Next of Kin

Color, 1982, 89 mins. 25 secs.
Directed by Tony Williams
Starring Jacki Kerin, John Jarratt, Alex Scott, Gerda Nicolson, Charles McCallum
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Umbrella Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (Australia RA/R4 HD/PAL), Reed DVD (DVD) (Australia R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1)

The Next of Kinkind of creepy, atmospheric little Next of Kingem that horror fans loved discovering during VHS dives in the 1980s, Next of Kin has since gone on to take its place as one of the finest Australia chillers despite its relative lack of availability for many years. Buoyed by an excellent electronic score by the great Klaus Schulze (just before his work on Angst), it's an unsettling mood piece that almost always make a big impression on anyone who stumbles across it.

When she ends up inheriting a sprawling, foreboding nursing home called Montclare far away from the bustling city, Linda (Kerin) finds she has her work cut out for her with more than just the residents. The place is run by Dr. Barton (Scott) and Connie (Nicolson), and while Linda's learning the ropes, she reconnects with firefighter Barney (Jarratt). However, she's haunted by creepy memories of the place from her childhood, and upon discovering her mother's diary, she starts to suspect that something sinister and very deadly is at work inside its walls.

For at least half of the running time, viewers may not be quite sure exactly what kind of horror film this really is. Slasher? Supernatural chiller? Monster movie? The film definitely takes its time putting all the pieces into place, but when it kicks into gear the payoff is more than worth it as the viewer is treated to a slew of inventive visual flourishes that still pack a punch. Next of KinUnfortunately viewers outside Australia had to work pretty hard to see this one, be it tracking down the Media VHS edition or importing the 2005 Australian DVD Next of Kin(the first release that actually looked decent).

That DVD didn't say around long and started commanding crazy amounts of money, but fortunately it was rendered obsolete when a remastered version finally turned up in Blu-ray in both Australia (from Umbrella) and the U.S. (from Severin), the latter carrying over all of the Aussie extras while adding some new goodies of its own. The film is very dark and stylized (director Tony Williams has noted on multiple occasions his desire to emulate European horror films, particularly Blood and Roses), but it looks great in 1080p with the muted color scheme faring nicely when it occasionally jolts into a sudden burst of red or blue. The English audio is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 or 2.0, with the Schulze track getting most of the channel separation until the frenetic final 20 minutes. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included. The film can also be played with two audio commentaries, the first with William and producer Tim White and the second with Kerin, Jarratt, and Robert Ratti in conversation with Not Quite Next of KinHollywood's Mark Hartley. Both are full of production info about the film including the "continuity nightmare" of Kerin's dyed hair, the title changes it went through on the way Next of Kinto its current one, attempts to tone down the Aussie accents to make the film more palatable for Europeans, the rationale behind the film's most ruthless twist in the third act, and plenty more. A House Of Psychotic Women intro (5m41s) by Kier-La Janisse for Morbido TV deftly covers the real central location, the use of the elderly as a source of dread, and the opening's echoes of Rebecca, while extended interviews from Not Quite Hollywood (25m26s) with Williams and (briefly) Jarratt chatting about some of the trickier shots including the big explosion scene as well as the film's complete anonymity in Australia. "Return to Montclare" (10m30s) takes a current look at Overnewton Castle where the exteriors and staircase scenes were shot, along with a handful of other locales in the area including the cemetery. A deleted scenes feature mixes descriptions of little bits trimmed out of the final cut with photo proof sheets giving you an idea of what was shot, including a bit of gruesome makeup nastiness. A selection of raw 1979 ballroom footage (2m26s) from the film's original incarnation, Before the Night Is Out, is a curious little snapshot of what could have been, and a standard def reel of early black-and-white Williams short films, Next of KinGetting Together (31m7s) and The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe (30m5s), which aren't horror Next of Kinrelated at all but have a strong, dreamy ambiance in common with the feature, largely thanks to the interesting soundtracks (including a fun New Zealand girl chorus performance of "Let's Get Together" intercut with footage of animal couples frolicking!). Also included are the original Australian trailer (which is fantastic but a bit spoiler heavy), a U.K. VHS trailer, the German theatrical trailer and alternate German opening (which isn't much different), and an image gallery of posters, video covers, storyboards, tons of great behind the scenes shots, location sheets, and press clippings.

Reviewed on February 26, 2019.