Tony Williams’ “Next of Kin” (1982) is a slow-burning Ozploitation cult horror classic

By on June 7, 2019

Director Tony Williams’s psychological horror film Next of Kin (1982) combines a twisted haunted house saga and possible prankster poltergeists with some of the bloody elements found in early ’80s stalker/slasher and Italian giallo films.

Featuring an intense soundtrack by electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze of Tangerine Dream, Next of Kin is now streaming in our Severin Films section on Night Flight Plus.

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Next of Kin actually begins with “Linda Stevens” — played by Jacki Kerin, who apparently never appeared in another film — her clothing smeared with blood, getting into her truck at Harry’s Roadside Diner and driving away.

From this point forwards, this slow-burning Ozploitation cult horror classic takes its time to get to where its going, but, by we arrive at its climactic bloody ending, it all proves to have been well worth the trip.

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Linda is returning to Montclare — where she was raised by her mother, who has just died — with its creaking spiral stairways, creepy hallways and shadowy alcoves.

We learn — from her mother’s voiceover during a brief prologue — that Linda has just inherited the sprawling old house, which has been turned into a large retirement residence by her mother and her aunt “Rita” (Bernadette Gibson), who we learn was sent away to an insane asylum.

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We also learn that Linda has been working elsewhere as a teacher for emotionally disturbed students, and this is the first time she’s been home in more than twenty years.

Linda’s troubled past soon begins to haunt her again, and we’re made aware that she hasn’t kept in touch with anyone from her past life at Montclare, which may be one reason she feels “unwelcome” here again.

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There are many residents still living at Montclare who remember her fondly as a little girl, bouncing her red rubber ball down the hallways.

They seem glad to have continuity in their lives by having her back home again to help take care of them in what will likely be their final days.

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Linda begins to settle into her past life/new life, catching up again with old friends and making new ones, including housekeeper “Connie” (Gerda Nicolson).

Then she discovers, by reading her dead mother’s diaries, that elderly residents at the home have been mysteriously dying, although the local physician “Dr. Barton” (Alex Scott) has seen no evidence of any foul play.

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Linda’s mother was apparently concerned about their deaths before her own, and she was also afraid that someone had been watching her from the shadows, stalking her.

Not too long after she arrives, Linda also begins to re-live some of the very same events mentioned in her mother’s diaries.

More strangeness begins to happen in the home after “Mr. Collins” (Matt Burns) is found drowned in the bathtub, including candles mysteriously lighting themselves in her room, and faucets being turned on and left to overflow and flood the bathrooms.

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The dead bodies soon begin to pile up too, the most concerning of which are the people close to Linda, including her friend “Carol” (Debra Lawrence) and her past/present boyfriend “Barney” (John Jarratt).

In the midst of whatever madness is taking place, a new resident names “Mrs. Ryan” arrives, leading to an over-the-top climactic ending which includes an eye stabbing and a head exploding.

Read more about Next of Kin below.

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Williams co-wrote the screenplay for Next of Kin — originally titled Sticky Ends with fellow New Zealander Michael Heath.

The film is apparently known alternatively as Hell House, and it should additionally not be confused with a 1989 Australian film of the same name, starring Patrick Swayze.

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It may be worth noting that Williams — prior to directing — had been a cinematographer, which may be why his film is enhanced by beautiful, shadow-filled cinematography, shot by the late DP Gary Hansen.

Next of Kin was filmed on location in and around rustic, gorgeously golden countryside in Clarkefield, Melbourne, and Sydenham, Victoria, Australia.

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Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino has been singing the praises of Next of Kin for years.

According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Tarantino even considered hiring actor John Jarratt for a leading role in Inglourious Basterds (2009) after meeting with the Australian actor while touring Australia to promote Kill Bill 2.

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In the documentary film Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008), Tarantino — who claimed to have coined the term “Ozploitation,” although others make the same claim — said this about Next of Kin, also telling Screen Australia:

“[Next of Kin] literally is a horror film quite unlike any other… It has a very, very unique tone and the closest equivalent to this tone is The Shining… they share no other similarities, but there is this mesmerizing tone of dread that’s in the film that I think is truly unique to it and it’s very, very evocative…”

If you’re a fan of Stanley Kubrick‘s classic horror film, you’ll recognize how Tony Williams uses the Hitchcock-ian camera movement of dollying in at the same time while zooming out, to create a distorted perspective down the Montclare’s hallway.

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Notable film critics have also noted that the psychological horror of Next of Kin may also remind some viewers of Nicolas Roeg‘s Don’t Look Now (1974) and Dario Argento‘s Suspiria (1977), as well as the psychological terror of Roman Polanski‘s early films (particularly Rosemary’s Baby).

Watch Next of Kin and other cult horror titles in our Severin Films section on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.