Category Archives: Creature Feature

Attack on Titan: Part 1 2015

 

Fandom is a funny old thing. When some part of culture is taken into people’s hearts, they become obsessive about the minutiae, and for its creators it can become a rock: how it is originally presented is how it should always be, never changing. Woe betide anyone who tries to mess with that formula, even if it is the original creator. This is what happened to George Lucia when he tried to do something different with the Star Wars prequels: the fans hated and rejected them.* Fandom demanded more of the same, not something else. It’s why The Force Awakens was so widely embraced even when Lucas wasn’t involved in it anymore.

Attack on Titan is a more recent example of the rigidity of fandom. The original Manga comic was successful enough to speed into production a wildly adored 22 part anime. Fully of crazy ass imagery (literally, you see a lot of monsters’ asses in this), interesting characters and a strong, original story you could see why people loved it so much. Then along came the live action movie and they had taken a long, sprawling sci-fi horror epic and mashed it down into two brief, expensive and shallow features.

And the fans turned their wrath upon these titans. They fucking hated these films. And I don’t mean just a little bit. Reviews across the board were rabid with foaming spittle of hatred. The liberties taken with the story, how characters had been merged into one, other characters had changed completely and big chunks of the plot had disappeared all together. Apparently Attack on Titan Part 1 was the the worst steaming pile of monster shit ever created.

Or, in fact,  not.

So I watched, or sat through depending on how you look at it, the seemingly never ending anime and what grabbed me at the time was how much of it there was. There was too much talk, too many flashbacks, too many characters. What there wasn’t was enough action. The first episode opened strongly with the titans’ spectacular initial massacre but after that there were long, long, long episodes of training, chat, infighting and more training. Also there were way too many characters that served no purpose. I could see what people liked about it, but I was not a fan. So it seems the movie version was made for me, because it cut out all the waffle and just left the good stuff. And I loved this.

As anime often is, Attack on Titan is set some time in a post apocalyptic future. The last of humanity lives inside within several massive walls, protected from giants who previously all but decimated humankind a hundred years before. Now a bunch of teens travel to the wall for a laugh, they barely even believe the titans exist. By a massive coincidence the beasts choose this exact moment to break though the outer wall and attack the good folk on the outer part of the city, basically where all the farmers and poor people live. Two years later the teens have joined the army in an effort to fight back against the titans and restore the outer wall.

The best part of Attack on Titan is the design of the titans themselves. They are essentially a bunch of very large naked people, but they have such weird, simple faces with wide apart eyes and big toothy smiles that are almost like giant, happy toddlers who just want to put things in their mouths, like all toddlers do. Unfortunately they want to put a lot of humans in their mouths. There is one scene where a bunch of titans tear open the roof of a church and munch down on the awaiting congregation like a box of chocolates. Its sounds silly, and in many ways it is, but these monsters with their grinning faces and gurgling noises are so creepy that when they appear, often silently despite their size, they are genuinely chilling. Also they are really well realised from the comic/cartoon to the screen. Being Japanese they have gone for the classic Godzilla route by having human actors stomping over miniature cities rather than cgi. The naked human form is not easy to digitally recreate with all the money in the world and as Japanese film makers have pretty much perfected this technique nowadays, the monster effects are pretty effective. It is especially exciting when the tiny human characters are fighting them by flying around their giant forms on cool gas powered grabbling hooks.

Okay, the characters are certainly a bit on the light side, and being a little over an hour and a half long you think they could have had time for a bit more development. However the action is so exciting that when there is a slow bit in the middle whilst characters ARE developed it feels like the momentum of the film is grinding to a halt. Also despite all my complaints about too much training in the anime, maybe a little but here would have at least introducedus to the characters properly or shown us how the weapons the humans have to fight back with work. Instead, for example, we get an explination of the grabbling hoof from a flashback to training IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIGHT SCENE. This just seems like sloppy story telling or studio interference.

However, these are probably just problems for real fans of the originals. If you’ve watch the TV show with adoration, or delved into the original manga then you might too be foaming at the bit with the movie version. And that’s fair enough, lord knows I’ve got annoyed at updates of my own favourites over the years. (I’m looking at you A Nightmare On Elm Street remake – or at least I would be if I could remember ANYTHING about you). However, if you want an action packed horror movie with some of the freakiest monsters this side of a Clive Barker novel, or just have a general fear of small children, then check out Attack on Titan Part 1.

