The Kindred starts by putting viewers right into the action. A woman runs frantically out of an apartment building. She continuously glances behind her as if she’s being chased. Just as she makes it outside, a body drops to the ground in front of her. She backs away into the street in horror as she utters the word “Dad.” Before she can react further, she’s hit by a passing car. This prologue conjures plenty of heart-pounding fear and dread, seemingly hinting at the terror to come. However, the rest of the movie unfolds at a far more deliberate pace, and while it continues to goose the plot with supernatural horror flourishes, The Kindred is most effective – and most enjoyable – as a psychological thriller.
The movie picks up as Helen Tullet (April Pearson), the woman from the prologue, wakes up from the coma caused by the car accident. She remembers almost nothing of what led her to stumble into the road that night and is shocked to find out she’s been asleep for a year. If that weren’t enough, she learns that in that time she gave birth to a baby her husband Greg (Blake Harrison) named Heidi (Scarlett Annandale).
As Helen attempts to recover physically from her coma, she starts to spiral psychologically. While Greg dotes on their daughter, Helen has trouble embracing motherhood and seems to be suffering from a combination of postpartum depression and grief surrounding the time she lost as well as her father’s mysterious suicide. Unable to remember what happened the night her father (Jimmy Yuill) took his life, she becomes determined to figure out what happened by other means. This leads her to seek out Frank (James Cosmo), the last person to leave a message on her father’s answering machine. As Helen dives deeper into the mystery, she starts to see the spirits of dead children in her home and turns to a psychic investigator (Steve Oram) for help. In the process, she discovers things about her father’s past that make her question the possibilities for her relationship with her daughter.
To some degree it feels a little like The Kindred is trying to have its cake and eat it too, by baking in elements of several popular genres. Yet the jump scares never quite mesh with the rest of the film and the movie might have been stronger had it kept its focus on the crime procedural and thriller components. That said, even though the various genres the movie touches on cause the plot to spread a bit thin, Helen’s investigation into her father’s past and her psychological journey are compelling, and Pearson does a fantastic job playing all of Helen’s complicated emotions. It’s an understated but nuanced performance that convincingly projects Helen’s weighty internal conflicts.
Director Jamie Patterson creates a screw-turning atmosphere that reflects Helen’s fear, confusion, and uncertainty, which keeps the movie engaging even when it’s clear where the plot is headed. In fact, the script by Christian J. Hearne foreshadows what’s going to happen on several occasions, making the mystery’s conclusion less surprising. Plus, there are several plot points that don’t hold up to the slightest scrutiny. Ultimately though, it’s Helen’s response to her investigation’s discoveries and what they imply about her as a mother that are the most interesting parts of the film. And these discoveries lead to a doozy of an ending that allows viewers to draw their own conclusions. As a result, though The Kindred has its flaws, it’s ultimately gripping enough to be worth spending an hour and a half with.