HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, February 23, 2019

NEXT OF KIN -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

A real gem in 80s Australian cinema, NEXT OF KIN (Severin Films, 1982) breaks through all the usual Ozploitation gore and sensationlism to give us a down-under-sized taste of Euro-inspired horror with touches of Giallo.

Not that it doesn't shock, or shies away from morbid elements that give it a nice shivery ambience.  But in the pleasingly literate script by director Tony Williams and Michael Heath, nothing's gratuitous--every dead, bloated body in a bathtub, every bashed-in skull, every punctured eyeball drives the plot relentlessly forward.

In fact, the story takes its sweet time getting started, allowing us to settle comfortably into the relatively normal world of an ivy-covered old folks' home--actually a sprawling mansion--before gradually turning it into a nightmare. It's here that Linda (Jacki Kerin, effective in her only feature film) grew up and is now returning after having inherited the place from her recently-deceased mother.

Linda's a likable sort with a good head on her shoulders, easing back into old relationships with the townspeople including old boyfriend Barney (John Jarratt, DJANGO UNCHAINED, WOLF CREEK) and taking over the home's frazzled financial management, but even she quickly becomes a nervous wreck when people start dying and generally weird, almost supernatural things begin to happen inside that dark, spooky old building.

Some of it seems to be connected to a mystery surrounding her mother's death and how certain people on the staff may be involved. This includes resident physician Dr. Barton (familiar face Alex Scott of "Lillie", "The Avengers", FAHRENHEIT 451, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES) and the efficient but enigmatic Connie (Gerda Nicolson, GALLIPOLI, "Prisoner: Cell Block H"), both of whom seem in on some secret they're keeping from Linda.

A new resident, Mrs. Ryan (Bernadette Gibson, "Prisoner: Cell Block H"), adds another shadowy presence to the group of old people whose age and infirmity are played for maximum effect in grotesque and squeamish ways.  Most disturbing of all is the dark, unknown figure who keeps popping up in Linda's periphery like Michael Myers.

The first half of the film indulges us in a slow, simmering buildup with little violence or overt terror but lots of eerie Gothic unease and creepy-crawly suspense punctuated by a few very effective jump-scares.  As the mystery surrounding her mother's death closes in around Linda, nightmare flashbacks increase her emotional distress, with whatever malignant force that was always within the house now threatening to come after her as well.

Once all this meticulous build-up has been established, the story then plunges us into the kind of bloody horror and nail-biting suspense that we've been primed for.  Even here, the film shows remarkable restraint, never getting too wildly improbable or going off the deep end, and keeps us solidly involved in what's going on until the last frame.

As a work of cinema, NEXT OF KIN is exquisite, with director Tony Williams' constantly inventive staging only occasionally calling attention to itself due to its sheer ingenuity.  (I was reminded at times of Dario Argento.) Cinematography and lighting are equally good, frequently lavishing us with the most eye-pleasing visuals that such a setting might yield. Also adding to the overall effect is a musical score by Tangerine Dream member Klaus Schultze.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films is transferred from original Australian vault elements and looks fantastic.  The bonus menu includes two commentary tracks--an informative one with director Williams and producer Tim White, and a more informal one with members of the cast--as well as interviews with Williams and actor John Jarratt, deleted scenes, trailers, early short films by Tony Williams, an image gallery, a location revisit, and more.  The Blu-ray cover is reversible.

Unlike many films of this nature, NEXT OF KIN proved to be effortlessly involving--without overly relying on lurid sensation--right up to its most satisfactory fadeout, which I found even more impressive once I learned how ingeniously executed that final shot was.  It's one of the best Australian horror films I've seen, a real standout among that industry's most memorable cult classics. 

Buy it from Severin Films

Release Date:2/26/19

Special Features:
Commentary with Director Tony Williams and Producer Tim White
Commentary with Mark Hartley & Cast Members Jackie Kerin, John Jarrett & Robert Ratti
House Of Psychotic Women Intro By Kier-La Janisse for Morbido TV
Extended Interviews from Not Quite Hollywood
Return to Monteclare: Location Revisit, 2018
Deleted Scenes
Before the Night is Out: Ballroom Footage, 1979
Original Theatrical Trailer
UK VHS Trailer
German Theatrical Trailer
Alternate German Opening
Image Gallery
Tony Williams Short Films


No comments: