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Next of Kin (1982)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/26/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/18/2019
When you think of Australian cinema what comes to mind? Perhaps the Mad Max movies? (Although, do younger viewers understand the “Australian-ness” of ?) Maybe you envision Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. After all, he did honor his homeland with a movie entitled . Or, Crocodile Dundee could pop into your head. (Although, I hope that it doesn’t.) I think the bottom line is that, unlike a lot of other locales, movies from Down Under don’t fit any certain kind of mold. Of all of the genres, horror movies from Australia may be the rarest. That’s why it’s intriguing to check out a little-known entry like 1982’s Next of Kin.
Following the death of her mother, Linda (Jacki Kerin) moves to Monteclare, the castle-like manor which her mother ran as a retirement home. She’s unsure what to do with the business and the residents and immediately butts heads with Connie (Gerda Nicolson), who oversee the patients. Linda does spend some time with Barney (John Jarratt), a local guy. While looking through some records, Linda finds her mother’s diary, which speaks of strange noises and odd occurrences in the house. Soon, Linda begins to hear strange noises as well, and she catches glimpses of a dark figure inside and outside of the house. Is something strange going on here, and are Connie and Dr. Barton (Alex Scott) involved?
At the outset, it looks like Next of Kin is going to be a slow-burn psychological thriller. We meet Linda as she arrives at Monteclare, and watch as she tries to get her bearings there. We see her explore the house and find the diary. We watch as she interacts with the old folks. We observe her going out with Barney. We are even privy to dreams she has which star a red volleyball. (Is that a thing?)
However, after about 45-minutes, we begin to wonder if the story is ever going to show up. Next of Kin wanders and meanders, introducing ideas and characters, but never settling upon an actual plot. As noted above, we see a lot of things happen, but it doesn’t point to a coherent story. To make matters worse, Linda keeps acting as if something is happening…but nothing is. In the third act, we literally watch her flee from something, but it’s unclear what it is. The second half of the film begins to introduce a twist, which is realized in the finale…and it truly comes out of nowhere. Not since Scream 3 has my “Who is that?” been so sincere. (While watching the film, my wife and I had to stop about half-way through. When we resumed, I would usually say, “Do you want to see what happens?”. But, in this case, I said, “Do you want to see if anything happens?”)
There’s also the vague nature of the script. Again, Next of Kin appears to be a classic slow-burn, and we assume that we will learn more details as time goes on, but we don’t. Did Linda live at Monteclare as a child? Where has she been? How does she know Barney? Who is Carol? No, seriously, who is Carol? The movie acts as if we know who she is. I truly enjoy gothic horror films and was desperate to find something to like here, but when a koala puppet shows up and you hope to see a lot more of it, you know that something has gone wrong with the movie.
One gets the feeling that Next of Kin wants to mimic the kind of dream-like feel which was commonly seen in European horror films of that era. And while many of those movies were short on plot, they had a certain style which made them intriguing. Unfortunately, Next of Kin doesn’t have this luxury, so the whole thing comes across as a messy exercise in tedium. And while it doesn’t have that European flare, the movie is exceptionally well-shot. There are very impressive dolly and crane shots here, which demonstrate that Director Tony Williams put some thought into the look of the film. If only someone had put more thought into the script. I’m sure that the film is supposed to be creepy or suspenseful. But, for me, it was merely frustrating. The characters are uninteresting, there is no tension, and some moments which hint at being spooky go nowhere. Sometimes there’s a reason that films get lost.
Next of Kin did teach me how to deal with a spider who has invaded my laundry on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Severin Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only very mild grain and no defects from the source materials. The transfer, which was taken from elements found in an Australian vault, looks very crisp. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is nice, with the picture going soft in only a few places and the depth works quite well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely placed in the front channels and do a good job of highlighting sounds coming from off-screen. The score delivers notable bass effects. The surround sound effects are very faint, and only appear in some scenes.
The Next of Kin Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tony Williams and Producer Tim White. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY which features documentarian Mark Hartley and cast members Jackie Kerin, John Jarrett, and Robert Ratti. "House of Psychotic Women Intro by Kier-La Janisse for Morbido TV" (6 minutes) has Janisse describing the film while standing in front of the actual film location. (This is a segment from an upcoming TV show.) "Extended Interviews from NOT QUITE HOLLYOOD" (25 minutes) offers a fairly long conversation with Williams, as he shares anecdotes from the production and a brief talk with Jarrett. "Return to Monteclare: Location Revisit, 2018" (11 minutes) provides a modern-day look at the real-life Overnewton Castle. The Disc contains a few DELETED SCENES which are presented as still images, as the original footage is believed to have been destroyed. "Before the Night is Out: Ballroom Footage, 1979" (2 minutes) offers a closer look at the dancing which is glimpsed on the finale. We get three TRAILERS for the film, along with the film's opening titles from the German cut, and an IMAGE GALLERY. The extras are rounded out by a 30-minute reel of short films from Director Tony Williams.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long