NEXT OF KIN
2008 Documentary Not Quite Hollywood is a funny and informative clip-packed story of Australia's exploitation cinema, which rose to infamy and success in the 1970s. While the nation's arthouse films like The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Picnic At Hanging Rock gained international attention, less well-known filmmakers aimed for easier markets with sex comedies, horror movies and insane stunt-heavy actioners.
While first watching it, I fast-forwarded through the clips of films I hadn't seen yet, including Next of Kin. I've since seen Race for the Yankee Zephyr and Long Weekend. So after Wake In Fright, I'll be able to watch it properly. Not Quite Hollywood is made up of laid back interviews with the actors, producers and directors of the classics of this genre, plus unexpected fan Quentin Tarantino as enthusiastic as ever. It's very entertaining in itself, but also trails dozens of fairly unknown, wonderful movies for you to pursue.
Next of Kin, like The Survivor and Thirst, isn't exploitation except that it's in the horror genre. Beautifully made, it mostly shuns cliche (apart from a leaping cat and a hand-on-the-shoulder scare) to offer something ambitious and unique, almost halfway to arthouse.
Linda inherits Montclare, a huge old people's home, but is reluctant to shut it down and sell it off for the money. She gets attached to the residents and even takes in new guests.
But life in this huge mansion starts getting to her. A figure lurking outside her window at night and the sudden death of one of the residents puts her on edge, despite the reassurances of her boyfriend.
For at least half the story, I enjoyed not knowing what kind of film this was going to be. A ghost story? A slasher? It cleverly hints at several horror sub-genres while racking up the mysteries and scares. When a stranger hassles her car on a dirt road, I was delighted that it might even swerve into Road Games territory.
There's impressive, tour de force camerawork at pivotal moments, and an electronic score from Klaus Schulze (of Tangerine Dream). I know their music isn't everyone's idea of a soundtrack, but it's not as overpowering as other 1980s' films like, say, The Keep. The music effectively boosts the creepy atmosphere to another level and floats in a carefully-crafted sound design.
I'd not seen Jacki Kerrin before, but she ably carries the film. The only member of the cast I recognised was Alex Scott, one of many Australian actors who found plenty of work in British TV and movies in the 1960s, but returned home in the seventies, when the Australian film industry was in a better state. I knew him as one of the victims of The Abominable Dr Phibes. Here again he plays a doctor.
Linda's boyfriend is played by John Jarratt whose career spans the entire era of 'Ozsploitation'. He appeared in Picnic At Hanging Rock and has continued working into the current resurgence of Australian horror, appearing in Rogue and starring as bushman Mick in Wolf Creek and Wolf Creek 2.
Despite Quentin Tarantino giving Next of Kin glowing reviews, this is currently out of print on DVD, except in Germany where the cover art (above) is awful and misleading.
Another review of Next of Kin, with screengrabs and spoilers at Moon In The Gutter...