but it also happens to be completely serious. There might be a few humorous moments but they aren’t at the expense of the decade, more of possible budget restrictions and some odd bits in the script. Even as someone who loves the insanity of the 80s I do appreciate serious horror and this does a really good job of staying on task. See, not everything has to be full of neon, teased hair, and synthpop or new wave music.
There are some great performances here by Kim Hunter (Planet of the Apes) as John’s mother and Rod Steiger (The Amityville Horror) playing her diabolical colleague Dr. Lloyd. They attempt to elevate this cast, and succeed quite well, but a couple of their co-stars are not nearly as accomplished. In the role of Brad Baxter is Peter Frechette who had a great role in Grease 2. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s a fun movie. I like it better than the original and, yes, I have the soundtrack on my iPod. To try to win back some cred I’ll point out that one of the ladies here is none other than Julia Montgomery. The name might not ring a bell but she is the cutie cheerleader Betty Childs in Revenge of the Nerds. Remember, the girl on the pie plate. Ah yes…
Special mention must be made to the cast member with the greatest name in the film – and one of the best in the business. It’s a small part; one of the girls who is killed off after some pretty brief screentime. But with a name like Bunki Z, she is hardly forgettable. Amazing. She was only in one other film, Grotesque (1988), and I can’t find anything about her except that someone on the IMDb boards thinks that Bunki Z is an alternate name/identity of Robert Z’Dar (Maniac Cop). If you’ve seen Z’Dar you know that he has a VERY distinctive look and is, well, a man. Maybe someone out there someday will know something about Bunki or track her down because I have many questions.
Really the main thing anyone wants out of a monster movie is a cool monster. Here that main creature is Anthony, a hybrid of human tissue and something else, which they try to determine. The result is one nasty dude. The great thing about Anthony is that there are different stages, sizes, and ages of the creature and many of them. He is represented in forms a little bigger than a dog, some a little smaller and even in multiple tiny Anthonys in glass jars waiting to be “born”. This one is by far the cutest and something that seems like it’d be fun to have as a pet. Of course he is already vicious and it will only get worse as he grows into the eldest form of Anthony that we meet in the climax of the film – a monstrous creature, at least twice the size of the average human in height, with an appetite for any living thing. Anthony has some aquatic DNA mixed in and grabs things with tentacles; bringing another very Lovecraft film to HMN. The author’s reach can definitely be felt still today in the genre, but there were definitely an abundance of Lovecraftian films made in the 80s.
Many of the FX go for a pretty heavy gross-out factor. It’s quite unexpected when coupled with the overall tone of this film. Usually that kind of stuff is saved for a more extravagant film, but here it works! There’s not too much blood to speak of but there is a basement in Dr. Lloyd’s facility where he stashes his failed human hybrid experiments and they attack full of rage with open, pulsating sores covering their bodies. My one real complaint about this film is that there isn’t more to this scene and that we don’t see anymore from the basement dwellers. Another rather horrifying moment also involving Lloyd is when we see him in his lab working on what appears to be a skinned cat. That alone would usually be no big deal, but here the cat is in some state of being alive and moving and screeching the entire time. It’s quite a tortuous scene to watch for an animal lover. If that doesn’t bother you, then the watermelon scene just might make your skin crawl. No one likes to see food tampered with, or have unexpected things come out of food. So when an incarnation of Anthony bursts from a watermelon in Bunki Z’s backseat to force its way into her body before her ultimate demise, you can be sure to shudder at least once.
Baxter: “It felt like I was pressing my lips to a chilled shrimp.”
John: “What are you talking about shrimp for?!”
But the gross-outs aren’t the only thing to make your jaw drop. There are a few crazy, out-of-nowhere “what the fuck” kind of moments as well. My favorite of which is accompanied by Baxter actually screaming, “What the fuck is happening?” echoing my sentiments exactly. After we learn that Melissa is sick and infected with the same toxic-to-humans aquatic substance, hemocyanin, she is attacked by Anthony and nothing can save her. Over the course of the next couple of minutes she screams and writhes as gills are formed on her stomach, neck and face. The shape of her face changes, her ears get sucked into her head and she ends up looking like a giant Sea Monkey! I still don’t know exactly what to say about this scene other than it has me completely perplexed and in awe.
Unfortunately The Kindred is not on DVD in the US. At one point Synapse was supposedly working on one but rights issues, or something, got in the way and it has yet to happen. I really hope someday they can work it out because I would love a cleaned up image, as most VHS copies are pretty worn. It would also be really cool to have some behind-the-scenes stuff on all the great practical FX and creature design of Melissa’s transformation and the Anthonys. This is a damn good movie and lovers of creature features are sure to be delighted, as will the gorehounds. A win all around!
Until next week – I’m staying the hell away from watermelon.
Body Count: 7, and 1 dog
Best Kill: Big Anthony Fried
WTF Moments: 3
Gallons of Puss Used: Had to be at least 40 or 50
Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-9/14/11: Flesh Eating Mothers (1988)
-9/21/11: BYE week for Fantastic Fest
-9/28/11: BYE week for Fantastic Fest
-10/5/11: Demon Wind (1990)