Next of Kin [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Severin Films
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (28th May 2019).
The Film

Ozploitation – horror/exploitation/cult films from Australia – is a genre unto itself, this despite the fact most of the pictures that fall under that rubric have no essential similarities. But movies from the Land Down Under, specifically those produced during the 70's and 80's, share a common aesthetic: dry desert expanses, ramshackle bars, wildly eccentric characters, decaying vehicles – and something is always looking to kill you. Loads of talented filmmakers emerged from the scene, including the likes of Mel Gibson, George Miller, Richard Franklin, etc. and several of the films those now-famous persons made have an evergreen life. But there are plenty of little-seen gems still being unearthed from the Ozploitation mines, such as “Next of Kin” (1982). This movie never received a proper release in America and until now was only available on VHS. Quentin Tarantino has famously lauded director Tony Williams’ early effort. There’s a good bit of mystery to be found in the film’s slow burn approach to horror but a third act reveal left me slightly disappointed with the actual direction of the story, which was already underdeveloped.

Following her mother’s death Linda (Jacki Kerin) inherits Montclare, a retirement home mum had run for ages. The impression is given Linda and her mom had become a bit estranged prior to her death. Although she seems reluctant to take over in her mother’s place, Linda moves into Montclare and begins to look after the residents… but it isn’t long before strange occurrences begin. An old man is found dead in the tub, fully submerged in the milky water. Visions and incidents involving water are a recurrent theme here. Even stranger, Linda finds her mother’s diary and learns she had been experiencing the same phenomena, too. Someone in Montclare is a murderer but the “who” is a shock Linda never expected.

There is a decent, if not obvious, bit of plotting revealed during the second act I don’t want to spoil but I do want to make it clear this is not a supernatural feature. Plot descriptions I had read were a bit vague, and this film seems to be suggesting something otherworldly is at play but, really, it’s more like an Australian Giallo than anything. The action picks up decently during the third act once all the cards are on the table, but there were stretches leading up to that when I was wondering where the story planned to go. My partial lack of patience was due to Ozploitation films having spoiled me with larrikin characters and a wild streak; this is not that picture, though a few ruffians do pop in sporadically. It looks like director Tony Williams spent more time constructing special shots and showing off his bag of cinema tricks rather than cementing a solid suspense story. The style is nearly enough to distract from those under-baked story elements - but not

One potential draw, especially for soundtrack nerds (read: me), is the score was composed by Klaus Schulze, one of the forerunners of the electronic sound movement in Europe who was (very briefly) a member of Tangerine Dream. The score here sounds similar to his most famously linked act, with plenty of cues reminiscent of that legendary group. The music doesn’t always complement the action on screen, though, leaving me to wonder if it was scored “cold”. I don’t know if an electronic soundtrack was the right call for this material, either, but Schulze’s score is certainly a winner if you like those tones. It’s just that the film Williams made feels like it needs a more traditional score to sell the tension.

Suckers for Ozploitation fare are gonna want to give this one a spin regardless – it is a somewhat notorious, though little-seen, title – although comparisons to films like Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” (1977) are largely unfounded and highly tenuous. It’s nothing much more than a stylist romp through the Outback countryside populated with inventive camera work, mild terror, and a shotgun blast that might be Australia’s answer to Joe Spinell’s infamous blast in “Maniac” (1980).

Video

Despite there being virtually no frame of reference for the film’s visual appearance, outside of VHS, that hasn’t stopped Severin from putting out what is unarguably one of their finest transfers yet. The 1.85:1 HD 1080p 24/fps image uses AVC MPEG-4 compression and comes from “original vault elements” that were apparently kept in stellar condition because the picture here pops in ways I didn’t expect. Aside from a few minor flecks here and there the transfer is polished and tight, offering up tight contrast, strong color saturation, and fluid film grain that moves like it should.

Audio

Similarly, there are no problems to be found on the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono or 5.1 tracks. Every bit of dialogue is intelligible and clean, balance is strong across the board, and although Schultze’s score isn’t a tonal fit it sounds killer with the breadth afforded from lossless audio. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

Two audio commentary tracks are presented; the first, with director Tony Williams and producer Tim White; the second audio commentary with filmmaker Mark Hartley and cast members Jacki Kerin, John Jarrett, and Robert Ratti.

“House of Psychotic Women Intro by Kier-La Janisse for Morbido TV” (1080p) is a video introduction which runs for 5 minutes and 41 seconds.

“Extended Interviews from Not Quite Hollywood” (1080p), these interviews run for 25 minutes and 28 seconds.

“Return to Monteclare: Location Revisit, 2018” (1080p) featurette runs for 10 minutes and 30 seconds.

Deleted scenes (1080p) run for 4 minutes and 25 seconds, presented not as clips but with photos and text explaining what was cut.

“Before the Night Is Out: Ballroom Footage, 1979” (1080p) footage runs for 2 minutes and 26 seconds.

An original theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 55 seconds.

The U.K. VHS trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 54 seconds.

A German theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 3 minutes and 15 seconds.

Alternate German opening (1080p) runs for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

An image gallery (1080p) runs for 10 minutes and 37 seconds, containing 91 images.

Finally, a selection of Tony Williamsshort films is available, they include:

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

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

Slow-burn films work when an actual fire is lit but “Next of Kin” never finds a slow-but-strong foothold to carry itself to the end credits. The final scene is a mild shock that only has impact because little else happens prior. There are pieces of the whole I enjoyed but overall this is mostly a snoozer.

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

 


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