The Kindred (1987) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

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The episode of Best Horror Movie You Never Saw covering The Kindred was Written by Andrew Hatfield, Edited by Paul Bookstaber, Narrated by Kier Gomes, Produced by John Fallon and Tyler Nichols, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

We toe the line sometimes here at JoBlo Horror Originals with what movies we discuss. Some things can qualify for multiple shows like a Black Sheep or a Deconstructing on the same movie. Sometimes there are enough behind the scenes shenanigans to give it a proper WTF or maybe its adapted from a story. Not today, though. Today is something that reflects the true nature of this show. I know some viewers get bummed when they see some movies, even some of their favorite movies, get covered multiple times, so today’s hopefully different. I’m hoping that today will be a best horror movie that you never saw for most and a best horror movie you never HEARD of for others. Let’s take a look at 1987’s The Kindred (watch it HERE).

I don’t blame you for not knowing what this movie is. 1987, quite frankly, is a stupidly packed year for horror movies. Hellraiser, Evil Dead 2, Nightmare on Elm Street 3 are all amongst the top tier, but you also have things like Rawhead Rex, Street Trash, House 2, and Dolls. The year runs the gamut of all time classics down to bad but enjoyable fare. The Kindred gets just a little lost in the shuffle. The fact that it has two directors, and five writers probably doesn’t do it any favors from the outside nor does its never heard of production and distribution team of Kindred Limited Partnership and F/M Entertainment respectively. No matter though, what The Kindred lacks in conventional popularity in terms of its production and behind the camera crew, it more than makes up for in its sheer craziness and entertainment value. It’s the forgotten little horror movie that could.

The movie itself opens with what can only be described as a yuppie who gets himself in a massive car accident while a sinister onlooker watches him get loaded into an ambulance. The paramedics are attacked by a car, and we find out that one of the drivers is in on the taking of bodies and allows himself to get beat up as to curb suspicion. This is one of a few plotlines that really doesn’t go anywhere but I suppose that’s what you get when you have 5 credited screenwriters and two directors calling the shots. The writers are Stephen Carpenter, Jeffery Obrow, John Penny, Earl Gafarri, and Josef Stefano. If that doesn’t exactly sound like a murderer’s row of talent, it’s because it isn’t. Carpenter wrote and directed The Dorm That Dripped Blood which is admittedly a minor classic but not a whole heck of a lot else. Obrow is actually Carpenter’s partner and helped write and direct The Dorm that Dripped Blood as well as today’s film and finally The Power, also with Carpenter.

The other 3 writers have varying degrees of success. Penny wrote the screenplay for Return of the Living Dead 3, Gafarri only wrote this but has been a musical editor on some of Disney’s biggest hits of the 21st century and Stefano? He wrote the screenplay for the original Psycho. Behind the scenes information seems to indicate that the co-directors were the main authors while the other men were able to contribute scenes here and there. The movie then jumps to two of our central characters with John Hollins and Sharon Raymond played by David Allen Brooks and Talia Balsam. Brooks has appeared in movies like The Doors and Manhunter but has also worked extensively on television in shows like Jag, E.R., and CSI Miami. Balsam is the daughter of classic actor and Oscar winner Martin Balsam and has a much longer resume. Her horror credits are limited to only this, the movie Crawlspace, and an episode of Tales from the Darkside but her career as a whole started on Happy Days in 1977 and is still going strong today. Hollins is a scientist of some kind, and he gets informed that his mother, who had been ill in the hospital, is awake now and wants to see him.

At the hospital, the mother, played by Oscar winner Kim Hunter, instructs her son to go to the house he grew up in and burn everything. This moves the conversation in a sharp direction and Hollins is just as confused as we are. This is one of The Kindred‘s strengths as while the movie may get sort of dumb at points, it is hardly predictable. The human villain of the story is also introduced here with Dr. Lloyd played by ANOTHER Oscar winner in eternal grump Rod Steiger. Hunter won her golden idol for portraying Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire but would have a hell of a career. She appeared in more than a few noir movies at the beginning of her career and may be most remembered for playing Zira in the Planet of the Apes movies. Interestingly enough, she would also act with her co-star’s father Martin in the Romero/Argento anthology Two Evil Eyes.

