Review by Sean Boelman
If Joe Marcantonio’s feature debut Kindred makes one thing abundantly clear, it is that he has a phenomenal eye. Unfortunately, his wonderful visual ideas are put to waste by a script that is mostly stagnant and unoriginal, offering very little in the way of thrills and suspense and quite a bit of tedium.
The film follows a pregnant woman who, after her boyfriend dies suddenly in an accident, is taken in by his family and begins to suspect that something sinister may be afoot. Like a tamer version of Rosemary’s Baby, the story sounds interesting, but is heavily dependent on the psychological horror of the situation.
That said, the script by Marcantonio and Jason McColgan isn’t able to effectively attune the audience to the protagonist’s paranoia. It always feels as if there is supposed to be a mystery in play, but the audience is never kept out of the secret. The element of doubt is what is noticeably missing in order to make the movie feel more tense.
Additionally, the film doesn’t seem like it has much to say. There is a lot of symbolism, but those symbols don’t add up into anything meaningful. And while the first act introduces some intriguing ideas about how upper-class families tend to feel defensive of their bloodlines, this gives way to a more basic thriller premise.
Obviously, the protagonist is sympathetic, but Marcantonio and McColgan miss the mark in making her a more rounded character. The movie largely glosses over her grief for her boyfriend (and father of her unborn child), instead focusing on the tension she faces with his family. On the other hand, they are so over-the-top that they feel like caricatures.
The standout in the cast is Jack Lowden, who gives the performance most closely resembling nuance. Fiona Shaw is admittedly fun to watch, but in a film that otherwise doesn’t feel particularly schlocky, her hammy turn feels out-of-place. Tamara Lawrance is good, but the role frequently feels like she is acting back to her co-stars rather than with them.
It is on a technical level that the movie succeeds the most. Marcantonio is able to deliver some fantastically creepy imagery that makes the film worth watching on its own. Although it is common for horror movies to be set in an old house, it is a cliche that is undeniably eerie, and Marcantonio takes full advantage of that.
Kindred has some aspects that work quite well, but the script is too generic to have much impact. It will be interesting to see what Joe Marcantonio does next if this is any indicator of his skill behind the camera.
Kindred hits theaters and VOD on November 6.