❉ A sinister film with a dreamlike atmosphere, stacked with extras thanks to Second Sight.
Re-released after years in the wilderness by Second Sight, who provide a nicely remastered print on their Blu-ray that is positively stacked with extras, Next of Kin arrives with a profile that was slightly raised years ago by the indispensable 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood. Tarantino himself gushed about the film at length there comparing it to The Shining and the documentary’s director Mark Hartley provides commentary on one of the tracks provided here. Since then, however, the chance to experience this sinister flick has been all too rare.
Now the film’s dreamlike atmosphere and visuals can be experienced with much more ease with thanks to Second Sight – a company whose output in the last few years has become more and more impressive and with the news of their recent hard to get Romero acquisitions it seems they are just going from strength to strength. Next of Kin is an ideal release that should hopefully raise the film’s underrated profile.
Australian genre films already have an otherworldly atmosphere. Whether it is the post-apocalyptic stylings that the Mad Max films help popularise, the setting of carnage and violence set against a vast remoteness that could be found in such films as Richard Franklin’s Road Games and Ted Kotcheff’s seminal Wake In Fright, there has always been a recognisable onscreen quality, or otherness, that marks out Australian cinema.
Next of Kin, directed by Tony Williams, has this in spades. The storyline is pure Gothic; a young woman, Linda (played by Jacki Kerin) inherits a large nursing home in the countryside from her recently deceased and estranged mother. Upon her arrival a resident is found drowned in the bath, an event which kicks off a journey into the buildings past which threatens Jacki’s sanity. Long tension filled walks down darkened, creaking corridors by torchlight, ghostly figures glimpsed in windows and unearthed secret-filled diaries bursting with warnings can all be found here.
All that is missing is the dashing, young man with secrets of his own to provide romantic interest, but because this is Australia what you get instead is Wolf Creek’s own John Jarratt who seems more interested in getting to the farmers meeting in the village hall, a scene which helps to re-enforce stereotypes by showing every bugger there with a tinny in their hands and the head of the meeting, yelling out “Winning means teamwork. Less drinkin’ and more thinkin’…if for some reason you can’t make it next Saturday because you’re planning on having a fight with your missus or something…”
This gothic horror vibe is complemented perfectly by Williams’ directorial style. The camera swoops, prowls, glides and at times seems to travel through objects like a ghost; a case in point being a deviously clever piece of camerawork that reveals the corpse in the bath. Slow motion is also used impressively, helping to capture the terror of Kerin’s performance in the latter stages of the film as she runs for her life down narrow corridors and winding staircases caught in a god’s eye view from above on high by the camera.
Cinematographer Gary Hansen is another serious talent in this film but sadly he died after Next of Kin was released. His work here seems to have left an impression on fellow countryman Russell Mulcahy, who employed similar stylings for his best works Razorback and Highlander. The score is by Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze and should be recognisable to those who were a fan of his later works in films such as Manhunter.
Next of Kin is a small film but one that is delivered in a big way that satisfies on every level. Whilst it may not deliver the blood and thunder of the more notorious Ozploitation films it has an atmosphere all its own.
• Audio commentary with Director Tony Williams and Producer Tim White
• Audio commentary with cast members John Jarratt, Jackie Kerin, Robert Ratti and Not Quite Hollywood Director, Mark Hartley
• Return to Montclare: Next of Kin Shooting locations revisited
• Extended interviews from Not Quite Hollywood
• Tony Williams shorts from 1971: Getting Together and The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe
• Deleted Scenes, Original Theatrical Trailer, VHS Trailer, German Trailer, German Opening Credits
• Before the Night is Out – Complete ballroom dancing footage from 1978
• Image Gallery
• Reversible sleeve art
❉ ‘Next of Kin’ Blu-ray (2NDBR4096) is released by Second Sight Films on 25 March 2019. Cert: 15. Main Feature Running Time: 89 mins approx. Region: 0. RRP: £19.99. Also available on download and on-demand.
❉ Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.