Kindred Spirits, 2019.
Directed by Lucky McKee.
Starring Thora Birch, Caitlin Stasey, Macon Blair and Sasha Frolova.
Chloe is a single mother in a clandestine relationship with her neighbour Alex that even her daughter knows nothing about. But when her sister Sadie comes back home after a long unexplained absence, a grim incident from the past rears its horrific head once more.
Indie-horror vet Lucky McKee (May, The Woman) returns to Frightfest with his seventh theatrical feature, penned by his regular collaborator Chris Sivertson. And while few are likely to rank it among the director’s strongest works, committed performances go a long way to filling the void.
Chloe (Thora Birch) is a single mother raising her teenager daughter Nicole (Sasha Frolova), when out of the blue her estranged sister Sadie (Caitlin Stasey) returns home following a lengthy absence. What is at first a joyous reunion quickly brings past turmoil back to the surface, and threatens to destroy what remains of Chloe’s family unit.
The premise of a familial interloper returning to cause havoc isn’t exactly a fresh trick for the horror genre, and it’s fair to say that much of the film’s opening passages come off a touch flat.
There’s a distinct TV movie vibe to some of the earlier drama, which is doled out in fairly dull, expository terms without any of the wink-wink subversion you might hope for. This even carries through to the flat lighting and flowery musical score, both so pat you’d almost believe McKee did it on purpose.
The film perks up considerably with the arrival of Stasey’s Sadie, however, largely due to her brilliantly calibrated performance. Subtle tics indicate that something isn’t quite right with the returning sister, but Stasey restrains herself enough not to give the game away too early, and even when the proverbial hits the fan later, she avoids the temptation to veer into full-on camp. The script asks much of her, and she absolutely rises to the challenge.
Her two co-leads aren’t slouches either; it may startle many to see Thora Birch now old enough to play a mother to a teenager, and the film seems to revel in that jarring fact by having her act out an awkward dinner table conversation that bears unmistakable shades of American Beauty.
If Stasey gives the standout performance, Birch is the axis around which every other character revolves, getting to work through some especially memorable scenes opposite her screen daughter – played with believable jadedness by Sasha Frolova – and also her covert lover Alex (Macon Blair).
While the majority of the film is a surprisingly tame character drama, McKee does ramp things up considerably in the final 20-or-so minutes, hurtling unfortunately towards an unsatisfying ending that relies on both character idiocy and narrative contrivance to operate. Perhaps had the film taken a funnier tenor overall rather than deploying only scarce gallows humour, this might’ve been more permissible as just part of the wacky nonsense.
The sometimes underwhelming writing and direction of Lucky McKee’s latest are propped up at all times by Caitlin Stasey’s firecracker performance.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.