So. One I just watched was a somewhat-forgotten 1982 Australian movie called Next of Kin.
I dimly remember that maybe Quentin Tarantino had spoken glowingly of this movie…but honestly, there are so many movies that I’ve heard someone say “Quentin Tarantino loves this movie!!” about that I’ve lost track. (QT champions edgy underground movies like Brian Rubin champions video games set in outer space. I lose track even though I do notice and try to keep up.)
At any rate, this obviously isn’t the 1989 Patrick Swayze movie. This is a film that sort of came in the middle of the so-called Ozploitation era, but I think it maybe has a bit more in common with loftier fare than that.
Jacki Kerin is the star here, and she’s mostly pretty good in it. In fact there are times when she’s pretty great in this…and weirdly, it was the last movie she ever made (she did some TV in Australia later on, but apparently decided to get out of the movie biz after this.)
The real star, though, is probably Tony Williams’ camera work. He’s the director, but his background is cinematography, and it shows. He shamelessly borrows from Kubrick’s moves in The Shining, while marrying some of those stately moves to the nervous, stalking zooming camera styles that feel more like something out of a giallo. Oh, and he also does that dolly shot with the pullback-zoom that Hitchcock made famous. I know that shot is a cliche, but I have a soft spot for it.
Anyway, the movie is mostly solid, but it also feels very much like an opportunity missed. Williams shares co-writing credit on this film, and apparently the script was in rougher shape than it even ended up, which is really frightening. This is a screenplay that is practically screaming to have had an actual professional screenwriter and editor spend even just a few days on to clean up. Key elements of the plot hinge bits and breadcrumbs that were so poorly and offhandedly surfaced elsewhere in the movie that the big third act reveal reminded me of that Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror where Homer is trying to tell a scary story and Homers it all up by forgetting to include important bits of his own story.
And then there are just bizarre bits that are left hanging, unexplained, too. Why is there a 9-year-old kid all alone in a diner playing pinball in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night? The movie doesn’t tell us. And it also doesn’t give us a good reason why the kid needed to be there, either.
Thus…worth seeing for the camera stuff alone. And there’s one of the best lightning strikes I’ve seen in a movie, what I assume is a practical effect so good that I have no idea what it’s doing in this fairly low-budget movie. But that lightning strike is great.