Long forgotten, this Australian horror flick gets a new lease of life with an impressive HD release from Oz distributors Umbrella.
Following the recent death of her mother, Linda (Kerin) returns to take over her sprawling family residence, which is now being run as a rest home for the elderly. Reading her mother’s diary opens up a mystery that is made worse when the residents start dying. Linda also has an uneasy feeling that something is not right with the house and that she is being watched.
Playing out in what is commonly known now as a ‘slow burn’, Next of Kin punches well above its weight as an exercise in tension and mystery. The pace shouldn’t put the impatient off, though, as there are still a number of chillingly effective moments throughout the first half. As Linda discovers more about her mother and the house’s past, she’s surrounded by shady characters who may have ulterior motives; be it her boyfriend (brilliantly played by a very young looking John Jarratt) or the home’s resident doctor (Scott) and head nurse (Nicolson). It’s way ahead of its time and could give many recent spook films a run for their money.
Next of Kin is an unsung classic of the video age, so much so that hardly anyone mentions it. It’s the perfect example of less-is-more, moving at a measured pace before reaching a bombastic action-packed climax. It would be easy to pass it off as a ghost story with slasher intent, but it’s more like a giallo in its execution. Indeed, in the extended interview in the special features section, director Tony Williams says he was influenced by the European style of filmmaking; referencing Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris as a focus for the look of the cinematography. The other extras are more standard – there’s no ‘making of’ or retrospective like some of the recent Umbrella releases have had, although we do get a modern look at some of the locations and find that surprisingly few have actually changed since it was filmed. The interview – taken from the sessions filmed for the brilliant Ozsploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood – is lengthy and informative enough to make up for it though (make sure you watch it to find out the truth about the spectacular final scene). The HD transfer is impeccable, though – Next of Kin could easily give some of the modern chillers a run for their money.
This is a brilliant example of how to do horror and unlike many of its time, has aged really well.
NEXT OF KIN (1982) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TONY WILLIAMS / SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL HEATH, TONY WILLIAMS / STARRING: JACKI KERIN, JOHN JARRATT, ALEX SCOTT, GERDA NICOLSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AUSTRALIA)