The Kindred

The Kindred was released in January of 1987. It was not a hit, grossing just $2 million at the box office. Over the years, though, the movie has developed a legion of fans who recognize and appreciate its appealing lunacy. As was common in '80s horror, it has a big, crazy premise that allows for wild plot twists and gruesome practical effects. The movie comes to Blu-ray on October 25 from Synapse Films. I didn't see it theatrically, although I'm certain it didn't look as good as it does here. The transfer is beautiful, allowing you to easily get lost in the story's insanity.

John Hollins (David Allen Brooks) receives a strange request from his dying scientist mother (Oscar winner Kim Hunter). She wants him to find the notes from her most recent research project and destroy them, lest they fall into the hands of her unethical colleague Dr. Phillip Lloyd (fellow Oscar winner Rod Steiger). Once he has them in his grasp, he ignores the command to obliterate them. Instead, John assembles a research team including, to the dismay of girlfriend Sharon (Talia Balsam), sultry Melissa Leftridge (Amanda Pays). They trek to his mom's house to see what she was working on. It turns out to have been genetic experiments. John, in fact, has a “brother” that's all deformed and creepy and out to kill anyone in his path. Dr. Lloyd wants to use her research as the basis for something very, very bad.

It wouldn't be completely honest to say that The Kindred is a good movie, but it sure ain't boring. The plot takes too long to ramp up, and it doesn't always make a whole lot of sense. Once the story does finally get rolling, there are superb practical effects as “Anthony” goes on his rampage. In one scene, he attacks a woman in a car, sprouting tentacles that he wraps around her neck, shoves up her nose, and rams into her mouth, causing a violent crash. That's just one example. With his bulbous head, red eyes, and razor-sharp teeth, Anthony is extremely well-built by the effects team. Every time he strikes, the fun begins.

The characters are one-dimensional, and the story is a variation on the oft-used “don't play God” theme. The Kindred still manages to offer reasonable entertainment for fans of stuff like Basket Case and It's Alive. It fits squarely into that trend of movies about deformed creatures wreaking bloody, slimy, gooey havoc. (You also get to see Rod Steiger doing his patented late-career overacting, which is entirely appropriate in this case.) If you're in the mood for a vintage example of that, the picture will sufficiently amuse you.

Blu-ray Features:

The bonus goodies begin with audio commentary from directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, moderated by horror journalist Steve Barton. Obrow and Carpenter return for a 52-minute retrospective documentary called “Inhuman Experiments – The Making of The Kindred.” They go into all kinds of detail about the production and release of the movie, from the casting of two Oscar winners to capturing Anthony's mayhem onscreen. From start to finish, the duo offer fantastic insight into how this oddball project came together.

After that comes 18 minutes of never-before-seen on-set footage, courtesy of creature effects artist Michael McCracken, Jr. You'll get a great glimpse of how those old-school practical effects were accomplished in the age before CGI took over. A collection of storyboards and stills comes next, followed by the original theatrical trailer, an awesome promotional trailer made to convince video stores to stock The Kindred, and a couple TV spots.

Synapse Films has done an impressive job bringing this largely forgotten chiller back to life. Click here to order a copy from Amazon.

The Kindred is rated R for bloody creature violence, language, and sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.