And probably part 2 I guess… although I’ve not watched that yet. Maybe it will just infuriate me for not being the same as part 1, which, as you can tell, I am a fan oF.

 

*they also hated them because they were badly plotted with poor dialogue, stilted acting and an over reliance on digital effects but lets not go down that rabbit hole eh?

Kong: Skull Island 2017

The giant monster movie is a tricky dilemma for Hollywood. On the one hand there is a sizeable audience who really want to see large creatures beating the crap out of each other, smack down flying machines like they are flies and swallow humans like tiny, salty snacks. On the other it seems like there is a limit to how many people will turn up for this kind of entertainment. Godzilla, King Kong, Pacific Rim and now Kong: Skull Island all seem to reach around the half a billion dollar mark and then peter out at the box office. Considering how expensive it is to make a movie about a big ape, lizard or robot this is a problem for Hollywood execs. Clearly they want to make these big spectacles (as they have since the original King Kong) but too much money spent will not make a profit for them. These are, after all, just fun b-movies, albeit very expensive ones.

So Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers clearly have a plan in mind with 2014’s Godzilla and now Kong: Skull Island. Its a shared universe plan (obviously in this day and age) and I guess the thinking is if we can make so much money with Godzilla and then so much more with Kong, then put the two together and we’ll have an Avengers-style hit on our hands.

Well that may be. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to capture the public’s imagination the way the Marvel characters have but I am really glad they are trying. Any horror fan worth their salt should ALWAYS welcome the sight of a beast the size of a tower block trying to snap the jaw bone of another monster, and Kong: Skull Island certainly delivers those mega thrills.

It’s not all about the money though. First and foremost a giant monster movie has to engage and entertain us. This can’t be done with the monsters alone. You will always have to have human characters you can relate to. Godzilla tried really, really hard with that and failed, maybe because there was TOO MUCH character work (on some pretty bland characters as well). Kong goes the opposite way – there are loads of really interesting characters who we hardly get to know at all.

Maybe its because the characters are played by such charismatic actors – Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Riley, Tobey Kebbell, John Goodman, John Ortiz… and many more – but despite the fact you really don’t know much more than their jobs (not even that in some cases: I have no idea what Tian Jing was doing there) you are still rooting for them. Personally I would have had less characters with a little bit more time for them to breath and develop, but then, hey, I didn’t make this film. Also things race on at such a cracking pace there is little time for anyone to become anything more than “my dad gave me this lighter before he got killed in World War 2”.

I wonder if Peter Jackson’s King Kong had anything to do with the pacing of Kong: Skull Island. As beautiful and occasionally magical that film was, the one thing everyone will say about it (and I mean EVERYONE, apart from I guess Peter Jackson) is that it is way, way too long. The plot of the original King Kong was told in a solid 100 minutes and that felt about right. The 1976 remake is well over two hours and felt like it was stretching things. Jackson’s 2005 version is over three hours (200 minutes in the Director’s Cut) and there just isn’t enough story to fill it up, so it goes on and on with minor characters getting whole arcs (and aren’t even in the final act of the film) and scenes lasting for what seem like a week. Perhaps Kong: Skull Island listened to the complaints and kept things as brisk as possible, maybe at the expense of the human interest if not at the expense of the action.

Because what action it is. Kong this time round is a big old bruiser of a monkey. He’s rough-haired and scarred, reminding me more of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler than some love sick ape of old. Okay so he has a little bit of a moment with Brie Larson (though it is more mutual admiration than anything cross breedingly weird like other versions) but most of the time he is just being old, and moody, but kind at heart, and really ready for a fight. He doesn’t have any moments of soppiness, just the odd inquisitive look at these puny humans, before getting back the job at hand, which is mostly beating seventeen types of shit out of these really ugly (and well designed) lizards called the skullcrawlers.

Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director of the lovely but how-the-hell-did-he-go-from-that-to-this Kings of Summer, kicks everything up to a mad cacophony of colours and imagery, taking liberally from Apocalypse Now with slow motion shots of helicopters swooping over the jungle and Kong silhouetted against the sinking sun, but also keeping the action clear and understandable (even as the edits fly by).

Really things race by so fast that it shouldn’t really work at all, but Kong is a loveable fella and between him, the great cast and fantastic monster fighting action its hard not to be engaged and swept up with it all. It make monster movie making look easy, even when it clearly isn’t. Its only afterwards that you realise this is all as shallow as biscuits, but what the hell – you’ve had a good time.

