Next of Kin

Next of Kin ★★★½

1st Tony Williams

A little gem of Aussie horror that exudes a profound sense of melancholy. The first two thirds are exceptionally plotted, building on recurring visual motifs of water (either as rain or as bathwater) and red (blood, a red MGB, a red beret) to slowly evoke a sense of disorienting dread at events unexplainable and forces malevolent. It's been compared to The Shining, and certainly the singular location and the notion of inherited madness feels very close to what is arguably my favourite film of all time, and certainly a contender for the best film ever made. Unfortunately, the last act dissolves like wet paper, leaving far too many narrative lacunae open for the final few minutes. One can construct a logical explanation for the sudden wrenches thrown into our expectations, but this feels somewhat like you're doing the film's work for it. From some brief research, it seems that there were some deleted scenes, presumably that would have clarified certain plot points, but sadly they are lost to the mists of time, leaving us with this half-coherent puzzle piece in its place.

Through all of these baffling moments, the quality of Williams' filmmaking shines through. He has a natural talent for creating tension through editing and framing, turning Montclare retirement home into a veritable maze of corridors and dank, musty rooms. There is also a sublime manipulation of sound, either through slow motion (a scene where Linda runs screaming is slowed to the point where she sounds inhumanly terrifying) or through the dreamy synth score from Klaus Schulze. It sounds very much like Tangerine Dream, which makes sense when you consider that he was one of the original members. All of this combines to create a very definite atmosphere and mood of intense tension.

It's a pity Williams never really got to make anything after this. A brief scan of his IMDb reveals a giant gap of over 30 years between this and his next project, a documentary about rural Aussie life. The woman who plays Linda, Jacki Kerrin, also never went on to do much after this, only appearing in a few TV miniseries with her last credit in 2005. I wonder what happened to both of them. Whatever did, this is a product to be proud of, despite its flaws.

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