The movie takes place in a large manse called Montclare, a converted nursing home where Linda (Jacki Kerin) cares for the elderly after her mother dies and leaves her the place. It’s a spooky old house and Linda’s mother’s diary entries indicate that during her past in the house she had experienced different phenomena like water taps being left on, candles being lit, and a few mysterious deaths. Now those same occurrences are happening to Linda – and she’s bound to figure out the culprit.
Next of Kin is a slower-paced film, and it moves at a languid pace as the audience gets to know Linda. She cares for the elderly at her home but she’s also ready to stop taking on new residents. Her curiosity mostly resides in her mother’s diaries and some of the weird happenings around the house, which she ascribes to the caretaker Connie (Gerda Nicolson) and the physician Dr. Barton (Alex Scott).She’s also got a weird relationship with her boyfriend Barney (Jarratt), a device that never comes to fruition the way it should.
But despite the deliberately slow pacing, Williams’ film is a delight; it’s got all the right hooks, from a large creepy house to the unintentional eerieness of the elderly. There are seemingly ghostly encounters, moody candle flickers, and even a road chase sequence that is almost always a staple of Ozploitation classics. Kerin has a great handle on the psychological trauma of her character as told by flashback sequences to her childhood; there’s also an excellent moment when Linda has a full-blown panic attack after the real threat is revealed.
The twists work, too, ultimately pushing aside the ghouls of Montclare for a much more grounded explanation. While Next of Kin may leave a bit too much of the secret to exposition, the finale is dynamic enough to overlook flaws in the storytelling. Williams also sees fit to celebrate female empowerment with a shotgun blast to the face. It’s all very fun, a well-told story of haunting memories and bad past decisions that travel the family tree.
This Severin Films Blu-ray uses the same 4k transfer that was done for Umbrella Entertainment’s release. Ultimately, this is a fairly good-looking scan with a lot of depth and good grain control. Contrast can be a bit varied: some of the blacks are just too deep, which obscures some of the action on-screen. Another problem occurs during the slow-motion shots, which reveals some softness and overt grain. Otherwise, the rest looks good and retains the film’s dim, Gothic-esque mood.
Audio is presented with the new remixed 5.1 DTS-HD MA track and also the original 2.0 – both are good and the 5.1 is a good treatment that doesn’t detract from the film in any way. For those that like their films with surround sound, it’s definitely not a bad choice. English subtitles are also included.
All of the extras are exactly the same on this release except Severin does add a short introductory feature with Kier-La Janisse that was included as part of a Morbido TV special. There are two audio commentaries – one with director Tony Williams and Tim White, and one with John Jarratt, Jacki Kerin, and Robert Ratti along with moderator Mark Hartley. The second track is much more fun to listen to with tidbits and lots of reminiscing. Also included are extra interviews with Williams and Jarratt from the Not Quite Hollywood documentary that last about 30 minutes; there’s a 15 minute look at the locations of the film then and now, set to film score; deleted “scenes,” although they’re mostly text and photographs of scenes that were filmed but have since been lost; VHS trailer, German trailer, and original theatrical trailer; German opening credits, which are interesting considering “Next of Kin” scrolls in the background while the film’s title is Montclare – Erbe des Grauens; full ballroom dancing sequence; an image gallery; and finally two Tony Williams short films, “Getting Together” and “The Day We Landed On the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe.” Also, the package features reversible cover artwork.
Much like Umbrella Entertainment’s past release, this Next of Kin Blu-ray from Severin Films is a great addition to cult film collectors since the film itself is a lot of fun. While the two releases are nearly identical, Severin adds one more short extra to make it worthwhile for American buyers; however, if you already own the Umbrella edition, no need to purchase again.