One of my greatest pleasures on Earth comes from finding a horror film I have never heard of and having the living hell scared out of me. Next of Kin was one of those films.
An Australian cult classic from 1982 this shockingly good movie only showed up on many peoples radars after it was featured in Mark Hartley’s love letter to the Ozplotation genre Not Quite Hollywood where it was lauded by the likes of Quentin Tarantino. The documentary interviewed Next of Kin’s cast and crew and may have had some influence on its emergence for the first time in the UK on Blu-ray thanks to Second Sight
Pitch perfect and petrifying from start to finish the story follows Linda Stevens (Jacki Kerin) who finds out she has inherited her mother’s retirement home Montclare located in the small town she grew up in. Returning to take over her mother’s lifelong occupation and passion she discovers several journals filled with musings on some strange supernatural occurrences within the old walls and mysterious deaths that could never quite be explained away.
As she reads the diary and slogs through the day to day care of the many old folk in her establishment the ghosts of the past seem to literally return and she starts to hear voices in the dead of night and see phantom figures watching her. Unsure if she is losing her mind or being menaced by something from the other side Linda must uncover the truth hidden in her childhood to stop herself being lost forever more.
In the central role Jacki Kerin is excellent balancing just the right amount of genuine fear and fierce defiance raging against the unknown assailant attacking her mind and spirit furiously right up until the very last frame. Better known for his turn as the villainous Mick Taylor in the Wolf Creek series John Jarratt plays Linda’s childhood sweetheart Barney and their passion is rekindled as the eerie goings on start to increase.
Co-written and superbly directed by Tony Williams Next of Kin oozes claustrophobic dread akin to The Changeling and The Shinning building brilliantly and offering subtle scares over giant jumps, although it does have those too.
Operating on a less is more theory of fear Next of Kin plays with the audiences mind as much as Linda’s and this is why more than 30 years after its release it still manages to scare. The very building itself takes on a malevolent character seemingly determined to drive Linda insane and the question as to whether the happenings are imagined or real is terrifically teased till the awesome final act. The reoccurring themes of water drip into our subconscious and some of the deaths are shockingly stark and realistic making them all the more chilling.
There are also some great stylised scenes and sensational shots including Linda’s slow motion nightmare memories, the nasty revelation and the stunning last standoff offering an original take on the final fright which amps up the tension to such a tremendous level it’s almost unwatchable.
A brilliant horror film that should be witnessed and celebrated by as many lovers of the genre as possible let’s hope this new release sees Next of Kin move from distant relation to top of the horror family tree right where it should be.