So let’s get the monkey and the lizard together as soon as possible please, and quick, before the money men realise what they’re doing.

 

The Terminator 1984

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If you forget all the increasingly desperate sequels and get back to what the original Terminator was all about you will see at its core it is a horror movie. Right from the opening moments when we see bolts of lightning bursting out of nowhere on a deserted city street we are in horror territory. It’s like something out of a Frankenstein movie with that storm and then the monster-like Arnold Schwarznegger standing up out of the gloom. Moments later he is killing punks (including the, so sadly, late Bill Paxton) and murdering women on their doorsteps.

The Terminator is, as pointed out in the movie, nothing more than a killing machine. He has no personality, no sympathy, nothing – all he wants to do is kill. He is like a robotic version of Jason Voorhees. However, despite all this, somehow, he DOES have a personality – its why Arnold became such a superstar – and also why they kept on making Terminator movies and couldn’t make them without him. Even the future-set Terminator Salvation has a CG Terminator because he is so iconic. Making a Terminator without THE terminator would be like making a Superman movie but only concentrating on little Jimmy Olsen.

What is it that makes The Terminator such a fantastic movie monster? It certainly is his violent relentless: he has an understanding of guns that would make a grown American weep “.45 long slide, with laser sighting…, phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range.” “Hey, just what you see pal”) and is happy to dish out the death without hesitation. But he is also hilarious even if he doesn’t mean to be. “Hey buddy, you got a dead cat in there?” a caretaker asks, standing at The Terminator’s apartment door. It takes a moment for the machine to select the correct response before replying with an insult the caretaker accepts with a shrug and moves on: “Fuck you Asshole”.

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Even the much repeated, mostly by Arnold over the years, “I’ll be back” is actually a line before the punchline. When The Terminator isn’t allowed into the police station to see/kill Sarah Connor, he responds with that line before actually coming BACK in the form of a car that he drives straight through the police desk.

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The Terminator and the cyborg itself are also pretty gory. From tearing open his arm to plucking out his damaged eyeball (with flies feeding off his rotting flesh) the body horror imagery is classic genre fair. It was partly because make up effects came on leaps and bounds during the eighties, but also because film makers were fascinated by body horror at that time (and it would reach some kind of zenith two years later with Cronenberg’s The Fly).

Then of course James Cameron shoots these effects and more on an impossibly small budget. He manages to create a whole future post-apocalyptic world which seems like one long never ending nightmare, along with all the different forms of killing machines. Sure some of the models and back projections don’t hold up quite so well in this modern Hi Def world but it’s not just about making everything perfect here. There is a roughness to The Terminator which doesn’t distract from the world building but somehow make it more real. James Cameron’s imagination and creativity is so fierce that how could this film NOT succeed?

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Well, if the lead characters The Terminator was up against had been bland nobodies then that is would be one way the film could have failed. But no, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and Michael Bean as Kyle Reese are beautifully tragic lovers. When Terminator Genysis came out and the facsimiles of Connor and Reese met in some higgildy-piggildy alternative reality, Reece told Connor that he time travelled because he “thought you were kinda pretty.” Hmph… if ever somebody did not GET what makes this romance so special then it was the makers of Terminator Genysis…

“I came across time for you Sarah” Kyle Reese proclaims. He sacrificed his life, his world and his future, not for the fight against the machines and not because of his loyalty to John Connor. He did something no one else had ever done in the history of humanity and travelled back in time because he loved a woman with all of his heart.

It’s no wonder Sarah nails him on the spot.

Such a pity that he does it with tramp shit all over his trousers. Yes, that’s another thing you will notice in the glory of Blu Ray. When Reece first arrives back in 1984 he steals a tramp’s pair of trousers. Police suddenly show up and shine their spotlight on him as he pulls the pants up. You can clearly see a big dark stain on the bum of the trousers. Throughout the rest of the film, despite managing to liberate a coat, t-shirt and cool high-top sneakers, Reece never changes his trousers. The upshot of all this is that not only did he have to fight the Terminator to the bitter end in kacky pants but he also managed to pull Sarah Connor smelling like tramp turd. If you’ve ever worked in Soho, London then you know that smell ain’t pretty. Still… that’s love for you.

