Joseph Marcantonio is the director of Kindred, a psychological horror thriller. In this feature, he goes over how he carefully built suspense over the course of its runtime.
Alfred Hitchcock said, “There is a distinct difference between ‘suspense’ and ‘surprise,’ and yet many pictures continually confuse the two.” With my new film Kindred, I wanted to make an exciting, memorable and suspenseful film, rather than one that falls into the familiar horror trope of jump scares.
When I conceived the initial germ of an idea for Kindred — a family kidnap their widowed, pregnant daughter-in-law to stop her running away with her unborn baby — I dismissed it. It felt too dark, too moody. This was before Room, and the terrors of the Fritzl case — in which a man held his daughter captive for 24 years — were all over the news.
The idea just didn’t seem right to me — it was too mean spirited. But the reality was that I just didn’t know the right way to approach it yet. So I filed it away with all my other ideas.
Following the success of my short film “Red Light” (starring Jessie Buckley and available here for anyone interested), my producer Dominic Norris and I worked to develop my feature debut. I had a couple of decent scripts already written, but their scale were too large for my first time out. We went through my folder of ideas (a scruffy collection of 30+ Word documents that have anywhere from a single sentence synopsis to a couple of pages of plot), and the Kindred concept popped out at us. The limited amount of cast and locations made it eminently achievable. So I drafted my old friend Jason McColgan, who I’ve known since film school back in 1999, to collaborate with me.
One thing that could have changed my perspective on the initial idea: I was now a parent. I had a three-year-old boy and a newborn daughter who my wife and I had, in a state of surprise and panic, ended up delivering ourselves on our bedroom floor. Jason had newborn twins too, who were born premature and had a very long stay in the hospital. And so, filled with trauma, anxiety, pressure and probably a bit of post-natal depression, we started on the script.
I always wanted it to be a suspenseful film, rather than a horrific one. There are obvious comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby, but I was hugely influenced by South Korean cinema — The Chaser by NA Hong-jin, Memories of Murder and Mother by Bong Joon-ho, Stoker and Old Boy by Park Chan-wook. The wonderful thing about these films is the way that they navigate their way between genres — they are both funny and shocking, violent and romantic. I wanted to make a film that would be playful with genre in a similar way.
Joseph Marcantonio continues on the next page.