THE KINDRED (1987) – This monster movie was the third horror project from the writing and directing team of Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow.
The duo got started while they were film students at UCLA and released the regulation 1982 slasher movie Death Dorm aka Pranks aka The Dorm That Dripped Blood. Next came The Power (1984), about a cursed Aztec relic.
Neither of those works were exceptional nor were they trying to redefine the genre, but there was noticeable improvement between the 1984 project and the 1982 debut film. The Kindred continued that professional refinement and is the most watchable of “Carpbrow’s” early horror efforts.
THE Kim Hunter is in a few early scenes as Amanda Hollins, a biochemist who was engaged in some ethically questionable research before a car accident left her in a coma for years. She has just emerged from that coma and wants her son John (David Allen Brooks) to go to her old beach house and destroy all of her work, including her notes.
Rod Steiger, just one year away from his outrageous tour-de-force performance in the slasher film American Gothic (with YVONNE DE CARLO), plays Dr Phillip Lloyd, the villain of the story. The mad Dr Lloyd has been trying his own hand at the kind of research that Amanda Hollins excelled at. To that end he’s been paying an unscrupulous ambulance driver to covertly provide him with accident victims to use as human guinea pigs.
One of the reasons Amanda wants her son John to destroy her research is to keep her advances out of the hands of the amoral Dr Lloyd. She makes the mistake of not warning her son about Lloyd, however, since she doesn’t know how close he and her son have become during her time in a coma.
John Hollins mentions to Lloyd that his mother wants her ground-breaking research destroyed, so the mad doctor confronts Amanda in her hospital bed and kills her, making it look like death by natural causes. Our villain and his young female confederate Melissa Leftridge (cult figure Amanda Pays) lean on John, convincing him it might be a tragic blow to science to simply destroy everything his mother worked for.
John, Melissa, John’s girlfriend Sharon (Talia Balsam) and a handful of other colleagues and teaching assistants all travel to Mama Hollins’ creepy old beach house to review her notes and what’s left of her experiments so they can decide what to keep. None of them suspects that Melissa is secretly working for Dr Lloyd.
Our hero John is buffeted by further emotional turmoil over mysterious references to an unknown “brother” of his named Anthony. Early on it becomes clear that Anthony was Amanda’s name for a hybrid being she made by combining some of John’s DNA with the DNA of sea creatures.
“Anthony” is still alive and lurking in the Hollins house, where he has been preying on people for food ever since his creator Amanda had her car accident. Conveniently, he now has a few carloads of potential new victims drive right up to his door as John and company arrive for their horror-filled weekend.
If you are the kind of horror fan who is tired of films where the cast members practically wink at the audience while making cutesy in-jokes then The Kindred will be good for what ails ya. Everything is played completely straight, even when it REALLY strains credibility.
The monster effects are – for the most part – pretty good and this movie is a great argument for the superiority of even lower-budget practical effects over CGI. Between Anthony and his offspring, Dr Lloyd’s monstrous creations and the grotesque transformation of a woman into an amphibian hybrid, monster fans can see the influence of everything from Alien, Aliens, Predator, The Thing, From Beyond and more.
And it goes without saying that any movie with monsters that sport tentacles, like a few of the creatures in this film do, carries with it a certain H.P. Lovecraft vibe, no matter how faint.
The Kindred won’t really scare the hell out of you or anything like that, but it IS an enjoyable little film. Despite some of the stomach-churning moments there’s an almost mild feel to much of the movie.
SPOILER: Some viewers object to the comparatively low body count in this horror flick. I agree that an amazingly high number of characters come out of their ordeal alive, even when film rules usually mean those characters would be toast.
The best way to describe the high survivor count is to say that in the end it plays like these people are all recurring characters in a sci-fi/ horror tv series and this is just one episode of that program. Meaning that most of them will come out alive, with only the villains and a guest star or two actually getting killed.
But, as long as you don’t require a long butcher’s bill of dead bodies The Kindred is reasonably entertaining, especially with Halloween on the horizon.
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