As hardcore horror fans, sometimes it feels like you’ve seen it all. There are no surprises left to discover, no classic slasher film waiting around the corner to thrill you and slap a childlike grin on your face. You try to feed the fix by searching through lists of “The Scariest Films You’ve Never Seen” only to come across titles like “May”, “The Descent”, and “Suspiria”. These are, of course, films that us diehards know and love all too well. That’s where I come in, dear reader. We’ll be taking a deep dive into the bowels of obscure horror from decades past and uncovering titles that might have fallen “Through the Cracks”.
The Kindred (1987)
Directed by: Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter
The Kindred is quite literally the film that started me out on my journey of trying to unearth films that had fallen “Through the Cracks.” I read about it many moons ago within the pages of Rue Morgue magazine. It sounded like a fun, goopy, creature feature that had somehow remained unchecked across my radar. That specific article came at the perfect time for me. I was very much in the throws of “so, this is adulthood?” and due to all the life drama, I was losing touch with my true passion – horror! After a quick search, I was able to secure a copy of The Kindred, and it did not disappoint in the slightest.
The film was exactly the kind of gory, low budget monster mayhem that had me falling in love with the genre to begin with. Here I was, thinking I’d seen all that classic horror had to offer, and WAM – along comes The Kindred to remind me there are hundreds of films, especially from the 80s, that I still needed to lock my peepers on. I hadn’t seen it all, and I probably never would. However, the challenge of trying to do so was exciting and enough to light the fire under my horror loving behind.
I recently hosted a screening for a group of people who had never seen the flick. It was amazing how well it played. For an indie production that was destined to live out its life on video store shelves, The Kindred still packs a punch. So much so, even some of my friends who aren’t huge genre fans had a blast with it. It’s held up exceptionally well, and I couldn’t be more jazzed by the news that Synapse Films have gotten their mitts on the negative with the intention of releasing a cleaned up Blu-ray later this year.
So, what sets this apart from all the other titles that cluttered up the horror section of your local Blockbuster? The plot feels like it’s been lifted from any number of Lovecraft tales. In fact, it’s easy to imagine the directors were inspired by Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and decided to tackle similar material…just without the over the top humor. There are even shades of a later Lovecraft adaptation, Dan O’Bannon’s The Resurrected. In spite of feelings of deja vu, Obrow and Carpenter keep things moving at such a spirited clip, you’d be hard-pressed to not have some fun with your viewing experience.
In the film, John is coping with the impending death of his mother, a renowned scientist. On her deathbed, she urges him to go to his childhood home, find all of her lab work, and destroy it all. Without any further explanation, she also drops this bombshell: John has a brother named Anthony! Who – or what – Anthony is, is still a mystery. So, after her passing, John hauls a group of fellow MD comrades off to his family estate, and they all get to work trying to uncover just what it is his mother seemed so afraid of. Of course, their newfound interest in the files of John’s mother flies in the face of the warnings of a dying woman, but whatevs.
Before long, the gang is duking it out with an amphibious, tentacled monstrosity with familial ties to our hero. While the plot is straight out of the B-movie Basics playbook, there are a couple of surprises sprinkled throughout to keep you on your toes. The true standout, however, are the effects work. From perfectly repulsive makeup designs inserting gills where they need never go and large-scale animatronics that certainly feel of scale with a much larger production, The Kindred is a bonafide funhouse full of splattery effects work. Based off the artistry on display here, it’s no shock that lead makeup effects artist, Matthew Mungle, went directly from this to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and a vast number of Hollywood productions after that.
For the directors, this wasn’t their first time at the rodeo. The duo started with the equally better-than-it-had-to-be slasher flick, The Dorm that Dripped Blood (AKA Pranks). They followed that up with a gonzo super cheapie by the name The Power before tackling this, their magnum opus. In the years since 1987, Obrow and Carpenter have gone their separate ways. Carpenter has since been writing for TV with his only directorial credit since, the much maligned and heavily post-production-butchered Soul Survivors with Eliza Dushku. Obrow continued working in the indie scene with the occasional writing or directing gig. While we may not know why the duo went their separate ways (perhaps it’ll get covered amongst the typical wealth of Synapse bonus material), it genuinely is a shame. The two directors turned out three oddball gems that are well worth rediscovering by 80’s horror fans with a desire to explore the road less traveled. The Kindred is easily the best of the bunch, and when it comes to “Through the Cracks,” it’s the one that started it all!