If you already know of Lucky McKee you’ll know that he has been the dark and disturbed mind behind some female-driven films in the past including 2002’s May starring Angela Bettis and 2011’s The Woman starring Pollyanna McIntosh, which is an adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s horrific novel of the same name. Both these films nestle under your skin and grit away at your mind, which is why when Kindred Spirits was announced in the Frightfest 2019 line-up, I knew I would be there for that one. This is another film focusing on the intricacies of female relationships, how jealousy can become a dangerous emotion and in McKee’s own words, what happens when people in your life unexpectedly show up on your doorstep and start to ruin your life.
Chloe is a single mother living with her teenage daughter Nicole; they come across as a close mother and daughter duo that have a strong bond but are still susceptible to the usual strains and arguments that every family has. Unexpectedly Chloe’s sister, Sadie, turns up out of the blue asking to stay with them both for a little while so she can get back up on her feet and sort her life out. As the sensible older sister, Chloe is clearly a little reluctant at first but quickly gives in as she would do anything to look after her little sister. But it’s Nicole who is ecstatic; she shares a special bond with her aunt, so much so that they often refer to themselves as “kindred spirits”. Soon enough, Nicole’s idyllic life starts to drastically become a living hell, with her friends turning on her, her boyfriend leaving her and arguments with her mother becoming violent. Nicole soon realises that the only thing that might be causing this is Sadie’s presence…
Kindred Spirits pulls us in quickly with believable and relatable characters, and a gradually building storyline that gentle develops into something sinister. When we first start watching it’s hard to see where the twist is going to come, and how it would be possible for this film to take a dark turn. The audience’s intrigued is peaked through the initial niceties that are presented to us; how could such a close trio of women fall so far from the life they’re currently leading? McKee builds this trusted ground to keep us on, so that when the smiles start to unravel and the character relationships start to break down, we also feel like we’ve had a false sense of security and been deceived, just like Nicole’s character.
McKee knows how to build strong female characters that the audience can either resonate with, or atleast support. In Kindred Spirits he portrays the relationships between Chloe, Sadie and Nicole in a very realistic way, which helps us to identify with them on a very natural level. The mother and daughter relationship is one that many of us have; very close and nurturing, but as a teenager you always felt the need to rebel against your mother, regardless of how right you knew she was or how you knew she was only doing certain things for your own sake. Then comes Sadie who is the ‘cool aunt’, that doesn’t understand some of the reasons behind Chloe’s decisions for her daughter, which makes Nicole want to be more like her. Because no teenage girl wants to be like their sensible mother, they of course want to be like their wild and care-free aunt. It’s these relationships that really drive and build the film, and help the audience to understand how complicated female relationships can be and why deceit, manipulation and favouritism easily come into play.
Kindred Spirits focuses heavily on the aspect of jealousy, and how when more than one person is rife with it, it becomes one of the most dangerous and damaging emotions a person can have. As we watch the film, we soon find out that Sadie isn’t everything she has presented herself as, and although she is very close with Nicole, the only reason for doing so is to be able to easily manipulate situations and make Chloe believe her daughter is becoming something more than psychotic. Sadie has a disturbed mind, and she’s so fixated by her obsession with her sister Chloe, that she needs to have her in her own possession, which means she can’t share her with anyone at all. It’s frustrating to watch as we always know exactly how Sadie is manipulating a situation to make Nicole look bad, and yet she’s so good at it that Chloe is always on her side. Thora Birch (Chloe) and Sasha Frolova (Nicole) give incredible performances, but it’s Caitlin Stasey as Sadie that really steals the show on this one.
The problem with Kindred Spirits is that it never goes as dark as you would expect it to go… There are some scenes that leave you feeling quite shocked, but considering the extent of horror we see in May and The Woman, it feels as though this film is a little too tame to be in the same repertoire. The film has the potential to really destroy the audience’s initial expectations and leave us feeling ruined by the end, but it completely misses the mark on this and just doesn’t increase the intensity, which leaves us feeling a little disappointed by the end of the film. Without that added explicit content, it seems that Kindred Spirits feels unfinished towards the end.
Kindred Spirits is a film that is enjoyable for the experience, and following the story, but will leave you feeling a little let down at the end. This is a film that focuses on the complications of female relationships and how dangerous jealousy, obsession and possession can be.
My Rating: ★★★
Directed by: Lucky McKee
Written by: Chris Sivertson
Cast: Bruce Bennett, Thora Birch, Macon Blair, Liam Booth