The Kindred starts out feeling like a kitchen sink movie. An unnamed driver gets into a serious car accident. While he’s braindead on the way to the hospital, a van runs the ambulance off the road. The man driving the van assaults one paramedic and punches the other before showering him with cash. The man in the van kidnaps the braindead driver and takes him to a secret lab. None of this is a spoiler because it happens in the first ten minutes or so of The Kindred, and none of it has very much to do with the plot of the actual film.
The plot of The Kindred—from a screenplay by co-director Stephen Carpenter & co-director Jeffrey Obrow & John Penney & Earl Ghaffari, and Joseph Stefano (writer of Psycho)—centers around John Hollins (David Allen Brooks). He’s a medical researcher, whose significant other Sharon (Talia Balsam) interrupts his research to tell him that his mother has awoken. They rush to the hospital, where his dying mother Dr. Amanda Hollins (Kim Hunter) asks him to go to her house and destroy her journals and her experiments—his “brother” Anthony. Once she passes, John gathers up as many grad students as he can find and the mysterious Melissa Leftridge (Amanda Pays) to carry out Amanda’s dying wish.
The fly in the ointment is Dr. Phillip Lloyd (Rod Steiger). He was a contemporary of Amanda’s (even danced at her wedding, if he’s to be believed) and a mentor to John. Unbeknownst to John, Dr. Lloyd and his mother are actually arch enemies. Dr. Hollins wants her research destroyed to keep it out of Dr. Lloyd’s hands.
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Many of the side characters have quirky gimmicks. Brad Baxter (Peter Frechette) might be the most over-the-top. He’s familiar as a sexually aggressive jerk, but he’s also a post-doc who’s decided to quit smoking. As many people who are quitting smoking do, he makes a tape recording about why he’s not speaking to play on the boombox he’s carrying by his ear to listen to relaxing music.
But the quirky characters and the plot all take a backseat to the special effects. Two things really stick out. The first is the creatures. Special Creatures Creator Michael McCracken and his assistants did excellent work designing both Anthony and Dr. Lloyd’s retinue of monsters. Every creature in The Kindred looks goopy, as though touching it would feel like the inside of a pumpkin. That kind of texture only comes from well-crafted practical effects. Anthony himself is reminiscent of the alien in John Carpenter’s The Thing and the xenomorph in Alien. The only drawback is Anthony doesn’t seem to evolve, looking very similar in every size and iteration.
The second special effects triumph is an incredible transformation sequence. Most horror fans have seen a person turn into a werewolf under the full moon. The Kindred features maybe the only transformation sequence where a person’s infected blood leads to them transforming from a regular person to a Creature from the Black Lagoon-style gill-person. It might not exactly make sense in the context of the film, but it’s rad.
That probably sums up The Kindred: not everything in it necessarily makes sense, but the monster—and by extension, the film—is a lot of fun.
This new Synapse Special Edition Blu-ray with a 4k restoration includes a commentary track with both directors and journalist Steve Barton; a nearly hour long documentary, “Inhuman Experiments – The Making of THE KINDRED”; footage shot by effects artist Michael McCracken Jr, as well as multiple trailers. The documentary is comprehensive, featuring much of the crew including four of the five writers (who are also the co-director, co-editors, producers, and cinematographer), the composer, some of the special effects teams, and a few of the cast members. They discuss their experiences on set, working with the legendary Rod Steiger, and how they all met. The “never-before seen on-set footage” is focused especially on the special effects, and it’s fascinating to watch them bring Anthony to life.
The Synapse release of The Kindred is available on blu-ray October, 25, 2022.
Wicked Rating – 7/10