[Cinepocalypse Review] Lucky McKee's 'Kindred Spirits'

June 16, 2019

Lucky McKee is a name synonymous with quality. Unless you’ve long since turned in your credentials as a hardcore horror fan, you know you’re in for a treat as soon as you see his name on a movie.

 

Kindred Spirits, McKee’s latest feature, might just be McKee’s masterpiece. It’s got everything; well-developed characters you love or loathe, tension that builds until you’re falling off the edge of your seat, and gore effects that’ll make you squeamish in the best possible way.

 

The movie stars Thora Birch (Hocus Pocus, Ghost World) as Chloe, a single mother struggling to reel in her teenage daughter’s anger issues while also returning to the dating scene.

 

Chloe’s estranged sister, Sadie, returns home after a long and unexplained absence. Though Sadie’s intentions seem pure at first, and although her 17-year-old niece, Nicole, is obsessed with imitating her favorite aunt, it soon becomes apparent that Sadie’s agenda goes far beyond getting a "fresh start."

Early in the movie, we’re shown a scene from Sadie’s childhood when she rescued Nicole from an oncoming car. This seems to be the root of Nicole’s undying admiration of Sadie; she repeats a few time in the first act, "I owe you my life." While some people would be happy with just the loving sentiment, Sadie really seems to take these words literally. Her own life isn’t exactly going well, and she reveals to Chloe that she’s insecure about her age. Before long, we begin to ask ourselves: who’s trying to become whom?

 

I challenge even the pickiest horror buff to find a single misstep in this fast-paced descent into madness.

 

Not that I didn’t try to find the flaws in Kindred Spirits. Like most film junkies, I tend to yell at the screen every time a character does something illogical as a way of serving the story. Fortunately, every time I opened my mouth to shout something, the movie took me by surprise and answered my concerns before they were even voiced.

 

Although Kindred Spirits isn’t a comedy, it certainly had a few moments that felt self-aware in the same sense as Scary Movie, particularly the ending. I’m not sure if these "meta" moments were intentional, but I stood up and cheered when one of my primary concerns throughout the movie was addressed. The entire movie was a bit like flying down a quarter-mile waterslide in the dark; every time I thought I knew where things were going, the movie took a sharp turn and kept me guessing where it would all end up.

Not only is the story well-written (kudos to screenwriter Chris Silvertson), but the overall tone of the film did its share of the heavy lifting. The entire movie is visually pleasing, and the aesthetics work so well in unison with the story that we’re able to slip completely under the movie’s spell.

 

Of course, even the best-planned movie is absolutely worthless without a stellar cast. In addition to Birch’s masterful depiction of Chloe’s trust dilemma between her sister and her daughter, one of the highlights of the film is the perfect chemistry between Frolova and Stasey). There are some truly beautiful moments between their characters, including a scene where they wear matching masks to a Halloween party (a metaphor which is obvious yet somehow works well), and several scenes which demonstrate Nicole’s constant attempts to emulate her favorite aunt. When the mind games come to a head between Nicole and Sadie, both actresses prove up to the challenge of keeping us engaged with their performances. Stasey in particular took me by surprise—I never would’ve thought someone so beautiful could give me nightmares with only a subtle change in her expression and verbal inflection.

 

Kindred Spirits held its World Premiere at this year's Cinepocalypse, and I’m putting it out there now: this will be the most talked about film of the festival.

 

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