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Monday, January 10, 2022

[Review] ‘The Kindred’ Makes for a Heartfelt Thriller with a Weak Sendoff

A woman makes her way down a hallway in a panic. Wobbling slightly, she looks behind her shoulder, making her way into an elevator and heads to the ground floor. She walks outside and tries to catch her breath; a body plummets to the ground and crashes before her. The woman has barely any time to react before a car hits her. And thus is the opening to The Kindred.

Directed by Jamie Patterson and written by Christian J. Hearn, The Kindred follows Helen (April Pearson), the woman who got hit by a car. Waking up in a hospital bed, her husband by her side, she learns that she has been in a coma for a little over a year. Along with her body being in rough shape, Helen is also struggling with amnesia; she knows that, prior to the accident, she was at her father’s place, and the person who died before her was him. She learns that, while she was in a coma, she gave birth, and that her husband had to sell their home to take care of hospital bills and their new child. With nowhere else to go, Helen and her family move into her father’s old place – which appears to be haunted by several ghost children.

The Kindred has a great deal of tension going for it throughout its runtime. As the audience witnesses Helen’s accident and her dad’s suicide, several questions come to mind. Why did Helen appear so distraught? Why did her dad take his own life? And just like the viewer, Helen is also in the dark when it comes to details – making her journey to discover the truth all the more intriguing. Even if the pacing is a little slow at first, the film’s overall investigative angle maintains an engaging draw; as Helen digs deeper into the history of her father’s home, every little bit of info she discovers unveils something darker, drawing her and the audience towards a horrifying discovery.

Along with the narrative itself making for a satisfying thriller, what works big time in The Kindred’s favor is that of Helen herself. She has just come out of a coma, trying to work through past trauma, having lost her home, and now having to learn what it means to be a parent; it seems that the film is throwing a lot at this woman, and it is. But none of that is ever presented in a melodramatic, “woe is me” sort of lighting; instead, we see a person striving to make the best of their new life. She wants to be happy, but she is lost. There is a weight on top of her, and she cannot let it go. Helen is someone who one can’t help but feel sympathetic for, which in turn creates an additional means to invest the audience in her mission.

As far as the supernatural horror is concerned – though the appearance of the creepy kids makes for dull jump scares at times, there are several moments that effectively deliver eerie vibes. The use of shadows within Helen’s home allows for a claustrophobic presence, making the physical proximity of these children unnerving.

Where the film struggles the most though is in its efforts to say something of substance from a thematic standpoint. A major theme throughout The Kindred is that of parenting – the love of having a child and what we take on from our parents. Given how early conversations regarding these topics appear in the film, it doesn’t take much to assume that they are part of some greater narrative endpoint. But – and I’m keeping things vague as to avoid spoilers – what the film ultimately strives to convey comes across flat. It’s an angle that, while interesting on paper, isn’t fleshed out enough to make for a meaningful enough statement. I can’t say the ending is super random or out there, but the shift in direction feels a tad jarring. Which is a shame given how the film’s journey leading up to the conclusion is intriguing and heartfelt.

From the moment The Kindred starts with Helen panicking down the hall, a lingering unease is presented upon the viewer – with morbid curiosity only intensifying as the story plays out. Helen’s internal suffering and her desperation to find closure make her sympathetic and someone to care for. And yet, even with a lot of decent suspense and character depth working in its favor, The Kindred drops the ball with its ending. An ending that strives to say something, but ultimately, makes for a muddied message that does little to elevate what the film’s themes are attempting to explore.

The Kindred is now available on VOD outlets.


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