Steiger won his Oscar for In the Heat of the Night but could have for half a dozen others. He dipped his toe in horror, most notably in the first Amityville movie and American Gothic, another Best Horror You Never Saw from the same year as The Kindred. Dr. Lloyd confronts Amanda Hollins in the hospital after he kills the ambulance driver with some of his failed experiments. They have a more serious history than he let on to john and asks how many of her experiments she had before deciding to kill them. She dies out of sheer spite to doctor Lloyd rather than give him answers and Stiger is great at being menacing. It’s not the first time in his career doing this but here, in this type of movie, this late in his career, it feels like a Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing type performance.

At the funeral we meet Melissa Leftridge played by Amanda Pays, who tells John how influenced she was by his mother. Pays is probably the most recognizable to this audience for either her role in Leviathan opposite Peter Weller and Ernie Hudson or her multi episode run on both the original and current Flash tv series. Hollins, his girlfriend, and a group that includes Leftridge all go to his childhood home to see what the fuss is about. The whole house has been turned into a makeshift lab and there’s something there waiting for them. the movie shifts between what feels like a creature feature, a slasher, and an eco-mystery throughout its runtime and teases us with all the extra bodies to add to the kill count. A half hour in and we have all of our main characters and fodder, including Betty from Revenge of the Nerds, and something works its way into a watermelon before we get our first kill of the night. One of the groups decides to take the watermelon to a safe place, yeah, its that kind of movie, and the tentacle creature pops out and gets very acquainted with the girl driving the car.

It’s also here that the movie delivers on arguably its greatest strength. The effects are all practical and it doesn’t skimp on the gore or creature design. The tentacles worm their way into different parts of her body and cause the car to crash, killing her. The group starts to figure out that Hollin’s mom was experimenting on something she called his brother Anthony. More tentacle action follows as the group deciphers the recordings and journal entries and to the surprise of no one, Leftridge is shown to be working for Lloyd. She brings him one of the earlier versions of Anthony that attacks her in the basement, but he wants more, he wants the greatest thing to happen to human evolution…apparently. The doctors find an element that shouldn’t be in their friend’s blood that is found in underwater creatures and Hollins is starting to piece together what exactly his mother was working on.

The Kindred Best Horror Movie You Never Saw

Mama Hollins spliced some of John’s DNA into different creatures to create a hybrid and named it Anthony. After many failed experiments, one of them finally stuck the landing and as they figure this out, Anthony gets pissed and decides they can’t leave anymore. He attacks them in the car and through various parts of the house before the movie takes another weird turn into the true motivation for leftridge. She contracted a disease while handing the same chemical agent the doctor found in their friend’s blood and after she is attacked by Anthony, she turns into a mer-creature hybrid and dies. Yeah, I didn’t see that one coming either. They try to escape the house, but Dr. Lloyd has finally shown up to try and wrap up this crazy plot. Stiger was a true professional through his career and after one of the directors tried to give him some direction, he told them “an actor is the only person on a film set whose mistakes are photographed.” This little pep talk even changed how the two directors worked with actors in future projects.

Stiger gets all goo-ed up as the group is about to electrocute Anthony, again, a true professional as he stood there and took it instead of having a stand in receive all the goop. When we finally get to see more of Anthony than just a few tentacles, it’s a sight to behold. As he is getting fried, he tries to rip the cords out of himself, and we see an outline of the human part of the creature that was successful. Even with alpha Anthony dead though, the group finds that all of the rejects in the basement are up and angry. They blow up the house and a surprising number of the human characters are left alive when it’s all said and done. One more curve ball from this unique horror movie.

The Kindred is great and fires on all cylinders while being weird enough to hold your attention for the entire run time. Its got A+ special effects and creature design, fun performances including from a couple of old Hollywood Oscar winners and is never boring. The first DVD and Blu-ray release was from Synapse in 2021 and not only does the movie look 10 times better than it did on VHS, but it’s also been completely restored and even has some great behind the scenes extras on the disc. Give the movie a chance through either a blind buy or when it pops up on streaming somewhere because you will not be disappointed. The Kindred isn’t talked about enough and hopefully we gave you a true Best Horror Movie You Never Saw.

A couple previous episodes of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw series can be seen below. To see more, and to check out some of our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-kindred-best-horror/

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