Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like my buddy Michael Monterastelli, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a glorious showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. His passion for VHS is such that I thought it would be fun to talk him into sharing his vast collection with us. My only rule for him? The movies can’t be available on DVD.
Take it away, Mike!
Title: The Kindred
Genre: Slimy Monster Movies
Tagline: Anthony isn’t your typical bottle baby…
Released by: Vestron Video
Director: Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter
Plot: Dr. Amanda Hollins (Kim Hunter), a molecular biologist in ill health, reveals to her son John that he must return to his family home to destroy her secret genetic experiments and journals regarding the mysterious “Anthony” project. When asked who Anthony is she responds “Your brother!”
Unfortunately, his mother leaves out the information about the experiments involving gene splicing and that his brother Anthony is a vicious, slimy squid monster who attempts to kill John and the group of attractive young friends he’s brought to help him. She also skips the news that her ex lab partner, the evil Dr. Phillip Lloyd (Rod Steiger), has been continuing these insane experiments without her and will stop at nothing to make sure Anthony survives. Nothing!
Thoughts: I was lucky enough to grow up as a child during the height of the video store boom in the eighties, as well as the golden age of prosthetic effects in horror films from that same era. From big budget spectacles like John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly to low budget gems like this forgotten favorite, there was never a shortage of goop oozing monsters, mutants and creatures that were designed, sculpted, molded and hand crafted by talented artists in an industry that is now shrinking more and more rapidly as filmmakers opt for digital effects. I personally can’t stand CGI blood. It immediately takes me out of the film and lessens the impact on every level because my eyes are telling my mind that this is animation. Say what you want about the limitations of some of these old school effects, at least my eyes know what I’m seeing is actually there, not obviously added later in post.
Maybe the reason why I love The Kindred so goddamned much is because it’s the perfect example of this glorious, slime-drenched era of practical FX filmmaking. From the writing and directing team of Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, the duo responsible for the supernatural horror flick, The Power, which is another neglected low budget gem that is currently only available on VHS.
I rented this one back in ’87 from Video Shmideo because I rented every new horror movie that came out. I remember the simple black cover with the mutant bottle baby beckoning at me from the new release section. But like every new release from back then there was just one question, “Would it deliver on the promise of the awesome box art?” I say, “Fuck yes!”
First of all, this movie has not one, but two Academy Award winning screen legends. Kim Hunter plays the monster’s mommy and Rod Steiger tears every scene he’s in a new asshole as the mad scientist. In the finale there is an amazing moment where Steiger emotes an incredible amount of emotional agony over the Anthony monster’s demise, all while being doused with a geyser of monster puss like he’s at the fucking Nickleodeon awards! It’s glorious!
The rest of the cast is made up of some good looking, but completely forgettable 80’s actors dressed in lots of pastels and denim. The lead looks a lot like a young Sammy Hagar with shorter hair and his romantic interest is the lovely Brit hottie, Amanda Pays (Oxford Blues), who has a really awesome transformation sequence near the end where she turns into some kind of fish creature complete with “bladder” EFX, which of course is where a bladder is pumped full of air underneath the latex to create a hideous skin-rippling illusion. I always love me a good transformation sequence with bladder EFX!
Some other memorable effects moments worth noting include the infamous “watermelon” scene in which the Anthony monster somehow manages to hide inside a watermelon that’s in the back seat of one of the female character’s car. It bursts out in disgusting fashion and attacks her while she’s driving by stabbing her in the face with slimy stingers until she crashes. It’s a really well shot sequence with great makeup effects and a cool stunt.
A cute puppy is murdered by the creature’s tentacle and I mention this only because you never see cute puppies killed by monsters anymore, unless of course they fool you into thinking that the puppy’s dead only to have the mutt show up right before the end to ease everyone’s concern. I love cute puppies like anybody else, but I hate being coddled. I say to Hollywood, go ahead and kill off a puppy once in awhile. On film of course, I don’t want any puppies actually being harmed just so I can enjoy a cheap horror movie. Let’s get that shit straight.
The final showdown with our heroes and the creature features fountains of slime ejaculated from tentacles soaked with petroleum jelly, where finally in the end, a peripheral character, who’s been nothing but an annoying idiot the entire film, saves the day because… he smokes cigarettes. BAM! God bless you, The Kindred! You’re as American as apple pie and mama ain’t bakin’ ‘em like this anymore. Apple pie soaked in monster goo, that is.