Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny - First Impressions: Next of Kin (Tony Williams, 1982)

The above poster art for today's movie is probably pretty bad, as it gives you no real indication what you're in for here, but to be honest, this may actually be a good thing. This is another film where (for the sake of the uninitiated) the less said the better really. Nevertheless, I'll attempt to give y'all some of my initial reactions and endeavour to keep this spoiler free... Incidentally, I just realised we're staying in 1982 for another day, but this time we're taking a trip to the antipodes.

An undeservedly obscure co-production between Australia and New Zealand, which is still unavailable on DVD as far as I'm aware (if I'm wrong, please let me know), Next of Kin seems to have developed a bit of a cult reputation via Quentin Tarantino, who apparently praised the film during the documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, comparing it favourably to The Shining (I think)... I'm not sure whether Kubrick's film is the first that would jump to my mind as far as analogues go, but I think I can see what QT is driving at... i.e. this is a definite slow-burn, featuring plenty of spooky weirdness, and one hell of a hair-raising finale. 

All you need to know regarding the story is this: a young woman named Linda (Jacki Kerin, who I found to be both likeable and engaging) inherits a retirement home from her recently deceased mother, and once she's moved in, it isn't long before all sorts of mysterious shenanigans start occurring... though I'll keep my lips sealed as to the specifics. As I've implied already, this is one where it's really best to go in cold. But a word of warning... if you don't care for horror or thriller films that take their time to establish a sense of mood and place, while slowly ratcheting up the tension, then this may not be for you. While The Shining is a pretty good point of comparison in some ways, I'd say that I personally find this closer in execution and narrative trajectory to movies like Ti West's The House of the Devil and Pupi Avati's The House with Laughing Windows (for more on the latter see here and here). 

A quick note to any Mario Bava fans out there... keep your eyes peeled for a few nods to the maestro and especially to Kill, Baby...Kill! (which I discuss here and here), though there may be other riffs I missed during this first viewing. And I really dug the foreboding synth-laden soundtrack by Klaus Schulze (who was, according to Wikipedia, briefly a member of Tangerine Dream, which explains a few things), which reminds me in varying degrees of John Carpenter and Wendy Carlos. Finally, credit is obviously due to co-writer and director Tony Williams, who turns this into a consistently stylish and technically imaginative master-class in sustained suspense; the staging of quite a few scenes is both inspired and effective. In summation, I'd say that if you like any of the other films I've alluded to in this post, then definitely give this one a shot, as I imagine this strange and sinister cinematic trip should be right up your particular alley.

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