Next of Kin [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (18th November 2018).
The Film

"Next of Kin" (1982)

Following the passing of her mother, Linda Stevens (played by Jackie Kerin) becomes the sole heir of her family's mansion of Montclare which had been turned into a retirement home for some time. The home is not in the best of shape, and with money being an issue there are considerations for Linda to sell the property off. But the place has been in her family for generations and she has attachments to many of the elderly patron making it difficult to make the choice. Linda's return to living in the mansion also brings back haunting memories, some of which she starts to confuse with reality. She starts seeing a mysterious figure around, patrons die one by one, and the main caretaker Connie (played by Gerda Nicolson) and the resident doctor Barton (played by Alex Scott) also seem to have some things to hide...

A film about a young woman possibly losing her mind and experiencing creepiness in an old home echoes quite a lot of haunted house stories that scare people generation after generation. "Next of Kin" is a film that easily falls into that horror category with its creepy old mansion setting, jump scares, eerie score, creepy characters, and a scream queen in the lead, but it is not a horror film that follows all the typical rules of the genre. New Zealand director Tony Williams who was an acclaimed documentary and commercial filmmaker made his feature film directorial debut in 1978 with the acclaimed drama "Solo". Years later he received the script for the horror film which fell on standard conventions, which was not what he was willing to do, unless changes could be made. Visually he was inspired by European cinema, especially the works of Bernardo Bertolucci, especially "Last Tango in Paris" and "The Conformist". While they were not horror films at all, the look, the colors, the pacing were all consciously noted for the making of "Next of Kin". The film certainly has a look unlike other Australian cinema at the time period and was not particularly similar to other works in the Ozploitation genre. The films of Dario Argento such as "Suspiria" and "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" are much closer in feel to "Next of Kin" and it's no wonder that the film did find distribution and an audience in Europe. In addition the visuals have a fluid and smooth look courtesy of the Steadicam cinematography by Gary Hansen. The camera is constantly moving and creating a three dimensional environment, up and down the spiral staircase to the areas surrounding the old property. Unfortunately the film would be Hansen's last as he passed away soonafter in an accident.

In addition to the visual splendor, the droning synth music score by Klaus Schulze is a brilliant one, even if it was not how the filmmakers originally imagined it would be. Originally Vangelis was the filmmakers' first choice for a composer, but he was unavailable. Tangerine Dream was another choice, and eventually was settled on their former drummer and electronic musician Schulze. While much of the film was edited with Schulze's studio album tracks as temp tracks, a newly composed score was submitted, but ultimately rejected by the filmmakers as the studio tracks felt more appropriate. They were given permission by the composer and essentially all of the score was made of Schulze's previous album tracks rather than new tracks. Schulze's music is known for its retro futuristic sound, and the synth tracks are very fitting with the early 80s setting with a variety of tracks used in scenes.

While "Next of Kin" looks good and sounds good, there are flaws within the film that cannot be denied. Linda's childhood is sometimes seen in flashbacks to when she was four years old, but what she had been doing until the death of her mother is never explained. She does seem to return to the mansion for the first time in a long time at the start of the film, but then she suddenly seems to have a rapport with the elderly patrons. The performances of the actors are fair and the dialogue is fine, though nothing particularly outstanding or memorable in quotable aspects. The boyfriend Barney played by John Jarratt's screentime is fairly limited and his role is not as heavy as it could have been for the narrative. Some of the reveals are cliched that echo "Psycho" or even "Scooby Doo". But overall the pros outweigh the cons, giving the film a positive light in horror, especially the end sequences which are some of the most brilliant scenes in any horror film.

Financed by Australian company Filmco, "Next of Kin" had its bigger issues in the distribution and release process. While the film was distributed to foreign festivals and won awards at Sitges in 1982 and Mystfest in 1983, the film was never given an adequate release in its home country. Peter Fox of Filmco was killed in a car accident and their produced films were liquidated. Theatrical release and video release was scattered throughout the world and fell into obscurity for many years. Director Tony Williams concentrated on commercial work and producing and never worked on another feature as director again. Lead actress Jacki Kerin also moved away from cinema to focus on persona projects, eventually returning to television many years later. It wasn't until Quentin Tarantino expressed his admiration for the film and when the film was mentioned in the "Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!" documentary that the world started to take notice. On DVD the film was released in some places including Australia and Germany but extras were basic or non-existent. Part of Umbrella Entertainment's goal to restore Australian film classics including forgotten obscure gems, "Next of Kin" was given the full remastering process for Blu-ray with tons of extras that any fan would die for, and any newcomer to be overwhelmed and excited for.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p, in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. According to the credits the film was given a 4K restoration from the 35mm original camera negative, although the packaging claims the restoration was from the 35mm interpositive. There have been some controversies in the past with Umbrella's restorations but this follows on the very positive side. The image looks excellent with the remastering process removing damage such as dust, specs, and scratches, while leaving a healthy film grain layer. Granted there are some anomalies with specs and scratches that weren't or couldn't be removed, but overall it is a sharp transfer with no artificial sharpening or image manipulation. Colors are great with the filters giving the eerie tone the deserved look. Overall one of the stronger of Umbrella's restoration efforts.

