Kinfolk – Matt Kurtz
Reviewed by Ben Walker
Kinfolk by Matt Kurtz poses the age-old question – what if two brothers out for revenge on the man who killed one their wives unexpectedly encountered a group of murderous hillbillies? The answer, of course, is bloody mayhem, in a similar vein to Edward Lee, or the Wrong Turn movies.
Starting out with an ultraviolent set of events, I was prepared for the rest of the book to deal some hardcore horror my way. The first chapter is both inventively gruesome and downright disturbing, but instead of maintaining that mood, the terror takes a back seat for a while as we get to know the brotherly duo of Ray & Eric. This was a bit of a mis-step for me, as the intro effectively tells its own story, which would feel more at home as its own piece. Nothing in there impacts on the main story, so it felt kind of bolted on. Some of the titular kinfolk are set up, but they don’t return until much later, by which time you’ve almost forgotten about them in favour of the main duo and the other backwoods characters.
As for the characters, the brothers are always at each other’s throats, after Eric sweet-talks Ray into their murderous adventure alongside an awkward bar robbery. Right from the outset, the pair are shown as pretty capable when it comes to getting out of a bad spot, despite Ray’s tendency to drown his sorrows. Their cocky attitude in the face of danger gives this more of a survival horror feel than a who will survive one. There are echoes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes throughout, especially during an atmospherically awkward van ride, which has the brothers staring evil in the face. Even during moments like those, you’re never really that worried about the brothers, because you know they give as good as they get.
That said, the Kinfolk don’t make things easy for them. There’s a pretty standard set of horror hick stereotypes amongst them – the scheming, angry grandfather/dad, the giant ugly brute, the crafty psycho, the trucker, and the one that takes you by surprise. Even though these are the kind of evil rednecks you may have seen elsewhere, they never come across as cliched enough to be eye-rolling, though you’re probably not in for many surprises if you’ve seen or read this type of tale before.
What didn’t quite work for me was the pacing, which rollercoasters between patience testing build-up and somewhat rushed throughout. There’s one part in particular during the introduction which snaps ahead in time unexpectedly, and I had to go back over it more than once to make sure I hadn’t missed something. It’s like a flash forward in a movie, which works fine when you can highlight what’s going on with a different colour scheme or a filter, but here it feels like something’s been cut out, leaving you to catch up, and that really brought me out of the story.
Despite the patchy pacing, if you’re after a gruesome blast of backwoods bedlam, you’ll probably have a fun time with these here Kinfolk…even if the main characters don’t.
Criminal brothers Ray and Eric Kuttner pulled off what they thought was a seemingly simple score, until Ray’s innocent wife, Rachel, was brutally murdered in retaliation. Hell-bent on revenge, the brothers delivered their own merciless payback.
Three years later, something sheds new light on Rachel’s murder and it requires the brothers to drive across Texas to Oklahoma on a new mission of vengeance that’ll finally bring them closure.
After an incident forces them to take back roads to elude the cops, they get stranded along a hunting ground patrolled by a family looking for fresh meat to feed their hunger for flesh.
In a race against the clock, Ray and Eric must fight their way out of the backwoods of Texas and still make it across state lines to accomplish their plan of revenge . . . all before one very large—and pissed off—family secret is unleashed to stop them.
A horror fan and writer since who knows when, Ben started dabbling in online reviews around 2001. Nowadays he has a booktube channel, which features bizarre book reviews and further nonsense. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably looking at GIFs and eating Mexican food.
You can follow Ben on Twitter @BensNotWriting
You can visit Ben’s Youtube channel here