The October Diaries: Next of Kin

Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Sean & Christof

October 14th, 2014:
Next of Kin

Year: 1982
Director: Tony Williams
Format: VHS
From IMDB: In a rest home for elderly people, a daughter reads her mother’s diary. Soon events that are mentioned in the mother’s diary begin to happen to the daughter.

Sean’s Take:

Australian sugar cube horror from director Tony Williams. Despite some rough VHS sound, this one exuded a stylish vibe from the get-go that outworked a slow-moving plot. Klaus Shulze, an early and brief member of Tangerine Dream, provide the synth-heavy score that helped fill the quieter moments with mood instead of tedium.

This one dabbles in a ghost story vibe for a while before distancing itself from that. A part of me was disappointed that it didn’t have more narrative thrust, seeing as we were coming off another mood-over-matter movie the day before (Eyes of Fire). But another part of me allowed myself to vibe out with it as much as I could. And to the film’s credit, I wouldn’t have been able to if it didn’t carry itself with such style and attitude.

There was a flair to the camera work that punctuated and elevated some moments that, on paper, aren’t that exciting. As a result, the movie left an impression on me even if it didn’t stir anything deep within me.

Usually when someone describes a movie as a slowburn it means that film probably ended well enough to validate the viewing despite any flirtations with tedium. If a “slowburn” movie doesn’t end very well, they don’t call it a slowburn anymore, they just call it boring. Next of Kin exercised its ultimate moments of punctuation very well. In fact, the decisive gesture of the movie, made by our heroine, was one of the more guttural squirms of the month for me.

I rode the vibe and it took me to a place where I feel comfortable calling this movie a successful slowburn rather than a bore.

Next of Kin

(Unflattering Close-Up of Next of Kin Title Card)

Christof’s Take:

Either this movie was too sleepy, or I was, because I kept tuning out and feeling a step behind a fairly unhurried plot. This was another one that had me feeling engaged early on, sort of lost me, but then it really grabbed me again just in time for the ending.

The Australian film (by a New Zealand director, Tony Williams) features some pretty out-there choices, especially in the editing of certain formally-rich sequences, which were very welcome when they showed up.

There was a particularly brutal moment that happens when our lead, Linda, defends her self by [spoilers on the move!] giving someone an eye-stab through a keyhole. It’s not gory or anything – showing all they really needed to in order to make me cringe for a full minute after, during which the motion slowed down and collaborated with the sound by Tangerine Dreamer, Klaus Shultz, to represent the psychological discomfort of the main character as she runs, howling down a hallway in a nightmarish frame-rate, conveying pure emotional violence that horror so often sweeps under the rug.

It was refreshing for a horror-consumer like myself to take a break from watching another character shrug off the things he or she is forced to do in the name of self-defense, since so many one-dimensional characters – in a variety of genres – end up adjusting to carrying out violent actions with disgraceful ease.

After taking its time, leisurely strolling through the plot, and giving us a sub-genre fake-out (supernatural horror being the red-herring), the movie sprints toward the end, but the swiftness is pulled off well and with a certain poetic poise in the shot/cut relationship.

I’m not positive I’ll ever watch it again. But if I do, it will be for the effect of satisfaction the tone of the ending offers up like a gift.



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