Next Of Kin (1982). Directed by Tony Williams. A daughter inherits an elderly rest home, where things aren’t quite what they seem. After several untimely deaths, Linda comes across her mother’s diary and discovers that the tragic events her mother wrote about are happening again.
When Linda (Jacki Kerin) inherits the Montclare nursing home from her wealthy and dearly departed mother, she quickly gathers that something is amiss. On her second day, an elderly resident is found drowned in the bathtub in what at first appears to be a tragic accident. But Linda’s mom left her a diary that she kept from childhood, and we learn that similar strange drownings took place 20 years before. Soon, Linda is being stalked by a shadowy figure, and someone wearing her mother’s clothes watches her from Montclare’s many windows.
The nursing home was once a mansion and home to two sisters. One of them wanted to turn the estate into a rest home for the elderly. And the other sister… well, she was very sick and troubled. According to legend, she died 20 years ago. As Linda and her affable boyfriend Barney (John Jarrat, who played Mick Taylor in the “Wolf Creek” films) discover, sometimes legends don’t stay dead.
Here we have a diamond in the rough, an obscure little gem of a film with fantastic cinematography and special effects makeup. For most of the running time it’s a slow burn mystery, as murdered old folks pile up and Linda sifts through her repressed memories of a childhood spent in the halls of Montclare and journal entries from the past. Then suddenly, in the last fifteen minutes, it turns into a whole different animal. The killer (or killers, perhaps) is revealed and the mayhem begins.
You want gory deaths? We got them!
- Two members of Montclare’s staff are found in a bathtub brimming with their blood.
- A woman is stabbed in the eye while peering through a keyhole.
- A dead woman is found in a fountain with a torn open throat.
- A psychopath who howls and yips like an animal shows up with a big hammer.
- A man has his throat slit and is sent speeding down a hallway in a wheelchair.
- A man is spectacularly decapitated by a point-blank shotgun blast.
- A maniac crashes a van through a diner to get to victims inside.
That’s the last fifteen minutes for you.
The gore and practical effects are top-notch. And so are the slow motion sequences. In late 70s and 80s cinema, slow motion scenes were usually smudgy looking and kind of cheesy. Instead of bringing the drama, they generally made harrowing situations seem sillier, particularly in horror films. Not so here. There’s a gorgeous shot of Linda fleeing through a hallway, filmed from above in pristine slow motion. Speaking of remarkable shots, there are several. Linda and one of the nurses have a conversation about secrets while hanging sheets on clothesline. One of the white bed sheets divides the frame as two characters divided by secrets speak through the fabric barrier.
As an old man steps into a bathtub, we see a nifty side view of his foot breaking the water and coming down on the head of a bloated corpse. Even the van smashing through the wall looks incredible. You can see every bit of drywall and glass.
It’s also fascinating to see Australian actor John Jarrat so youthful and not playing a leering degenerate like Mick Taylor or the Gryphon Killer from “Shiver” with Danielle Harris. His presence in this was the reason I picked the film up. Say what you will about the “Wolf Creek” films, the man can act.
I’ll admit that prior to the insane ending I was wondering where all this was going. Was it supernatural? Had Linda’s mother returned from the grave to take her residents into the afterlife with her? I had my theories and predictions, and the big twist is not all that original. But it smacks so much of American slasher movies of that era that it made me smile. Then the batshit crazy intensity of the climax showed up and I forgot all about guesswork. If you can lay your hands on a copy of “Next Of Kin,” it comes highly recommended. It’s just different enough to intrigue, with a little taste of the familiar thrown in.