The film's runtime is 89:20.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

There are two lossless audio tracks available - the original mono mix remastered and a 5.1 remix. The original mono sounds excellent with the dialogue, effects, and music being well balanced with no particular issues with distortion. For the 5.1 track the soundscape has been spread out more, with effects and the music score reserved for the surrounds and the dialogue mostly centered. There are a few instances of dialogue being panned left or right for effect. The 5.1 track also feels well balanced and without any issues of audio dropout, pops, hisses, or cracks.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font.

Extras

Audio Commentary with director Tony Williams & producer Tim White
In this recently recorded commentary, the director and the producer sit and give some information on the production and the release of the film. Topics covered include the changes made from the original script, biographies of the cast, various references, the European influence, the rejected score, the mishap in the ending, the poor distribution and rediscovery, plus more. The track starts off well but has a few dead air spots which could have helped if a moderator could have been there...
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Audio Commentary with cast members John Jarratt, Jackie Kerin, Robert Ratti & 'Not Quite Hollywood' director Mark Hartley
Here is a livelier chat with the cast members and moderated by Hartley and thankfully never lets the track lead to dead air. Talked about topics are the casting process, the uncomfortable scenes, good memories of the shoot, their lives following the film, and more.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Extended Interviews from "Not Quite Hollywood" (25:26)
Presented are extended interviews with director Tony Williams and actor John Jarrat from "Not Quite Hollywood" by Mark Hartley, which were only seen in part in the full documentary. Williams discusses changing the script, the Bertolucci influence, Tarantino's approval, and the infamous final shot. Jarrat talks about the director and the end shot in his interview. Williams' interview lasts over 20 minutes while Jarrat's lasts less than 5 minutes here.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Return to Montclare: Location Revisit, 2018" featurette (10:28)
In this before/after featurette, shots of the locations of the Montclare mansion which were in the Overnewton Castle and in the Ilwaara House are seen in modern day compared to the film's scenes.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, Music Dolby Digital 2.0

Deleted Scenes (Slideshow Presentation) (4:26)
The deleted scenes are considered lost, but still continuity photos survive. In this slideshow extra, photos of the deleted scenes with written notes by the director show what was shot but ultimately cut from the finished film.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1

"Before the Night Is Out: Ballroom Footage 1978" (2:24)
There was a scene with a dance competition being shown on a television in the background, which was not at all part of the narrative. The footage is shown in full along with music by Klaus Schulze for creepy effect. The cover says 1978 while the menu says 1979.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Alternate German Opening Credits (1:23)
The only difference with the German opening is the title being in German. The credits themselves are in English.
in 1080p, 1.33:1, Music Dolby Digital 2.0

Image Gallery (92 Images) (10:37)
A slideshow collection of posters, promo art, video packaging, behind the scenes photos, storyboards, location sheets, and press clippings are collected.

Tony Williams shorts from 1971
- "The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe" (30:08)
- "Getting Together" (31:07)

Two episodes from the New Zealand television series "Survey" are presented here. The first short is of a primary school teacher who gives some interesting assignments and projects to students for creativity and for the second short it is about club, organizations, sports, religion, and other forms of groups that bring people together. Both are in very poor condition, shot on film and transferred to analog tape. There are scratches, debris, and warping of the image frequently and audio can be a little on the muffled side.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:53)
The original trailer that showcases the terror through visuals and the fast paced score, though with quite a few spoilers. The print itself is in fairly good condition.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.90:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

UK VHS Trailer (2:52)
Basically the same trailer as the original, but in much lesser visual quality and very muffled and low audio. 30 pounds for a VHS or Beta release.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

German Theatrical Trailer (3:13)
A very different trailer for the German release, capturing the gothic sensibilities.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in German Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles



Considering the previous DVD releases had very few extras of note, this Australian Blu-ray is a revelation. The Australian DVD from HiH had no extras, the German release had a few minor extras, but nothing compared to this Umbrella Entertainment release. It's been reported that Severin Films in the US and Second Sight in the UK will also be releasing the film on Blu-ray in the future.

Packaging

There is reversible artwork available with alternate poster art on the opposite side.

Overall

"Next of Kin" went from obscurity to cult status to restored and reevaluated over the years and it's a well deserved rediscovery. A visually stylish horror that is unlike many of the other Australian films of the period, it's an absolute creepy treat. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray presents uses the beautifully restored 4K master and adds a wealth of extras making the release highly recommended.

The Film: B Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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