The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - KINDRED SPIRITS | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - KINDRED SPIRITS

kindred spirits review
A teenager is blissfully unaware of the threat posed by the aunt she adores.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lucky McKee

Starring: Caitlin Stasey, Sasha Frolova, Thora Birch, Macon Blair, Isai Torres

kindred spirits poster

When a reviewer compares a thriller to a Lifetime Movie of the Week, it's rarely used as a term of endearment. But just as the ABC Movie of the Week provided a small screen home for the sort of movies that were no longer considered fashionable in the 1970s, so too has Lifetime carved out a niche, catering to an audience starved of the sort of psychological thrillers that were so popular in the '90s. The average Lifetime movie is a variation on the plot of Fatal Attraction or Single White Female, and like the 'psycho-biddy' movies of the '60s, they give second chances to actresses whose names are no longer box-office draws.

kindred spirits review

A cult director of acclaimed, gritty, low budget horrors like May, Red and The Woman, Lucky McKee seems like the last filmmaker you would associate with Lifetime, but that's just where his latest, Kindred Spirits, premiered to US audiences, and it's the ideal home for a female-centred thriller forged in the Lifetime template. It's 90 minutes of women being shitty to one another, a winning premise that once fuelled Oscar worthy performances from the likes of Bette Davis but which has now been sadly relegated to cable TV.

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Troubled teen Nicole (Sasha Frolova) has been making life difficult for her single mother Chloe (Thora Birch) by getting into fights at school and sneaking her boyfriend Derek (Isai Torres) into her bedroom. She's pining for her aunt Sadie (Sandra Bullock lookalike Caitlin Stasey), who lived with the family and was a surrogate big sister to Nicole as she grew up. When Sadie arrives home unexpectedly after a five year absence, Chloe is delighted, as she could use some help with Nicole.

kindred spirits review

Sadie and Nicole reform their sisterly bond, but a little too literally in the case of Sadie, who begins behaving as though she too is a 17-year-old rather than a twenty-something. She starts dressing like Nicole and dons an identical wig, and when she accompanies her niece to a party she comes close to making out with the teenage host in his bedroom. Sadie even goes so far as to seduce Derek, beginning a sexual affair behind Nicole's back. Poor Nicole is so smitten with her aunt that she can't see the threat she poses, which grows increasingly sinister as Sadie plots to take the place of her niece.

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There are few pleasures in movie-going as satisfyingly simple as watching a talented actress chew the scenery in a full on crazy bitch performance, and Stasey, the latest graduate from the school of Australian soap operas, is delightfully demented here. Sadie is the perfect Lifetime villainess, the woman you love to hate, and whose motives you might even sympathise with, for who among us hasn't found themselves in times of adult stress wishing for a return to the innocence and lack of responsibility of our teenage years?

kindred spirits review

McKee doesn't pull up any narrative trees here, and if you're after surprising plot twists and offbeat storytelling, look elsewhere. This is as generic a story as you'll find any Saturday night on cable TV, but like the auteurs who discovered that the simplicity of the western allowed for examinations of the male psyche, McKee understands that this well-trodden thriller premise gives him the chance to focus on his characters, and the plot becomes secondary to the relationship of the three women at its centre - think Mermaids, if Winona Ryder's character was plotting to murder Christina Ricci's. Kindred Spirits doesn't just pass the Bechdel test, it does so as soon as the exam paper hits its desk, and you won't find many contemporary American movies with central roles for women as meaty as those afforded Stasey, Frolova and Birch.

Kindred Spirits is on Netflix UK now.