Lucky McKee has made some very impressive horror films, including The Woman, All Cheerleaders Die and, especially, May. He loses his footing with his latest, Kindred Spirits, which had its world premiere at the Cinepocalypse Film Fest. It's a riff on Single White Female with a cool twist that it can't get to pay off in a satisfying way.
Sasha Frovola plays Nicole, a teenager living with her single mother Chloe (Thora Birch). One day, her aunt Sadie (Caitlin Stasey) shows up, wanting to make a new start in life. Nicole has always idolized Sadie, so this is a welcome development in her eyes. Soon, though, Sadie begins exhibiting some unusual behaviors. She makes herself over to look like Nicole, makes a play for Nicole's boyfriend, and eventually reveals a violent streak.
The concept of a grown woman who, for some psychological reason, attempts to mentally revert into adolescence is not a bad start to a thriller. Kindred Spirits doesn't really know what to do with it. The screenplay by Chris Sivertson hits beats that will be familiar to anyone who's seen Single White Female, while simultaneously failing to give any background information that would explain why Sadie is so unhinged.
It doesn't help that Caitlin Stasey isn't especially fear-inducing in the role. She's not bad, she just isn't able to convey Sadie's psychopathy to a degree that unnerves us. The character never seems truly evil, even when she's supposed to be at her most deranged. This should be someone who makes us worry about the fates of everyone else. In reality, we never sense any genuine threat from Sadie. Without that terror value, the entire plot falls apart.
Another issue is that several of the scenes intended to be scary or disturbing are awkwardly staged. One moment uses radically overdone sound effects to make it seem as though a physical scuffle between Nicole and Chloe is way more violent than it clearly is. That proves unintentionally funny. In another sequence, one person's death leaves us unsure whether or not we're supposed to laugh, thanks to an unusual object embedded in their head.
Birch and Frovola are both good, as is Macon Blair as Chloe's boyfriend. They're the pluses here. Otherwise, Kindred Spirits plays as silly when it should be scary, and the final minutes – which are designed to make a thematic statement – ring hollow because of their predictability.
Lucky McKee is an interesting, talented filmmaker, but this movie is a major disappointment.
Kindred Spirits is unrated, but contains adult language, sexuality, and bloody violence. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes