NEXT OF KIN *** New Zealand 1982 Dir: Tony Williams. 86 mins
Jackie Kerin is excellent as a young teacher who inherits the Montclair Retirement Home from her dead mother, returning to the small town of her childhood, where the only significant change in 20 years is the installation of a new public loo. A sequence of unsettling events suggest her late mother’s belief in an “evil force” lurking in the home might be true, as her private calls are infiltrated and elderly residents start dying in larger than usual numbers.
Existing somewhere between a haunted house movie and an early 80’s slasher flick, this stylish New Zealand chiller has fun with genre clichés, as Gothic storms rage and young women wander around in the dark with flashlights. Meanwhile, prominent slasher conventions of the period are liberally employed: cat scares, narrative red herrings and a busy denouement of eye stabbings, explosions and two embittered, mallet-wielding characters for the price of one. It overdoses a tad on portentous slo-mo shots of pouring rain against windows and characters drying their hair, but the dreamy childhood flashbacks are effectively integrated, and the nightmare visions include one stand-out SALEM’S LOT-style fright of an elderly victim tapping on Kerin’s bedroom window at night. Accompanied by a pounding, Goblin-influenced score, it’s beautifully shot and satisfyingly offbeat, while cleverly making the audience wait for the more conventional bloodbath of the final act.
Review by Steven West