It's Here!! The Kindred

The Kindred is a title Synapse Films announced... I don't know, a decade ago? It's a crazy horror flick that fans have been asking for since DVDs began, and in 2008, Synapse did an interview with SGM, saying they'd just completed a new HD transfer, "the film looks amazing. I had the old video transfer on hand for inspiration to give me an idea of what NOT to make it look like (haha)… the film looks unbelievable now. It's much nastier than I remember, really. We haven't got any firm extras nailed down yet." But then it got stuck in legal limbo involving its producers. Over the years, Synapse has hinted that it was still coming, they just had to clear some paperwork hurdles; and here we are in 2015, fingers still crossed. But until that day comes (did I mention the fingers still being crossed?), it's not entirely, completely, totally unavailable. There's this budget release from Australia on JL, which came out in 2006.

Update 3/14/15 - 12/5/21: Wow! Did you guys give up hope? Well, it's finally here: Synapse's limited edition (3500 copies) special edition BD/ DVD combo-pack steelbook.  The Kindred finally looks like a proper movie!
I still remember The Kindred from the days late night cable TV sleepovers. This is the film that did for the watermelon what Psycho did for the shower... and, believe it or not, it's even the same writer! But no, don't let the killer watermelon talk throw you; this film isn't a Killer Tomatoes like film... it has more of a Stuart Gordon Lovecraftian tone. A scientist comes out of a coma and asks her son to go to her old house to destroy all of her notes and experiments she left behind. It doesn't wind up being that easy, of course, and he gets caught up in a world of evil scientists and fish monsters.
It's all rather well done, full of neat, squishy special effects, impressive set pieces, an effective score and co-stars Academy Aware winners Rod Steiger and Kim Hunter as well as 80s dream girl Amanda Pays. It's by the same team that made The Dorm That Dripped Blood and The Power, but this has a substantially bigger budget behind it and it shows. The quality's just on a level higher now. I mean, this movie has some flaws; it's still not on par with the truly great 80s horror classics like Hellraiser or A Nightmare On Elm St. It's talky and a little wooden at times, and the comic relief character who hangs around the entire film in a Hawaiian shirts is a bit much - but who cares? It's great! Even that Hawaiian shirt guy gets some cool moments by the end.
1) 2006 Aus JL DVD; 2) 2021 US Synapse DVD; 3) 2021 US Synapse BD.
Unfortunately, JL's transfer appears to be the one Synapse kept around to know what not to do... if not worse! Not only is it full-screen, soft and faded to the point of looking black and white (or brown and gray), but it's also single layer (Of course!) with a poor NTSC to PAL transfer, giving it some nasty interlacing. I honestly suspect the original Vestron Video tape release would look better than this. I thought the 1.29:1(!) framing might've been open matte based on a lot of the excess headroom in shots like the Amanda Pays one above, but no. They did frame a little high, but as we can plainly see in Synapse's 1.78:1 (why not 1.85?) restoration, they cut plenty off the sides.  So sure, any disc will look compared to JL's disaster, but you might be wondering how good could a BD taken from an HD master created in 2008 really look?  Well, I'm happy to report that Synapse threw out that master they talked about above and gave this film a fresh 4k scan (from the interpositive).  It looks beautiful; the colors are delightfully vivid and grain is carefully captured in the encode.

JL's DVD just has your basic Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track.  It's fine, considering how the image looks.  But of course, Synapse has remastered the audio, giving us a stronger pass on the original mix, plus an all new 5.1 remix, both in DTS-HD on the blu.  And they've added English HoH subs, too.
Of course, JL's DVD has no extras, not even a trailer.  But Synapse has the works.  Where to start?  How about a terrific, hour-long documentary with the directors, stars, effects artists, composer... pretty much everybody involved with the film who's still around.  It's a first rate retrospective that's fortunately also able to include behind-the-scenes footage captured during filming.  And if you didn't get enough of that footage glimpsed in the doc, there's a whole 20ish minutes of it included as a separate feature.  And there's a great commentary by the directors - at least one of whom remembers everything - that yes, does repeat some anecdotes from the doc, but also includes a lot of unique info and insight, making it all worth your time.  And yes, the trailer's here, as well as a couple TV spots, a lengthy stills gallery, and a second gallery of storyboards.  Synapse's steelbook comes in an attractive slipcover and includes a booklet with great notes by Michael Gingold, as well as an essay by Don May Jr. explaining why this film took fifteen years to release.  And there's even a CD of the film's soundtrack.
So these Synapse steelbooks are a bit pricey, but looking at all they've included, you can't say they don't give you a lot of value for your dollar.  All you could say for JL disc was that it was a quasi-legit, non-bootleg region free release that went for cheap, so anybody anywhere could at least watch the movie.  But watching this new release, I appreciate The Kindred like never before.  This movie's a real crowd pleaser, and now that it's back on the market and looking good, I hope it finally finds its audience with everyone too young to have caught it in its cable TV heyday.  If you've never seen it, yes, this is one you can risk a blind buy for; and I don't throw that suggestion around lightly.

1 comment:

  1. Laserdisc version looks better than this. This looks like it was ripped from the VHS version and put on dvd.