The Kindred (1987) Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: October 25, 2022 (LE released December 14, 2021)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 92:38
Directors: Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter
Dr. Amanda Hollins (Kim Hunter) is a molecular scientist who calls on her son John (David Allen Brooks) to eliminate all evidence of her genetic experiments, most specifically her “Anthony Journals.” Dr. Philip Lloyd (Rod Steiger), an acquaintance of Hollins who is familiar with her experiments, wants to continue her studies, no matter the cost! John heads to his isolated childhood home with a group of friends to uncover his mother’s research and destroy it all. There’s something else in the house, however, something watching and waiting… a tentacled creature born from the desire to alter human evolution. (From Synapse Films’ official synopsis)
Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter’s The Kindred (1987) is a classic example of one of those movies that you might remember reading about in Fangoria Magazine or seeing on the shelves at your local video store – maybe you even have a vague memory of it playing in the background during a sleepover, but you haven’t really seen it, because it hasn’t been available for so long. Broken down to its basic parts, The Kindred is a mad scientist tale that owes a tonal and visual debt to Stuart Gordon’s The Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986). It also parallels Empire International Pictures’ most successful period, when they were still aiming for moderate box office gains over the straight-to-video market, along with Brian Yuzna’s similar independently made, post-Re-Animator productions – simple horror films enriched by lush photography and set design, often from unemployed European artisans. I was genuinely surprised after scouring The Kindred’s credits when I could only find a handful of connections to Empire head Charles Band (who started Full Moon Pictures after Empire’s collapse) or Yuzna, including co-screenwriter/editor John Penney, who also wrote Yuzna’s Return of the Living Dead III (1993), actress Talia Balsam, who appeared in David Schmoeller’s Empire distributed The Crawlspace (1986), and art director Becky Block, who was set decorator on Gordon’s Dolls (1986).
Like the best Empire/Yuzna movies, The Kindred works because of its ambitions beyond its simple premise (a bunch of attractive twenty-somethings are sequestered in a spooky house inhabited by monsters) and modest budget, due to its enhanced production values. It helps that the filmmakers cast better than average actors, including two aging thespians, Kim Hunter and Rod Steiger, who take their roles seriously, yet happily engage in histrionics when required (in Hunter’s case, she had the advantage of getting to perform all of her scenes from a comfy hospital bed). Also, though the script depends on some ridiculous contrivances, it works more often than not, because the writers – a motley crew including the directors, Penney, Earl Ghaffari, and Psycho (1960) screenwriter Joseph Stefano – have focused on character quirks and frame the proceedings as a mystery, carefully unfolding events, instead of diving headlong into Lovecraft-inspired genre hijinks. The real meat of the matter is the mechanical effects designed by Michael John McCracken and special make-up by Matthew W. Mungle, who worked on Chuck Russell’s Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) the same year and with the Kindred directors on The Dorm that Dripped Blood (1982) and The Power (1984). Their work includes the requisite gore, but mostly revolves around slime-smeared creatures of multiple sizes, sticky transformations, and prehensile tentacles that burrow into character’s skin.
As mentioned, Obrow and Carpenter were the same team behind the derivative, but well-liked slasher, The Dorm that Dripped Blood and slasher-like possession thriller The Power. They followed up Kindred with one last collaboration, Servants of Twilight (1991), based on a Dean Koontz book. Obrow entered the STV market with movies like Legend of the Mummy (aka: Bram Stoker’s The Mummy, 1998) and One by One (2018), while Carpenter closed out his solo writing/directing career with 2001’s Soul Survivors, then created the TV series Grimm, which ran from 2011 to 2017.
The Kindred made its VHS debut from Vestron Video and then all but disappeared from the home video landscape, aside from a 1.33:1 Laserdisc from the same company. The only official DVD releases came from Germany and Australia, and appear to have been sourced from said Vestron Laserdisc. Other ‘grey market’ versions I found online also seem to use the Laserdisc as their base. Synapse hasn’t entirely skipped the DVD market, as this Blu-ray was first available as part of a limited edition steelbook that included a BD, DVD, and CD soundtrack, but, for most intents and purposes, The Kindred has skipped directly to high-definition. The 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer was created using a 4K remaster of the original unrated negative (for a brief breakdown of the R-rated and unrated cuts, see this movie-censorship.com post). The most important aspect here is probably Stephen Carpenter’s (who was also cinematographer) vivid color combinations. Everything, from neutral tones to the wackiest sci-fi hues, is saturated and punched up with dramatic lighting. Grain levels seem accurate for this type of film, though there is a noisy quality to the scan that makes edges appear a little wiggly in wide shots. Important shapes are well-separated despite the occasional shimmer, bolstered by consistent, but not overwhelming black levels. Print damage is limited to a few white dots and vague fuzziness on the edges of the frame.
The Kindred is presented in its original mono and a newly mixed 5.1 trak, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. As per usual, I tend to prefer original mixes, so I watched the majority of the film in 2.0 mono, but was sure to sample the 5.1 track during creature attacks, electrocutions, gooey explosions, and thunderstorms. Either track is good, though, and both are clean and neatly balanced, despite the thinness of the mix during exposition-heavy moments. Even with the lack of stereo enhancement, I think composer David Newman’s (brother of Thomas and cousin of Randy) lush score sounds better in mono, where it tends to be the dominant element outside of dialogue, explosions, and bubbling slime (I noticed the sound designers used one of my favorite “blorp” effects from the original The Real Ghostbusters animated series, which would’ve been still airing on TV at the time).
Commentary by Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow – Steve Barton moderates a brand new look back at the film with the co-writers/co-directors. The mellow discussion (which loses some momentum as the film goes on) covers casting and working with the actors, set/production design, technical struggles, filmic inspirations, and some things they might have changed if they shot The Kindred today.
Inhuman Experiments: The Making of The Kindred (51:16, HD) – This new retrospective documentary features interviews with the co-writers/directors, production designer Chris Hopkins, co-writers/editors John Penney and Earl Ghaffari, make-up creature effects creators Matthew Mungle and Michael McCracken, make-up assistant Jim McPherson, composer David Newman, and cast members David Allen Brooks and Amanda Pays. Subject matter includes the earlier movies the crew made together, early development and script writing, bringing on Joe Stefano to collaborate on a re-write, locations and sets, working with Rod Steiger and Kim Hunter, the special effects design/execution, editing, reshoots, the score, and release.
Raw behind-the-scenes footage (17:52, SD)
Theatrical trailer, TV spots, and home video trailer
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.