The Terminator stands up as well now as it did in 1984. If you forget all of what came later (obviously we all love T2 but that feels much more like a proper sci fi action blockbuster) and get back to the core of what this incredible story was about then you will see a frightening, thrilling and completely riveting movie that works as brilliantly as a horror movie as it does a love story. Or a sci fi movie. Or an action movie…

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SiREN 2016

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SiREN is an extended version of the best story on the found footage anthology movie VHS, Amateur Night. I have no idea why it is called SiREN rather than just good old fashioned Siren unless the film makers have some investment in a capital letters company – something I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist. Maybe it is called SiREN to sound all modern and iPad-like in keeping with the found footage theme. If so then they’ve got it all wrong because the feature film version of the short abandons the found footage approach which is a blessed relief. Its almost as if they realised it is officially done as a sub-genre: it (kinda) started with The Blair Witch Project seventeen  years ago and ended with Blair Witch this year. Let’s move on shall we?

Director Gregg Bishop and writer David Bruckner seem to have. Amateur Night was a fairly simple but very effective little frightener involving a bunch of guys picking up a couple of girls, one of which turns out to be winged and fanged demon. Really there wasn’t much to it other than that. It also it added another dimension by dealing with sexual consent and alcohol which was kind of unpleasant before the siren reveals herself. Bishop and Bruckner could have quite easily expanded that to feature length but instead they change the story quite a lot, adding loads more ideas and characters, the upshot of which is one of the most fun horror movies of 2016.

The main change from the short is that now the guys aren’t just going out on a lad’s bender but it is in fact the main character’s stag party (actually maybe Amateur Night was a stag party but its hard to tell through all the garbled found footageness of it all). This helps set up the dynamic of the four friends and by extension what is at risk for the stag when the night takes a turn for the worse. Unusually for this kind of group in horror movies these four aren’t all dicks. Chase Williamson, from John Dies At The End and Beyond The Gates, as Jonah the stag, is a likeable everyman. Okay so his brother Mac as the best man is a bit of a n idiot but he’s clearly put himself under pressure to give the best stag party he can when he’s pretty incapable of anything very good in life. Jonah’s best friend Rand should obviously been the best man, he’s organised and kind to Jonah, but Mac’s ego is too fragile to cope with that idea. This leads Mac to end up dragging the gang to “the best party ever” (a whorehouse in the middle of a dark forest, hmm…) where everything goes to shit.

Okay so so far so we’ve seen it all before and obviously we’re going to meet the siren of Amateur Night, and the title here, but what makes SiREN the movie more interesting is that the brothel/party house they end up in is more than just a seedy sex den. It seems to have several other stories going on here that we’re not party to but add a richness to the main event that I wasn’t expecting. Each of the various rooms have something outrageous playing out: if the main characters were to go into any of them then we’d have a whole different story going on. The dude who invites them to this place is overheard saying “does that mean I can get her back?” so obviously he has his own plot that we are never are privy to either.

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We could easily just had a story about the SiREN eating everyone’s face off but instead we are given a much more interesting plot. The villain who runs this den of iniquity (Justin Welborn) has all kinds of various deal-with-the-devil side projects going on. He also has some bizarre ideas like causing pain to one character and then inserting the memory of that pain into someone else in order to make them suffer instead. He also uses this trick as some kind of interdimensional message service. Its kind of bonkers.

Centre to all this though is the SiREN herself Lily, played by Hannah Fierman. She is a creepy and strangely alluring creation, which as siren is just what she should be. Its never fully explained if she is the same as the sirens of Greek mythology but her songs are haunting and mesmerising and Fierman’s off kilter way of saying “I really like you” makes you want to hug her and run away from her at the same time. We never found out what the ancient Greek Sirens did to the sailors who survived their ships smashing against the rocks in The Odyssey. You do here and its not pretty – keep that tail away from me!

SiRENS is a great bit of macabre entertainment, not scary as such (I don’t think horror always HAS to be scary, do you?) more of a horror action thriller with some rather unsettling moments. It is only let down by its limited budget which occasionally gets in the way of its ideas. Its certainly not let down by the creative team’s imaginations which are firing on all cylinders.

 

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The Shallows 2016

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The trouble with the one person survivor sub genre is there isn’t a hell of a lot you can say about it in a review without giving the game away. Robert Redford in All is Lost is all very well and good but the only thing of note in any of the reviews anyone can ever say is that he only says one word. I won’t tell you what that word is so there is some suspense there if you ever watch it, but I will say it rhymes with “luck” and it isn’t anything to do with ducks. At least Robert Redford had a boat, and Sandra Bullock had two space stations and various escape capsules in Gravity. In The Shallows Blake Lively has a rock, and a small one at that.

