Over the past few months of reviewing Blu-rays and DVDs for Umbrella Entertainment, I've learned that Australians make some damn fine cinema and Umbrella's recent release of Tony Williams' Next of Kin further convinces me of this. I had never seen the film before acquiring this Blu-ray and I walk away from viewing it insanely impressed!
Following the death of her mother, Linda Stevens (Jacki Kerin) inherits the family's estate of Montclare, a mansion that her mother and "missing" aunt had turned into a rest home for the elderly. The estate has since been under the care of Connie (Gerda Nicolson) and the family doctor Dr. Barton (Alex Scott). Linda begins settling in and starts reconnecting with childhood friends, including firefighter Barney (John Jarratt) and Montclare's former gardener Lance (Charles McCallum). who's since become a resident of the home. When a resident is found dead in his bath, she begins experiencing nightmares of the past. Deciding to delve into her mother's diaries and patient records for answers to unexplained occurrences, Linda begins to unravel the houses very dark secrets and unknowingly putting herself in danger.
I'm usually not a fan of "slow burn" films but Next of Kin is very unique in that if feels like what would happen if Dario Argento had made The Shining. Extremely moody, aesthetically pleasing and bursting at the seams with atmosphere. I can now see why Quentin Tarantino heaped praise upon the film. Next of Kin isn't without its flaws, the script does feel a little underdeveloped and there are some strange gaps in the story, but nothing that truly compromises the viewing experience. I must say, Next of Kin is a masterpiece in terms of cinematography, featuring roving Steadicam, swooping crane shots, and fine use of the "Hitchcock zoom." There's nothing more satisfying than a gorgeously shot film and Klaus Schulze's (Tangerine Dream) score is perfectly paired with the striking visuals.
Umbrella Entertainment's new Blu-ray release further exemplifies the visuals, boasting a stunning new 4K transfer from the original 35mm interpositive that's virtually spotless. You'll notice one or two white spots here and there, as well as some definition loss during slow motion sequences, but for a film that's over 35 years old, this is a very small issue. Colors are rich and blacks deep, I can guarantee that this is the best the film has ever looked. In terms of audio options, we're given the original mono mix in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio remix that works wonders with the score offscreen sound effects.
The release comes packed with bonus features, including a pair of audio commentary tracks. One featuring director Tony Willams and producer Tim White and the other features features cast members John Jarratt, Jackie Kerin, and Robert Ratti, the track is moderated by Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley. Both of these commentates offer deep insight into the film, even revealing that the film was originally planned as a horror comedy! "Return to Montclare" revisits the film's then and now locations, featuring stunning contemporary videography that mirrors the original filming style. There's a pair of extended interviews from Not Quite Hollywood, one with Williams and the other with Jarratt. We're giving two short films from Williams, Getting Together and The Day We Landed On The Most Perfect Planet In The Universe, both created for the 1971 documentary series, "Survey." There's included ballroom footage that reveals footage seen on a television in the film was actually filmed by Williams in 1978. Trailers, deleted scenes, and a photo gallery round out the special features.
Next of Kin is a perfect accumulation of slow building terror, full of thick atmosphere, stunning visuals, a killer score, and great performances from the cast. If you're a fan of Ozploitation cinema, this release from Umbrella is a must-own. If you have no idea what Ozploitation is, it's still a highly recommended purchase!