★★★ out of ★★★★★
This thriller about an unhinged woman who craves revisiting adolescence feels watered down compared with previous LuckyMcKee fare.
Directed by Lucky McKee
Director Lucky McKee and screenwriter Chris Siverston, who worked together on the All Cheerleaders Die original shot-on-video film (2001) and its bigger-budget expansion (2013) pair up once again for Kindred Spirits, the story of the fragile relationships between a teenage girl and her mother and aunt. Though the film features terrific performances from Thora Birch and Macon Blair, other elements make it feel like a missed opportunity.
Chloe (Birch) is the single mother of high school student Nicole (Sasha Frolova). Nicole is starting to worry her mom by getting physically experimental with her boyfriend, and acting out violently against her classmates. Chloe’s younger sister Sadie (Caitlin Stasey) wanders back into their lives after a long absence that included substance abuse. Nicole adores her aunt, who saved her from being hit by a car when they were younger, and the two get along swimmingly, including attending a party thrown by Sadie’s classmates. Sadie passes herself off as a fellow student when a boy invites her upstairs to his bedroom, which is part of a trend in which she reverts to adolescent behavior. Things get worse, though, as she shows vicious, dangerous signs that she won’t let anyone, including Chloe’s romantic interest Alex (Blair), get between her and her sister.
I usually avoid film comparisons, but Kindred Spirits owes such a great debt to the 1992 psychological thriller Single White Female that it can’t be ignored. Sadie copies Nicole’s haircut and makes a play for her boyfriend, both of which are directly lifted from Single White Female, and that’s just for starters. The ending also borrows freely from a horror classic, but I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers. Several elements of Kindred Spirits will feel quite familiar to fright fare fans.
While Birch and Blair give strong performances, and Frolova is engaging as a teenager coming into her own, Stasey gives a valiant turn as the psychologically troubled Sadie, but it feels like something is missing from her performance. Part of that may be the fault of how the character is written as rather a one-note villain.
McKee fans may also be a bit disappointed that this film lacks the visceral shocks of such previous films of his as The Woman (2011), and the humorous moments seem to be a little off, too, compared with some of his earlier efforts. Kindred Spirits feels like toned-down McKee.
No trailer was available at press time.
The Last to See Them
★★★ out of ★★★★★
A sort of In Cold Blood without the blood, this Italian film attempts to unsettle viewers with an initial premise and a slowly approaching car.
Directed by Sara Summa
Sara Summa won the Best Director award at Cinepocalypse for The Last to See Them, which won the festival’s Best Film award. Although there is no denying Summa’s superb abilities behind the camera, the fact that this dramatic meditation and character study won the top film prize at a fest known for outrageous, outlandish, and shocking fare is a bit of a head-scratcher.
The Last to See Them follows the final day of life for the four members of the Duratis, a farming family living in rural Italy. Opening titles state that they were murdered, and the film shows them going about their daily routines as the only signs of the impending doom mentioned at the beginning are camera shots from a car driving down lonesome roads. Stern, religious father Renzo (Canio Lancellotti) gives orders to his family and sorts through paperwork, while dutiful daughter Dora (Barabara Verrastro) has a full day of shopping, helping a church friend bake, and watching television with her boyfriend. The only signs of eeriness or underlying danger come from depressed mother Alice (Donatella Viola),who wanders around the house like a ghost, and son Matteo (Pasquale Lioi), who acts like a model child in front of his parents while smoking and abusing the family’s pet cat when he is left on his own.
Summa is content with setting up the family’s inevitable end and having viewers watch the film knowing that this is their last day to live. It feels like a cinematic experiment in which viewers are meant to create their own tension, because as lovely as some of the pastoral settings are and as well developed the characters might be, The Last to See Them offers little in the way of tension or suspense. Take away the opening titles and the film offers not much more than what might be thought of as a day in the life of this family.
The Last to See Them is heavily influenced by Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood and its 1967 film adaptation, and like those works, this film is based on a true-life crime. Whereas Summa’s inspirations depicted the brutal details of that family massacre and sought answers as to how such a terrible incident could occur, her film is content to clinically portray the victims’ last day and leave viewers with questions.
Both Kindred Spirits and The Last to See Them screened at Cinepocalypse Film Fest, which ran June 13–20 in Chicago, Illinois.