Surfing by herself at some obscure beach in Mexico (where her mother had been with her when she was in her womb) Blake inadvertently finds herself the prey of a great white shark after she accidentally gets too near to its feeding ground. As the tide goes out she finds herself trapped on a small rock that will sooner or later disappear when the tide comes back in. Simplicity itself.

Its understandable what most have drawn Lively to this project. This may be within the much maligned and rarely awarded horror genre but at least we have a rounded, self sufficient female character who doesn’t rely on men to save her. Horror is a funny old beast, on the one hand it will put women through some truly awful scenarios but on the flip side it gives us some of the most interesting and resourceful female characters in cinema.

These kind of films live or die on the ability of the lead actor. Fortunately Blake Lively has the charisma to pull it off. It helps she also looks like someone who’s been surfing all their lives, rather than, say, me who given a surf board looks like a drowning rat. Lively early on suffers a terrible bite and has to fix herself up. Fortunately we’ve been told that she’s a trainee doctor (damnit this girl can do it ALL) and can patch herself together. These scenes of survival are, weirdly enough, as compelling as when she’s battling against the great white. Maybe its because the wound looks so realistic, some of the best wound make up effects you’ll see.

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That’s not the only thing that looks good though. The camera work is absolutely astounding, especially the underwater footage when Lively is surfing the crest of a wave and we see the views from below – the wake in the water an almost abstract stream of patterns tearing across the silver screen. Director Jaume Collet-Serra and cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano really have gone to town in making this one location as strikingly beautiful as possible from the underwater action to the stunning skylines. Also the cgi shark is top notch, his size and menace just shown enough to make him a threat and not a Sharknado joke or whatever that old shit is.

I’m not that keen on,  the admittedly super slick looking, phone call pop ups on screen that happen early on, but they at least they get the exposition across without too much hokey dialogue. For example, we get to find out Lively’s mother has died – a simple photo on Lively’s phone of her with a scarf covering her bald head. This kind of technology on screen thing is a bit distracting, especially considering the remoteness from the modern world of this location but its not a deal breaker.

Okay, anyone who makes a killer shark movie has to accept that they are never going to make a better one than Steven Spielberg’s original and best. Its just not possible. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t give it a go, sharks are such simple and single-minded creatures of death that they make for a fantastic visual villain. The Shallows is simplicity itself but its entertaining and fairly tense simplicity, and I still found myself punching the air here and there, although that might have been the fleas.

Someone who didn’t appreciate The Shallows quite as much as me was Phyllis the Pug who watched it intensely on my lap. She had no problem with a giant shark munching down on various Mexicans and a Hollywood starlet, but for some reason she got furious with a small seagull with a broken wing (which is stuck on the rock with Lively). This poor injured bird greatly infuriated Phyllis and she seemed to want it dead. I feel she was missing the point of the film, or maybe she knew better. Surely we’re not meant to be on the side of the shark?

 

