Release Date(s)1982 (February 26, 2019)
Studio(s)Filmco Limited/VCL Communications/Media Home Entertainment (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
Championed by Quentin Tarantino and Mark Hartley in the documentary Not Quite Hollywood, Next of Kin takes a popular formula of a new resident in a mysterious old house and gives it a fresh, stylistic approach that actually subverts expectations instead of simply meeting them.
Linda has been away from the family for quite some time and she returns to inherit and potentially sell off an old retirement home. As the residents begin to meet their sudden demise, Linda experiences odd activity around the home, chiefly at night, and it isn’t long before whoever or whatever it is that’s tormenting her makes their presence known.
Next of Kin is an altogether odd duck of a film. It’s not straight horror, which is what I initially thought it was based upon its memorable VHS artwork. It’s not about a spiritual presence wanting to take vengeance upon a home’s inhabitants, like so many other haunted house films. It utilizes dread – the feeling that something terrible may potentially be in store for its lead, who spends much of the film wondering whether or not what she’s experiencing is real. It isn’t until the very end when all is revealed that the true horror really sinks in.
It’s also a beautifully-shot film. The camera is always moving with purpose and style, showing off plenty of unorthodox angles and intoxicating sequences. The final half hour is so strong that it makes for the previous sixty minutes, which felt a bit long in the tooth. Not much takes place during that time and, according to the film’s director Tony Williams, it was a rushed script that wasn’t fully developed before going in front of the cameras, and it definitely shows.
However, Next of Kin is one of those films that makes up for its lack of forward momentum with a stylistic intensity. In that way, it’s very much like The Shining, as Quentin Tarantino has already pointed out. It also has a Rosemary’s Baby feel to it in that we know somebody is manipulating Linda somehow, but we can’t quite put a finger on who or why. A truly underappreciated and little seen cult title, the experience of it makes you want to revisit it in order to soak it all in.
Severin Films’ Blu-ray release of the film comes sourced from the same 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative as the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray release, which is not at all a bad thing. It’s a strong, organic presentation with fairly coarse grain but high levels of detail. Blacks are deep, bordering on crush, while shadow details are boosted by the newfound clarity. The color palette reveals a vintage style, characterized by a warm but natural look, with bold hues popping up often. Brightness and contrast levels are ideal and the frame is very stable. It’s also quite clean aside from extremely minor speckling and, in one instance, a damaged frame.
The audio is included in both English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 2.0 track maintains the film’s original monaural source, while the 5.1 moves some of the score and ambient activity to the surrounding speakers. Both tracks are clear and clean with good dialogue reproduction and no distortion or dropouts.
This release also comes with an excellent extras package, almost all of which is identical to the Umbrella Entertainment and forthcoming Second Sight Films Blu-ray releases of the film. This includes an audio commentary with director Tony Williams and producer Tim White; another audio commentary with actors Robert Ratti, John Jarratt, and Jackie Kerin, moderated by Mark Hartley; The Psychotic Tourist: House of Psychotic Women, a 6-minute intro to the film by Kier-La Janisses for Morbido TV (an exclusive to this release); 26 minutes of extended interviews from the Not Quite Hollywood documentary with Tony Williams and John Jarratt; A Return to Montclare, an 11-minute location revisit video from 2018 (shot and edited by Urban Legend’s Jamie Blanks); 38 pages of still images of deleted scenes, which are currently believed to be lost; Before the Night is Out, which is 3 minutes of silent footage of the ballroom TV program seen in the film; the original theatrical trailer; the UK VHS trailer; the German theatrical trailer; an alternate German opening; an image gallery featuring 168 images of promotional materials, storyboards, behind-the-scenes pictures, script pages, and magazine clippings; Getting Together and The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe, which are two short films from 1971 for the documentary series Survey by Tony Williams; and reversible artwork featuring the film’s U.S. VHS release artwork on the opposite side.
Above all else, Next of Kin is one of those lost 80s cult titles that came and went quickly, but grew a reputation amongst film buffs over the years for its pace and style. While the film doesn’t totally work as a whole, it’s still an interesting piece of work. Severin Films’ stateside Blu-ray release leaves little to be desired with an excellent new transfer and a healthy supplemental package. For film fans, this one comes highly recommended!
– Tim Salmons