Kindred, The: Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray Review)
DirectorJeffrey Obrow, Stephen Carpenter
Release Date(s)1987 (December 14, 2021)
Studio(s)F/M Entertainment (Synapse Films)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
Jeffery Obrow and Stephen Carpenter had previously brought two horror projects to the screen in the early 1980s, The Dorm That Dripped Blood and The Power, but they’re mostly remembered for 1987’s The Kindred. A monster movie that stands above many of its peers, perhaps even going toe to toe with films like The Thing and The Fly, it did decent business at the box office and had a thriving aftermarket life through home video rentals and repeated cable airings.
Dr. Phillip Lloyd (Rod Steiger) has been performing experiments using freshly dead bodies, courtesy of his murderous underlings. Amanda Hollins (Kim Hunter) is a brilliant researcher who once worked alongside Lloyd, but now works in seclusion. After a heart attack, she tells her son John (David Allen Brooks) to go to their home and destroy all of her journals relating to a project called “Anthony,” whom she refers to as John’s brother before dying. In the aftermath, John asks his girlfriend Sharon (Talia Balsam) and his friends Hart (Timothy Gibbs), Cindy (Julia Montgomery), Brad (Peter Frechette), and Nell (Bunki Z) to meet him at his childhood home and help him carry out his mother’s wishes. A stranger named Melissa (Amanda Pays), a great admirer of Amanda’s work, joins them, though Sharon wonders if she has another agenda. What none of them know is that there’s something else in the house loose under the floor boards, and it isn’t happy with their presence.
Although the film features prominent roles inhabited by Hollywood veterans Rod Steiger and Kim Hunter, the real stars of The Kindred are the make-up and creature effects, many of them created by the likes of Academy Award winner Matthew Mungle. Look no further than a set of tentacles sliding under the skin of a woman’s face. It’s the stuff of nightmares. The story itself and its set of stock characters from other, similar horror films aren’t all that interesting, but it’s the execution of the material that makes the film entertaining. Above all, The Kindred certainly deserves praise for being, as the rear artwork of Synapse Film’s new Blu-ray release states, “one of the best creature features of the 1980s.” It certainly delivers.
The Kindred was shot by co-director, co-writer, and director of photography Stephen Carpenter on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and lenses, then framed at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Synapse Films brings The Kindred to Blu-ray for the first time with a 4K restoration of the uncut 35 mm interpositive, which has been framed at 1.78:1. The Kindred is one of those unfortunate films that had no home video releases after VHS and Laserdisc. Synapse announced the film back in the mid-2000s, but because of complicated rights and restoration issues (not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic), it took them fifteen years to get to this point. For fans of the film, their patience will be rewarded. This is a gorgeous presentation. It has a heavy but tight grain structure, allowing for high levels of solid detail. Textures, clothing, objects, and even background activity are clearer than ever before. The color palette offers a nice range of hues, especially for the creature effects which retain a goopy, organic quality. Best of all, they hold up beautifully in high definition. Flesh tones are also ideal. Black levels are deep and shadow detail is healthy, though a scan of the original camera negative would likely have deepened them even more. As is, they’re still outstanding. The image is also stable and clean with no obvious damage leftover. Stills don’t really do it justice, it looks terrific in motion.
Audio is provided in English 5.1 and 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The new 5.1 track gives the original soundtrack an enormous amount of room to breathe. It’s not necessarily a track that offers frequent speaker to speaker activity, but it beefs up the sound effects and David Newman’s score significantly, giving the mix a bright and punchy feel that the original mono track is definitely lacking. Low frequency activity is also boosted and dialogue exchanges are cleaner and more precise. And though the original mono soundtrack sounds a bit thinner and overcrowded by comparison, it’s still nice to have its inclusion.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Jeffrey Obrow, Stephen Carpenter, and Steve Barton
- Inhuman Experiments: The Making of The Kindred (HD – 51:16)
- Rare Never-Before-Seen On-Set Footage (SD – 17:52)
- Still Gallery (HD – 127 in all – 11:08)
- Storyboards (HD – 34 in all – 3:23)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:58)
- TV Spots (Upscaled SD – 2 in all – 1:07)
- Video Trailer (Upscaled SD – :59)
The audio commentary between co-writers and co-directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter is a bit of a Q&A session as Dread Central’s Steve Barton (aka Uncle Creepy) questions them about the film as they all watch it together. It’s mostly light-hearted, but it takes a bit to really get going as the three men struggle a little with finding things to say. Inhuman Experiments is a great new documentary about the making of the film by Red Shirt Pictures, featuring interviews with Jeffrey Obrow, Stephen Carpenter, production designer Chris Hopkins, co-writers and co-editors John Penney and Earl Ghaffari, actors David Allen Brooks and Amanda Pays, special make-up and creatures effects creators Matthew Mungle and Michael McCracken, Jr., special creature effects creator James McPherson, and composer David Newman. The on-set footage, provided by Michael McCracken, Jr., consists of behind-the-scenes moments from the film when make-up and creature effects were involved, as well as footage shot during the sculpting process. The Still Gallery features 127 stills of color and black-and-white behind-the-scenes photos, production photos, design sketches, and posters. The Storyboards feature sketches of the Anthony attack sequence that takes place during the finale. Rounding things out are the film’s theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots, and the Vestron Video home video trailer.
The disc sits inside Steelbook packaging with the original poster artwork on the front and new artwork by Alexandros Pyromallis on the rear. Also in the package is a DVD copy of the film; the original soundtrack on CD by David Newman featuring 19 tracks; an 8-page insert booklet featuring liner notes by Michael Gingold, restoration details, production credits, and a CD track listing; and a 20-page Synapse Films 2022 product catalog. Everything is housed within a slipcover featuring new artwork by Wes Benscoter. This release is also limited to 3500 units.
After many years of waiting by fans, Synapse Films has finally rescued The Kindred, offering it up in a package that features an excellent presentation and great extras. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons
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