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The Monster 2016

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The thing about calling your film something as simple and all encompassing as The Monster is that your movie can be about pretty much anything relating to that word. The Monster may well be about a mother and child fending off a deadly beast after their car crashes in the middle of nowhere but it really is about much more than that. Just as Dark Was The Night was a simple monster movie that was really about loss and grief (and also known as Monster Hunter in some countries, so like a sequel to this!) so The Monster is really about addiction and failure. Yay to a barrel of laughs this Christmas.
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Kathy is taking her twelve year old daughter Lizzy to her father’s house, most likely for the last time as Lizzy can no longer tolerate her mothers lifestyle. Kathy is a raging alcoholic who puts the booze before her child and slaps her about if she gets in her way. Kathy is played by Zoe Kazan and the first thing that hits you is that surely she’s too youngto have a twelve year old? With her small pixie face and youthful features she does indeed seem too young to be a mother. I think this actually works in her favour as instead of living the life someone in their twenties should be living she is stuck trying to be a single parent. Clearly she has failed at this because she hasn’t had a chance to mature enough herself. Obviously the alcoholism is a factor too, although its not clear if she became an addict because of her situation or was already one before having her baby. Of course I’m always a bit weary of what constitutes being an alcoholic in America: if you have a drink at lunchtime there and someone will slip you an AA helpline number. If you were to have a drink at lunchtime here in the UK you’re encouraged to have another one.
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Kathy is clearly a terrible mother to Lizzy, this is told in flashback throughout the film and manages to carefully enrich the characters without interrupting the tension of the situation they’re in. It is also a testament to Kazan and Ella Balentine as Lizzy that they are able to create such a believable but off kilter relationship. They can’t bare each other but are so wrapped up in eachother’s lives that they are almost obsessed with how each of them react to the other. Lizzy, like any child really, just wants her mother to be a proper parent but she can see, and points out, her never ending failures. Kathy, in her quieter moments can show genuine affection for her child but is so enraptured by her addiction that she can’t find the will to escape her dependence. When they set off across the country they both know that this is the end of their relationship and that sense of tragedy hangs over the whole film.
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In some ways the best thing that could happen to this sorrowful pair is a dirty great big monster who wants to eat them alive.
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The vast majority of The Monster is set in and around Kathy’s crashed car at night and director Bryan Bertino sensibly keeps the creature in the dark for much of the film. Its not a bad creature though, by keeping it as a practical effect it has a strong, hulking physicality over the two female protagonists. However Bertino’s focus is really on these two desperate characters and their fractured relationship. The monster itself is all teeth and slime, like a skinned bear covered in oil. It barely even has any eyes but I think that’s kind of the point. This monster isn’t given any explanation like an ancient cave dweller or alien ravenger, it is just a creature trying to kill them. It is like the Id monster from Forbidden Planet: a representation of the dark side of Kathy and her alcoholism. Or maybe it is the Id of Lizzy who at one point fantasizes about killing her mother herself to be rid of her burden. Perhaps The Monster of the title isn’t even this beast at all but is in fact Kathy, an awful human being who tells her daughter to go fuck herself in front the neighbours.
But there’s more to Kathy’s particular brand of parenting that transpires as the film progresses. If being a successful parent is about giving your child the tools to survive what the world throws at them then you could say that Kathy gives her daughter the right, albeit awful, experiences to deal with what happens on that terrible night.
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The Monster is a neat little film. Even with the presence of indie darling Kazan it hasn’t been given much notice which is a shame because it is a good, small scale creature feature, working both as an entertaining B movie and as an insight into what is like to be good and bad parents and children.
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The Kindred 1987

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Before the advent of CGi in cinema, special make up effects were the stars of what the imagination could do on screen. Up until the end of the seventies they would be there just to compliment a story but would rarely rise above a rubber monster or some too-bright red blood. There were exceptions of course, Planet of the Apes with its expressive simian faces and Karloff’s monster are famous ones, but it wasn’t until the eighties when technology and years of know how resulted in both more realistic effects and the ability to do more far fetched imagery. Although never the mainstream box office draw that cgi was to become it still created stars of the industry: Rick Baker, Stan Winston and Tom Savini were all legends (in my life anyway). And of course Screaming Mad George.

The upshot of all this was just as there are numerous films nowadays driven by the computer based set pieces so there were movies which seemed to exist purely to contain some gloopy effects. The Kindred was one such film.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe writers/directors Stephen Carpenter and Jeffery Obrow really did want to tell the story of Anthony, a tentacled latex headed monster and his normal human brother and the bond of love they shared, like an average budgeted remake of Basket Case. Actually there’s no love at all between these two, the moment Jonathan finds out about his sticky sibling he wants to kill him, although “Anthony” did kill his dog so I guess all bets are off. Anyway I’m getting a head of myself.

Things start off with a yuppie in a Porsche driving like a dick and having a car crash. The first thing you notice about The Kindred is that they’ve got some money to throw around as this expensive sports car smashes through one of those portable homes that always seem to be broken down across roads in movies. The still alive yuppie gets towed off in an ambulance but then is body snatched from it by a couple of heavies. The yuppie is taken to renowned doctor and all round sleaze bag Doctor Lloyd, played by Rod Steiger and a large slice of ham. The ambulance driver, who was in on the yuppie body theft tries to bribe Lloyd and ends up locked up the doctor’s basement being eaten by the mutants he keeps down there.

