Before the passing of his brilliant molecular scientist mother, scientist John Hollins fulfills his mother’s adamant dying wish to destroy her life’s long work at their old seashore home. She also spills out that he must put a stop to his unbeknownst to him brother named Anthony. John, who followed his mother’s footsteps by becoming a lead geneticist, devotes the efforts of his team to assist in the removal and destruction of the data but the extent of her work was severely underestimated. Digging through journals upon journals and computer data to find any mention of a long-lost brother, John delays the rescinding proceeding. That is until a member of his team is attacked by an unknown creature and that his brother might not be actually human. On top of it all, John’s lab supervisor, Dr. Phillip Lloyd, is hellbent on obtaining his mother’s covert creation and embeds a spy on John’s team to locate it by whatever means necessary. The simple deathbed request has become a monstrously frightening ordeal that will pit brother versus brother and place everyone’s lives in mortal danger with a tentacled creature set loose.
As Vin Diesel once said in 9 “Fast and the Furious” movies, family is everything. “The Kindred,” however, is not a Vin Diesel movie, does not have supercharged, illegal street race cars or even any high-octane action, and definitely pinpoints family to be more of a burden-riddled, hazard to your health kind of deal when the little brother you never knew existed turns out to be a hybrid surf-and-turf creature with a thirst for blood. That’s the barebone synopsis of “The Kindred”, a U.S. bred sci-fiction-horror from the directors of “The Dorm That Dripped Blood” and “The Power” Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow. The 1987 creature feature is penned by the two filmmakers alongside John Penney (“Return of the Living Dead III”), Earl Ghaffari, and “The Exorcist” screenwriter, Joseph Stefano to give the script a little extra supernaturally special to make it stand out. The indie film is a production under the limited partnership of producers Jeffrey Obrow, Stacey Giachino, and executive producer Joel Freeman (“Love at First Bite”) and was theatrically distributed by the now defunct F/M Entertainment.
As a geneticist, “Manhunter’s” David Allen Brooks gives a fairly convincing performance as a strong jawed, blonde haired, and tall statured scientist wearing the now hackneyed glasses to make him appear nerdy and scientific. Honestly, the L.A.- born actor could have gone without the glasses and would have made no difference in the geneticist maven that is John Hollins but on screen, it’s a good look for the part. Yet, all the scientific studies in the world couldn’t prepare what’s to come for the level-headed researcher: a long weekend at the seashore house with direct report whizz-kids and a British acolyte of his mother’s with the blatant hots for him despite his longtime girlfriend (Talia Balsam, “Crawlspace”) tagging along to help with the cleanout. Romantic tensions flare, jealousy ensues, and personalities clash as a house full of emotional cannonballs are being launched in every direction, blinding them to the real threat at hand – a genetically spliced mistake roaming the grounds and full of bloodlust. In its rampaging path are a varied of vaguely hormonal and youthful scientist and administrative blend with a hilarious Peter Frechette (“The Unholy”), the nice guy in Timothy Gibbs (“Witchboard 2”), the Betty Childs from “Revenge of the Nerds'” with Julia Montgomery in a stepdown supporting role, Bunky Jones (“Hide and Go Shriek”), and the dubious dame of Amanda Pays (“Leviathan”) in her best Kelly LeBrock impression. The cast rounds out with a couple of veterans in Kim Hunter (“Dark August”) as mother Hollins and in an almost unrecognizable in appearance but unmistakable in performance from Rod Steiger (“Modern Vampires”) with hair (likely a wig).
“The Kindred’s” promising 80’s creature feature showstopper is marvelously slimy, grotesquely anthropomorphic, and stunningly conceived and manipulated creature effects by a team under Michael John McCracken’s supervision. The palpable, practical special effects works for “The Kindred’s” era that offers technology limited f/x options, but for this type of subgenre to be constructed in the late 80s, “The Kindred” takes advantage of the wide birth of possibilities from makeup to creature mechanics to pyrotechnics, and to be made would have less memorable as just been another bargain-basement botch job of trying to skirt around the cost at the monster’s expense. Plenty of love is poured into showcasing the monster movie madness that includes a watermelon sinking its barbarous tentacles under human skin and an open floorboard cavity into the creature’s watery pit where the hybrid emerges and slinks back into the abyss. While the practical effects menagerie is a gawker’s paradise, I find the story is only a firecracker’s worth of entertainment in comparison to the Yonshakudama-sized starburst that is McCracken’s Kraken-like monster. Rod Steiger plays the obvious mad scientist, experimenting on the recently traumatized who’ve suffered head wounds, with the nefarious creation of mindless, mutants who are held in the basement of his lab because, well, to be a reminder of his failures? How a dying molecular scientist’s genetic splicing-gone-wrong and Rod Steiger’s version of playing God with the “People Under the Stairs” intertwines is either above my intelligence or doesn’t have one ligament of connective tissue to bind them together. Dr. Lloyd often feels like a very separate story, not dovetailed to the slippery and octopus-shaped antagonist John Hollins and his team face. The only smidgen of connection between the two conflicting plot titans is Melissa Leftridge who’s blackmailed by Dr. Lloyd to retrieve a specimen or die from the same exposure that’s mutated the creature under the seashore house. What befalls Leftridge, in itself, is another substory left shamefully abridged given the spectacle transformation of human-to-fish that randomly flares into the fold.
With an all new 4K high-definition remaster of the unrated print, Synapse Films doesn’t hold back their Blu-ray release of “The Kindred” that’s presented in 1080p, open matte 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The AVC encoded picture quality caters to the upscale class from a nearly mint transfer print. The color is vivid, and details come through nicely with every bit of goo and glop spewed from the creature. Any kind of issues with compression are either minor or non-existent in the 93-minute runtime and this is typical high-level execution as on many of Synapse’s upgraded and first-time ever on HD released products. The English language DTS-HD 5.1 master audio surround sound cuts a vigorous soundtrack with ample range. Depth is not really tested since most of the action is in the foreground but never does the action top the dialogue that remains free from obstruction and imperfections. Optionally, the release offers the original theatrical 2.0 mono soundtrack as well as English SDH subtitles. Ample bonus features on the unrated release include a commentary with directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter that’s moderated by horror journalist Steve Barton, a near full length making-of featurette with directors and writers John Penney and Early Ghaffair in Inhuman Experiments that digs into genesis and principal photography, never-before-seen on-set compilation footage of Michael McCraken’s creature effects, a still gallery and storyboard concepts, TV and promotional spots/trailers, and the original theatrical trailer. The physical release comes with a blackout Blu-ray snap case with a Synapse catalogue insert. For a middle of the road creature feature, Synapse knocks the release out of the park, elevating by particularizing the details with care that makes the pint-sized “The Kindred” feel monolithically 100 feet tall.