• Next Of Kin (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: October 3rd, 2018.
    Director: Tony Williams
    Cast: Jacki Kerin, John Jarratt, Alex Scott, Gerda Nicolson, Charles McCallum
    Year: 1982
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    Next Of Kin – Movie Review:

    A young woman named Linda Stevens (Jacki Kerin) has recently lost her mother and inherited the massive old family home, a creaky abode named Montclare. Before her passing, Linda’s mother and her aunt, who has been missing for some time, turned the place into a senior citizens home run by a woman named Connie (Gerda Nicolson) and a doctor named Barton (Alex Scott of The Asphyx).

    As Linda gets reacquainted with a life she’d left behind, she hits it off with old friend Barney (John Jarratt of Wolf Creek and The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith), a firefighter. She also learns that a gardener named Lance (Charles McCallum) is now living in the home himself. Linda’s got a past with the place, however. She has recurring nightmares about her childhood and, after reading a diary that her mother left behind, learns that she too felt something was wrong with the place, that it was the home of some sort of evil entity. The more time Linda spends in the home, the stranger things get and when she finds an old man dead in one of the bathtubs, she has to wonder if someone is playing mind games with her or if Montclare is really and truly someplace sinister.

    Next Of Kin starts off slowly. Very slowly. It’s not boring, mind you, but the pacing of the first half of the film is nothing if not languid. Having said that, this is very much a movie worth sticking with. Once you get to the third act the plot points come together nicely and what was a quiet, slow tale of a young woman reconnecting with her past becomes much more of a horror picture. Director Tony Williams asks his audience to pay attention and rewards attentive viewers with some truly unsettling imagery and a very dark tone in a picture that winds up being ripe with atmosphere and suspense. Yes, there’s some gore here and yes, there’s some nudity as well but it never feels particularly exploitative but instead, integral to the story. And if that story feels, at first, derivative of countless other haunted house tales, the script that Williams co-wrote with Michael Heath actually winds up feeling quite unique by the time the end credits hit the screen.

    The film benefits from good production values. Gary Hansen, who served as director of photography on Harlequin, delivers some very impressive cinematography. The old house is a creepy place and the camera does a fine job of capturing all of that with a fair bit of style. Additionally, the score from Klaus Schulze (who also scored Manhunter and Angst) helps quite a bit in building suspense and tension. Performances are also strong throughout. Jacki Kerin is quite likeable here, which is important to making this role work. She’s got very expressive eyes, she’s attractive without looking out of place for the part, she comes across as believable and even relatable in spots. She and the charismatic John Jarratt have good chemistry in the picture, while supporting work from Nicolson, Scott and McCallum round out the key cast members quite well.

    Next Of Kin – Blu-ray Review:

    Next Of Kin looks very good on this 50GB region free Blu-ray disc. The feature is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that is taken from a new 4K scan of the original 35mm interpositive. Fine detail can frequently impress here, and while some shots do look a bit softer than others, the image is generally crisp and sharp throughout. Colors look excellent and black levels are strong. The image is free of any noticeable compression problems and retains a filmic quality throughout, showing no noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement. Skin tones appear lifelike and natural throughout, never waxy or too pink, and there’s a lot of appreciable depth and texture throughout the duration of the picture.

    The disc includes a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as the original 2.0 Mono option, also in DTS-HD format. Both tracks sound fine, but the 5.1 mix does some nice things with the synth score by German electronic musician Klaus Schulze, spreading it, and some of the sound effects, out to the surround channels rather well. Both tracks are clean and clear and properly balanced. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring director Tony Williams and producer Tim White that proves to be quite interesting. There’s a lot of talk here about how the project evolved from a proposed horror-comedy into the film it is in its finished form, as well as the locations that were used in the picture. They talk about the importance of the cinematography, some of the films that Williams took as inspiration, as well as material that was shot but not used in the final cut. They also cover the casting of the film and the performances, getting Schulze to score the film, how the picture was received and quite a bit more. A second audio commentary gets cast members John Jarratt, Jackie Kerrin and Robert Ratti together with Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley for a pretty involved chat. Obviously, the focus here is on what the actors experienced while working on the picture, with Kerin and Jarrett talking about how they knew each other before collaborating on this film thanks to some TV work they’d done together. They share plenty of stories from the set, talk about some of the stunts that were required, share their thoughts on working with Williams as a director and quite a bit more. It’s a busy track but Hartley, who essentially serves as the moderator here, keeps everyone on track.

    From there, we dig into the featurettes beginning with Return To Montclare: Next Of Kin Shooting Locations Revisited. Here, over the course of ten-minutes we get a chance to see what most of the main locations used in the film back in the early eighties look like in modern times. Umbrella has also included two extended interviews originally shot for Not Quite Hollywood. Here Williams talks for twenty-one-minutes about his career in the film industry and his work on this picture and Jarratt talks for four-minutes about his involvement here. Both are interesting additions to the disc.

    Umbrella has also included Before The Night Is Out, which is the complete ballroom dancing footage included in the movie that Williams shot back in 1978. This runs just over two-minutes and it’s interesting stuff from an archival point of view. Two of Tony Williams shorts from 1971 are also included here. The first is Getting Together, which runs half an hour, and the second is The Day We Landed On The Most Perfect Planet In The Universe and it runs thirty-one-minutes. These were originally shot for a documentary television series called Survey and they don’t really have anything to do with the feature, but it’s always interesting to see a filmmaker’s earlier projects and compare them to the main feature.

    The disc also includes some interesting German alternate opening credits, four-minutes of photo sourced deleted scenes (film footage no longer exists but the contact sheets for the continuity shots were saved), the original theatrical trailer, a VHS trailer, a German language trailer, a large still gallery of promotional material, menus and chapter selection. Umbrella has also supplied some reversible cover art for this release, which is a minor thing maybe but it’s always a nice touch.

    Next Of Kin – The Final Word:

    Next Of Kin is a slow burn to be sure, but it’s a very rewarding one. The slower first half of the picture builds really nicely, and when it all hits the fan in the last act, we’re hooked. Umbrella’s Blu-ray release is excellent, presenting the film in a beautiful transfer with strong audio and a host of extra features. All in all, a very strong release for a really well-made horror picture.

    Click on the images below for full sized Next Of Kin Blu-ray screen caps!