Next of Kin (1982)

Two opposing things have been happening in recent years.  One is that streaming, once considered a godsend that would free movie fans from physical media, has been driving many fans back to physical media.  That is because even well-known films, such as Dawn of the Dead, are more and more being removed from streaming due to rights issues or people involved just getting upset and pulling the movies off the market.  This means physical copies as well as movies go out of print due to rights disputes and the whims of producers or writers.  That leaves those who previously purchased the movie at an advantage while making the film impossible to see for most.

This is unfortunate as many obscure films, both good and bad, are starting to resurface.  Some are due to word of mouth, like with Quentin Tarantino's praise of Next of Kin.  YouTube, though it also serves as Google's rental space and sometimes legitimately has movies that can't be found elsewhere, also manages to be a last resort for many of these films.  I find it surprising that copyright claims haven't resulted in some of these movies being pulled, but also have the sneaking suspicion that the people behind getting content pulled from regular streaming are often too old to know anything about YouTube, while the creative people behind them just back off and are thankful that their hard work gets to be seen by someone.  

Linda (Jacki Kernin) inherits an old retirement home from her mother and returns to the small town in Victoria, Australia where she grew up to run it.  She is at least on professional terms with the staff, led by nurse Connie (Gerda Nicolson) and Dr. Barton (Alex Scott).  While many of the locals give her the cold shoulder she is able to rekindle a romance with her school sweetheart Barney (John Jarratt).

However, things are not going well at the home.  When a resident named Lance (Charles McCallum) finds the body of another in a bathtub he suffers a stroke, and soon other strange things begin to happen.  Linda feels as if she is being watched, doors and windows in the home open mysteriously and taps are left on.  Thinking that Connie and Dr. Barton are hiding something from her after discovering recent payments on the books to an aunt that supposedly died years before she becomes concerned that those she thought were friends are conspiring against her.  What she soon discovers is something from her past is coming back to haunt her.

Tarantino compared this to The Shining, and it does have some elements that are similar.  Rather than hitting the audience with jump scares director Tony Williams builds up the tension, introducing Linda to us in a scene that happens toward the end of the film and then letting the events play out.  There is extensive use of Steadicam, something that was still quite new at the time, and Next of Kin even won some awards at a Spanish horror festival for its innovative photography.  Despite being filmed in Australia this is considered the first horror film from a New Zealand director.

Problem is no one saw it when it first came out.  It was ignored in Australia, never made it to the U.S. except as a video-only release and made it to a handful of theaters in Europe.  The cuts available remained low quality, and it was Tarantino's recommendation that renewed interest in the film and got it restored.  It didn't help that Williams had only made one other feature film before this, Solo, and went back to directing commercials and documentaries afterward.  For me the movie is a step above such lauded Ozsploitation films as Patrick, so it is beyond frustrating that despite being featured on The Last Drive In with Joe Bob Briggs and in recent years developing a well-deserved cult status that it is not able to be seen except on one obscure streaming service. 

While it is unfortunate that it got compared to The Shining, with too many people going in expecting it to be like Stanley Kubrick's movie and not like a more traditional slow-burn haunted house tale like The Haunting or The Innocents, Williams shows that he knows how to raise the level of suspense to the point where the final scenes pack a punch.  It also helps that it doesn't take a leap of logic to explain the motivations and the reasons of what is going on.  It is a movie that requires attention, and it got mine as soon as I realized that I was watching one of those rare films that deserve to be brought back into the light. 

Next of Kin (1982)
Time: 89 minutes
Starring: Jacki Kerin, John Jarratt, Gerda Nicolson, Alex Scott
Director: Tony Williams



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