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Film Review: The Kindred (1987)


Amanda’s deathbed request to her son, John, was for him to destroy all the lab notes etc. from her last experiment. She also blurts out he had a brother. A brother she claims is still alive at her home, somewhere…..


OK, what do you get when you have a big old spooky house, some comely ladies, a few angry tentacles and a ton of slimy goo? If your answer was “Last New Year’s Eve at the Black Saint’s house” you would be correct but that’s not the answer I was looking for wiseguys! The correct answer would be “The Kindred” a late 80’s entry into the “Man creating life” genre that came and went with nary a peep but is actually deserving of a bit more hoopla.

Directed by Stephen Carpenter & Jeffrey Obrow from a script they co-wrote with “Psycho” scribe Joseph Stefano, “The Kindred” tells the story of Amanda Hollins (Kim Hunter), a scientist who has suddenly awoken from a long coma and manages to blurt out to her son John (David Allen Brooks) that he must return to her home and gather up all of her journals. All of the work she had produced in the home is in danger of being co-opted by Dr. Phillip Lloyd (Rod Steiger) and this must not come to pass. In addition she mentions something about “The Anthony Journals” and that John has a brother named Anthony that he knew nothing about. John is a geneticist and immediately gathers a small team together to make the journey to his childhood home and figure out what his mother was up to. And who the heck is Anthony?

Dr. Lloyd is also happy that Amanda is conscious as well, so happy that he pays her a visit to find out where “Anthony” is. Phillip is straight out of “Mad Doctor” ville and NEEDS to get to Anthony before anyone else does, the question is why? Sadly, Amanda does not survive the visit from Dr. Lloyd (Her heart gives out) and at the funeral John meets Melissa (Amanda Pays), a researcher who claims to know of his mother’s work and wants to help him as he tries to suss out exactly what his mother was talking about. This doesn’t make his girlfriend Sharon (Talia Balsam) all too happy as Melissa is a stunning woman with one hell of a sexy English accent to boot. But she doesn’t voice her displeasure as the three of them (& four others) descend upon the old house and discover that Amanda was really working on something extraordinary…

The four assistants are Brad (Peter Frechette), Hart (Timothy Gibbs), Cindy (Julia Montgomery) & Nell (Bunki Z.) who seems to be more fascinated with a large watermelon she bought along the way for her parent’s 35th wedding anniversary than anything else. Oddly enough they never think to go into the basement to rummage about although there is plenty in the house for them to look at anyway. This is all well and good because (As if you didn’t know…) Anthony is down there and like the tagline of the movie states: “Anthony isn’t your typical bottle baby”. He’s something straight out of your worst nightmares and he’s looking for some company.

It all gets a bit muddled in the middle with some plot threads just left dangling but after Hart gets attacked by Anthony in a barn, John decides that the house, all of his mother’s work and Anthony (Whatever he is). Of course this is news that Dr. Lloyd wants to hear and he makes an appearance towards the end of the film to get Anthony out of there. Lloyd makes mention of “Wanting to change the course of human evolution” early in the film but he never really states what he needs Anthony for. There are little clues tossed about in regards to Melissa’s true nature here and there as well. She “Really takes her marine research seriously” & “Kissing her was like kissing a cold fish” are dead give away’s & it’s extremely odd that she almost never seems to get any sleep either, she’s always poring through Amanda’s journals looking for something.

To say anymore would be to spoil the fun but trust me when I say “You’ve seen this all before”. The difference here is that “The Kindred” is actually pretty good in an extremely stupid way. All of the actors take their roles very seriously and despite the plot holes (Didn’t ANYONE notice that Nell never got back to them once she leaves? Did anyone notice that the dog is suddenly gone)? it is a fairly straightforward exercise in sci-fi/horror. Kim Hunter and Rod Steiger are top billed but their screen time might add up to about fifteen minutes total. She’s gone in the first 10 minutes and he makes some strategic appearances every so often to offer up some mad doctor histrionics and show us what might be the worst f*cking toupee ever worn by an actor in a movie. I might add that NO ONE in Hollywood could chew up scenery like Steiger could! The man is a master at throwing up his hands, bugging his eyes out of his head and screaming whatever dialog he’s given. The fact that he probably didn’t have to scream a lot of the time made no difference to him…he has a “Best Actor” Oscar in his home, what more evidence do you need as to his greatness? He has one hell of a death scene here, being dragged into the basement by Anthony as gallons of KY jelly & slime are dumped on his head/face (Noticeably, he has a hat on in this scene and he’s holding onto it as he’s screaming bloody murder, none of that stuff is touching his toupee)!

Where the film really shines is in the special effects department. Anthony is a combination of octopus, alien & a human being liberally doused with goo. And I mean LIBERALLY, there is so much ooze and goo flung about in this movie that I’m sure it was in short supply for other films that might have needed some at the same time. People are literally swimming in the stuff and it is nasty to look at too. It couldn’t have been fun to be covered it but everyone here is a trooper. Especially poor Nell who has the only on screen death in the movie but it is a doozy as Anthony emerges from the watermelon(!) as she’s driving and proceeds to insert slimy tentacles in her mouth, ear and nose! It’s pretty gruesome to look at and Michael McCracken (Who designed Anthony) and Matthew Mungle (Make up effects) deserve a round of applause for their exemplary work. Although we don’t see the full “Anthony Creature” until the movie is nearly over, it’s worth the wait. We see enough of him in small glimpses during the movie to satisfy us until the big reveal.

All in all, “The Kindred” is a fair little movie that has been sadly underseen and as far as I know. It looks good, sounds good & has some pretty kick ass effects for it’s time. I daresay that some of them were “Rob Bottin-ish” in their execution which means that they look hella good! Three out of Five shrouds for “The Kindred”, look it up for some awesomely slimy fun!

And to the one person who knew about my New Year’s Eve party…who invited you anyway?

Special Features:

  • New 4K restoration of the unrated version of the film
  • New 5.1 stereo surround sound remix (Original 2.0 mono theatrical mix also included)
  • Audio commentary with directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, moderated by horror journalist Steve Barton
  • Inhuman Experiments – The Making of “The Kindred”, an all-new documentary produced by Red Shirt Pictures (52 mins.), nominated for the 2022 Rondo Award for “Best DVD/Blu-ray Extra”.
  • A special compilation of creature effects artist Michael McCracken, Jr.’s never-before-seen on-set footage
  • Still gallery and original storyboards
  • Original theatrical trailer, original video promotional trailer and TV spots
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

The Kindred (1987) is now available on blu ray per Synapse Films

One comment

  1. Darren Zak Scott

    I must be one of the few people who saw this in the cinema.
    I remember dithering outside with a friend as we wondered whether we dared go in to watch a horror movie. Eventually we plucked up the courage and went in.
    I’m not disappointed that we made that decision as we found it hilariously bad and that’s always worth seeing. And not remotely scary.
    I lost it when – beware SPOILER! (but you aren’t going to watch this film – you just aren’t – seriously, don’t!) – she’s turns into a fish.
    Maybe you should watch it. You aren’t going to believe me unless you do. Maybe I should watch it again. I don’t believe me. Have I just imagined the fish thing?


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