Review: The Kindred (1987)

Composer: David Newman

Label: Varese Sarabande

Catalogue Nr.: VCL 0805 1041

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A cinema phenomenon of the 80's were creature films with the most famous example being Joe Dante's funny Gremlins (1984) which triggered a lot of rip-offs during the entire decade. The Kindred was one of these films that came rather late in the game but can still be considered as a more solid low-budget creature/horror flick about the terrifying results of genetic experiments. It had solid acting and decent special effects for its tiny budget though all that did not help to save the film from disappearing into obscurity. Maybe that's due to the wealth of plot holes throughout the movie or because the film came during the late 80's when the audience was simply oversaturated by the glut of horror flicks. A low-budget film like The Kindred might have had no real chance to impress the audience.

The score:

The Kindred has several positive surprises to offer but the score by David Newman is certainly the biggest surprise here. It was the third full-length film scored by the composer who had some experience in scoring creature films after having worked on another straight-forward Gremlins rip-off Critters (1986) one year before The Kindred. At that time, this new low-budget project was actually an improvement in David's short career towards the other, really terrible low-budget project Vendetta (1986). The quality of young Newman's score for The Kindred is really amazing and it is a real satisfaction to hear an (albeit small) orchestra adding a special flair to a low-budget project while recent Hollywood Blockbusters are relying on cheap synthesizer mock-ups (The Island anyone?).

The Kindred is a rich work compared to other low-budget horror scores. It opens (and ends) with a short beautiful "Lullaby" featuring wordless solo vocals by an unknown female performer. A variation on the melody from "Lullaby" follows in "Main Title" which offers a very subtle use of synths and goes into frenetic music for strings accompanied by piano during the second half. The melodic development of this score has 'David Newman' written all over it and you will immediately recognize the composers offbeat and frenetic musical style. The "Main Title" covers all the essential ingredients of the score with an emphasis on frenetic string music though it is nice to hear that Newman always maintains a melodic consistency even when the chaos sets in. A calm piano solo can be heard in "Hard Attack" followed by a dramatic outburst of orchestral music with frenetic strings.

"John Goes Home" has a mysterious beauty with its driving piano accompaniment and strings creating a positive feeling. "Epilogue" has a fine atonal variation on the "Main Title" with crazy outbursts of brass resulting in a thrilling orchestral piece (watch out for a nice David Newman trademark at 3:34). "Transformation" begins suspenseful with low-key music for strings and then goes into dramatic tones for horns and brass. Parts of this writing will remind the listener of Bernhard Herrmann's or even Jerry Goldsmith's thriller music (but yeah... which horror/thriller score doesn't?).

Low-key suspense music returns in "John's Revelation" followed by action music for strings accompanied by percussion and subtle synths in "Harry's Van". "Harry's Creatures" is another piece of quiet suspense music which does not really go anywhere in this cue followed by another orchestral outburst. The formula of the score continues that way until the end with noteworthy experimental sounds in "La Mort Du Chien" and a short statement of mysterious romanticism in "Lab Reveal". A reprise of "Lullaby" and the "End Titles" are bringing this decent little horror score to an end.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 72%

Score as heard on CD: 70%

TOTAL: 71%

 

The presentation:

I seriously ask myself: what's wrong with Varese Sarabande? Their back catalogue of old LP releases is huge but all they do are Club CD reissues of these titles with insanely limited runs of only 1000 copies. Of course stuff like The Kindred is not music that a lot of people are crying for but the fact that the disc sold out within 24 hours might be a sign that 1000 copies is not enough. In addition to the limited run, the presentation of the score itself is... well... poor. Front and back cover consist of the same image while the booklet consists of only 2 pages. There are liner notes about David Newman but fans of the composer will not really find anything new in there. The sound quality is good enough but the score is not presented in film order which is a problem for a score that is bound to the storyline of the film. Certainly the weakest presentation of a club release ever! Only the running time can barely convince with nearly 37 minutes of score.

Presentation by the Label: 42%

 

Summary:

David Newman's orchestral score for The Kindred is surprisingly rich and carries the same strong musical voice as the latter scores by the composer. The orchestrations are detailed and inventive with the typical frenetic writing for strings and brass. Worth of attention is the melodic consistency which ties the pieces together even in the many chaotic parts of the score. Really an amazing work if you consider that it was only his third project. Fans of the composer will love to hear such a nice early effort and even others can probably find something to love in this score... If only the album would still be in print.

 

Tracklisting:

01.  Lullaby (00:46)
02.  Main Title (03:18)
03.  Hart Attack (03:04)
04.  John goes home (01:21)
05.  Epilogue (04:48)
06.  Transformation (04:52)
07.  John’s Revelation (02:38)
08.  Harry’s Van (00:51)
09.  Harry’s Creatures (01:27)
10.  Amanda and John (01:15)
11.  Hart escapes (00:40)
12.  La Mort du Chien (00:45)
13.  Melissa’s Jars (03:29)
14.  Amanda dies (01:13)
15.  Nell’s Death (01:39)
16.  Lab Reveal (00:40)
17.  Melissa and Dr. Lloyd (00:38)
18.  Lullaby (00:46)
19.  End Title (02:34)

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