I tell you all this because it is vital to know for the plot. Oh no wait, hang on a minute, no it’s not. Apart from introducing us to Lloyd (who isn’t in the film much anyway) this has nothing to do with the rest of the plot at all. Why does he have a bunch of mutants locked up in his basement? Why do they seem so upbeat when their existence consists of living in a wet dark cellar, eating dirty looking ambulance drivers? How come no one else who works in Lloyd’s hospital has ever noticed there’s something strange afoot in the basement? All of these questions and more are never answered.

The actual plot concerns Kim Hunter, well respected actress and exceptional monkey impersonator, as a scientist specialising in haemoglobin research… Is that good? I have no idea. On her death bed (clearly couldn’t wait to get out of here) she tells her son that he has a brother called Anthony and that he must go back to the family home and kill the fucker. This is all a bit of shock to Jonathan, or at least it would be to any normal human being but David Allen Brooks plays Jonathan with such a laid back casualness that I’m not convinced he was really paying attention to what his mum was telling him at all.

So off Jonathan, himself some kind of scientist, goes to the family home with his girlfriend and a bunch of students in tow. Amanda Pays, as the alleged next best expert on haemoglobin technology, comes along for the ride, and maybe a ride on Jonathan if she has her way.

Poor Amanda Pays. She may be a lot of things but a scientist she is not. Nor is she a very good actress. She does her best but the streams of scientific gobbledegook she has to spout out is not in the slightest bit convincing. Not that this really matters though, if anything her rubbishness is rather charming. She’s all very dubious though. One of the students makes a move on her, in a slightly tragic Trumpian lean in, and sticks his tongue down her throat despite only having said one sleezeball thing to her. After the kiss though the student backs away in horror. Later, he tells Jonathan that “there’s something fishy about her”. Can tell you tell where this is going?

Yes, spoilers, later on Amanda Pays turns into a fish woman. No explanation is given for this. Also the process is clearly too much for her as she dies as soon as her gills are up and running. Maybe she needed to be chucked into a bath to breath, I don’t know. I think it’s fair to assume that Pays was one of Rod Steiger’s cellar dwelling mutants but considering how much exposition there is in the film, a little bit of an explanation about Pays wouldn’t have gone amiss.

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So Jonathan and his gang carry on the search for Anthony or his mother’s journals but to no avail. Where could they be? What about the basement where there are weird noises and horrible smells arising. No, says Jonathan, that’s just the laundry room, couldn’t possibly be there. For days Jonathan continues his hunt. Maybe they don’t exist, there’s no evidence the journals are even here. Oh the dog has gone missing near that hole into the basement. But no, let’s keep on looking. But not in the basement okay? I don’t want to be tricked into some clothes cleaning rouse for my students. Let them stink.

Anthony, the journals and a whole host of other ghoulies in medical jars are in the basement. It’s takes Amanda Pays and her genius, but water logged, mind about two minutes to find them. Jonathon doesn’t even click until the last fifteen minutes of the movie, and that’s probably only because Anrhony, a huge, tentacled alien-y type creature is now sticking out of the hole in the basement trying eat everyone.

The gloopy effects are variable but effective. The best stuff is when Anthony thrusts his rubber tentacles under a hippy girl with a water melon obsession’s skin. Amanda Pays fish look is also very well done, although as we’ve established already it’s there just for the hell of making Amanda Pays all fishy. Anthony, and his mini-Anthony cohorts are a bit rubbery with not much movement. They look like what the Spitting Image puppet makers would have done if they wanted to take the piss out of aborted foetuses. Anthony also has lots of haemoglobin spurting out of him when he’s hurt. This is all very unfortunate.

I don’t know if haemoglobin is actually meant to be a white sticky material in real life but it certainly is in The Kindred. And there’s a lot of it. The upshot of it is when Rod Steiger turns up at the end in a not very big reveal that he’s the baddy and gets tentacled to death by a dying Anthony, he gets covers in the stuff. The truth is it all looks a bit spunky. So you have Oscar winning Steiger wrapping big wet tentacles around him while a crew member off screen chucks buckets of jizz at him. It’s not exactly dignifying.

Don’t let anything that I’m saying put you off The Kindred though if you haven’t seen it. It’s shot like a good episode of Dallas so is slick but soapy. Not that you can tell by the only DVD available which is clearly a copy of a VHS, even down to tape damage travelling down the image. Its in 4:3 pan-and-scan which is just depressing in this day and age. On the other hand it is enormous fun with a cool monster, lots of silly one liners and buckets and buckets of spunk.

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