The Kindred is one of those thrillers that reminds you the scariest things don't come in the form of the supernatural -- they're right next to you, in the flesh, living and breathing in your very real world. This psychological thriller is directed by Jamie Patterson, a British filmmaker known for indies like Tucked (2017), an award-winning tale of an octogenarian drag queen with a terminal disease and some unfinished business.
"I love feeling scared," Patterson has admitted as inspiration for The Kindred. "Blood pumping. Short of breath. It's almost like an addiction, a craving, a desire. Some have it, some don't. Horror was and very much is my crack cocaine." As someone who also loves being scared, albeit only during movies, Patterson's statement is spot on. His love of a good fright as well as his professed adoration of 1970s psychological horrors like The Omen, which were more focused on "atmosphere and tone" than "gore and shock value," have produced a film with a bit more depth than what most modern thrillers offer.
Though The Kindred has its fair share of jump scares, that’s not what keeps you interested in the story. April Pearson (who played Michelle in the first ever season of Skins, which definitely had me geeking out for a moment) stars as Helen Tullet, a woman searching for answers after a parental loss, a surprise pregnancy, and the appearance of childlike apparitions. The thick and disjointed plot fits the scattered pacing and flow of the film -- however, you just kind of have to go along with it. If you do, you’ll find this psychological flick quite fun and spooky.
The beginning is bizarre. Our terrified lead, Helen, runs through the halls of an eerie apartment complex, looking back in fear as though she’s scuttling away from a most ungodly force -- at least that's the suspicion. When she finally makes it to the street, some eerie "thing" swoops by her just as she seems to breathe a sigh of relief. In a startled stupor, she takes a step back, only to be hit full speed by a passing bus. (Hey! Was that ghostly "thing" dad falling from the balcony?) For the remainder of the film, you’ll be anxiously awaiting to know what the hell she was running from. So will Helen.
Waking up from what she thought might have been a good night's sleep, Helen is confronted by her husband Greg (Blake Harrison, The Inbetweeners), who informs her that while she’s been in a coma for a year, she has given birth to Heidi, despite not knowing she was ever pregnant. Rest assured this isn't an Almodóvar-style rape-while-in-a-coma sequence a la Talk to Her. Our heroine was just unknowingly with child. Greg also admits he had to sell their place to help pay for Helen's medical bills, etc…. so, of course, they all have to live in Helen's recently deceased father's home now.
An aerial view of that daunting apartment complex adds to the unnerving tone of the film as a whole. Nothing good can come out of this.
Back on her feet, Helen tracks down her father's old friend whom she's never met before, Frank Menzies (James Cosmo, Braveheart, Game of Thrones), and presses him on why her father would commit suicide. Frank warns her: "Sometimes these things are best laid to rest." But she can't lay this to rest -- the phantom children won't let her! In fact, her first ghost sighting occurs during her initial encounter with Frank as she stares out the window to find a young ghost boy staring back at her.
Back at home, Greg can tell his wife's not quite the loving, doting mother to Heidi that she should be, and he's nervous to leave the pair alone. He's also mad that Helen is focusing too much on the past. Where’s the compassion, Greg? And if you are so discomforted, why suddenly go on a business trip?
Alone with her innocent baby girl, Helen experiences more supernatural encounters in her apartment, one of the more terrifying happening in the middle of the night. Beware of young girls with pigtails knocking relentlessly on your front door only to disappear as soon as you open it. Who the hell is she? There's no real mention of postpartum depression, but Helen's hauntings are reminiscent of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," as Helen struggles to love her daughter, while stuck at home with her. And her husband is constantly dismissing her.
Throughout her pursuit of truth, Helen encounters the same few ghosts, causing her to contact a medium who notes: "Lost souls can't get into heaven… They've targeted you." Oh, no! Why? And just who is this creature Sackhead that pops up?
And it is here that I will leave you, because the rest of the plot is the meat of The Kindred, and I'm not one for giving away spoilers. Patterson does not rely heavily on jump scares, as he promises. But there are some cliché moves, such as cuing a ghostly figure drifting past an open door or a close up of a shoddily crafted ghost face with some loud noises to get your heart pumping. I'm not here to harp on a ghost's appearance though, since they are not the real focal point of the film. The brief encounters with the supernatural only further prove that what's more frightening and psychologically lasting than the undead are people. And buildings. That London apartment complex really puts you on edge. You'll still be holding your breath as the credits roll, wondering what the hell happened.