Australia’s answer to THE SHINING
was this stylish and effective chiller, an unusually thoughtful and
creepy chunk of 1980s-era Ozploitation.
For much of its existence this 1982 gem has been
unaccountably neglected, although it was recently brought to peoples’
attention via the popular 2008 documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. The
latter focuses on Australian exploitation, or “Ozploitation,” cinema of
the 1970s and 80s, of which NEXT OF KIN (actually a New Zealand
co-production) was a sterling and unprecedented example.
Director/co-writer Tony Williams and producer Robert Le Tet weren’t very
prolific in the Australian film industry before or since this film,
which explains its uniqueness.
Linda is a young woman returning to her rural childhood
home, as her mother has just died and bequeathed her entire estate to
Linda. That estate consists of a large retirement home owned by the
family for decades.
Once ensconced in the house Linda (who admittedly feels
“unwelcome”) reads her mother’s diary, which recounts several
disquieting occurrences that, eerily enough, foreshadow many current
events. A diary entry describing an odd man spotted outside the house is
paralleled by Linda seeing just such a man. Linda’s ma also describes
patients dying unexpectedly, as does an old man on Linda’s watch.
Linda begins hearing strange noises and seeing spectral
figures, just as her mom claims to have. Also like her mom, Linda comes
to suspect that the retirement home’s supervisors are up to something
untoward. Her suspicions are further inflamed when she discovers a
corpse in a fountain outside the house, and another in a wheelchair. It
seems Linda may be the next victim, as her mom was before her…
In the annals of Ozploitation this is without question
one of the most stylish entries. It’s an extremely stately and refined
film, far closer in tone to
PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK or the
abovementioned SHINING than AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK or MAD MAX. It’s one of
two films made by Tony Williams (the other being 1978’s poorly received
SOLO), who showed a flair for atmospheric horror; note the profoundly
eerie sight of a levitating man outside the heroine’s window, or a
close-up of a foot stepping on a drowned man’s head, both pulled off
with a maximum of macabre savvy. Williams’ use of wide angle lenses and
slow motion is effective in establishing an overall aura of creeping
mystery and dread, and he also demonstrates a real talent for old
Yet this film is still an Ozploiter, meaning we get
gratuitous sex, a shower scene, some fairly graphic gore (there’s an
outrageous inversion of the “Here’s Johnny!” bit from THE
SHINING) and even some quintessentially Australian automobile action.
But to dismiss NEXT OF KIN as a shallow
splatter/exploitation movie, as many critics initially did, is wrong, as
the film was put together with an abundance of care and skill, and
deserves to be rediscovered.
NEXT OF KIN (a.k.a. HELL HOUSE)
SIS/The Film House
Director: Tony Williams
Producer: Robert Le Tet
Screenplay: Michael Heath
Cinematography: Gary Hansen
Editing: Max Lemon
Cast: Jacki Kerin, John Jarratt, Alex Scott, Gerda Nicolson, Charlesa
McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Tommy Dysart, Debra Lawrance,