After the untimely death of her mother, Linda returns from her university studies to reacquaint herself with the inherited Montclare, a home for the elderly her mother owned and operated through the decades as a family business. As she internally debates about whether to sell the grand, yet antiquated estate, 24-year-old Linda shuffles through her mother’s left behind things that rekindle Linda’s faded memories of her youth and add a sense of melancholy about her mother’s mental condition. A seemingly quiet, if not quirky, home for the elderly quickly becomes shrouded with mystery after the discovery of one of the residents found dead in a bathtub. Soon after, Linda feels as if she’s being watched and toyed with inside the corridors of Montclare: candles found lit, bathroom fixtures overflowing and cascading with water, mysterious figures looming from inside her room’s window, and her mother’s belongings sprawled out about the room. Paranoia sets into Linda as she suspects the resident caretaker and doctor of a lethal plot against her inside an old, foreboding manor that troubled her mother into deathly consequences and she searches for answers inside her mother’s extensive diaries that reveal the ominous dread that overwhelmed her inside an evil house.
“Next of Kin” is Australian’s answer to Dario Argento’s hauntingly apprehensive and vividly hued classic, “Suspiria.” Directed by Tony Williams and co-written with Michael Heath (“Death Warmed Over”), “Next of Kin” embodies monolithic brooding merits of a gracefully shaped horror and palpitating anxiety unlike any other Australian horror film we’ve ever seen before. In fact, Williams 1982 film doesn’t feel very Australian at all that’s set chiefly in and around Montclar, a lavishly gothic estate with expensive fountains and floral garnishes. Aside from native accent and barely a dusty road to drive down, the country of origin could be anywhere, punching home the aspect that the incident at Montclar is universal. Looking into a couple of their techniques, Williams and cinematographer Gary Hansen (“Image of Death”) utilize slow motion and interlaced scenes to convey a surreal dread that transcends from film to senses, also involving disruptive audio cues and visual jump scares, to culminate every scene, ever moment, into a well thought out result on how to effectively reach out and affect that scared little boy or girl in all of us.
Primarily a television and mini-series actress, Jacki Kerin sets foot into the main actress Linda. Kerin’s able to flip emotions from emitting a passive quality while she seemingly annoyed by her mother’s death while switching gears into a hyper-tensive defender. The small screen actress translate well onto the big screen, accompanying well versed thespians in “Picnic at Hanging Rock’s” John Jarratt, who went onto to more notably the “Wolf Creek” franchise. There’s also Alex Scott (“The Abominable Dr. Phibes”) and Tasmanian-born actress Gerda Nicholson. Scott and Nicholson do a fine job of portraying un-trust worthy snoops with underlining knowledge yet to be exposed and with Kerin, the fear goes unopposed and spreads like wild fire. the remaining cast includes Charles McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Vince Deltito, and Debra Lawrence.
Practical effects are minimal in “Next of Kin,” but are well integrated with a meticulous purpose. Williams maintains the gore to an infancy amount, but the New Zealand born director doesn’t nickel-and-dime the macabre. Much of the death displayed comes in at post-humorous, visually positioning the cold and blue hued, more at times ripped life from, bodies to vessel the story forward toward a shocking, what-the-hell, and oh glorious climax. Then, when all the proverbial cards on the table, Linda finds herself ensnared in a cat-and-mouse game where Chris Murray’s practical effects come to the forefront. Special effects maestro, Chris Murray, had the George Miller experience while working on “Max Max” in 1979, prepping him to be the adequate effects artist to create surreal and, also, brutal Giallo-like murder.
Umbrella Entertainment presents Tony Williams’ “Next of Kin” onto a region free, full HD 1080p Blu-ray home video. An Ozploitation classic in itself, Umbrella Entertainment puts the film on a home media pedestal with a remastered 4k transfer from the original 35mm interpostive and presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio. Beyond gorgeous with lush grim colors and able to keep the natural grain of the 35mm nitrate, “Next of Kin” sees one hell of an upgrade that shows no wear in the transfer and no compression issues or edging enhancements. Even with the heavy blue tint at time, the amount and the use is appropriate alongside Gary Hansen’s vision. The new English DTS-HD master audio emphasizes the heavy synthesized score by German electronic music composer Klaus Schulze that meshes fine with the creepy house ambiance. Dialogue is properly forefront and crystal clear. Special features run amok with audio commentaries with director Tony Williams, producer Tom White, and with cast members John Jarrett, Jackie Kerin, Robert Rattie. Also on the release is a “Return to Montclar – Next of Kin” shooting locations revisited, extended interviews from “Not Quite Hollywood” director Mark Hartley, deleted scenes, original and VHS trailer, German opening credits and trailer, an image gallery, and a couple of Tony Williams’ short films: “The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe” and “Getting Together.” “Next of Kin” has a brawny Italian Giallo flavor with a gritty, distinctive core of Australian horror filmmaking; sheerly beautiful and indisputably morbid, director Tony Williams has garnished a choice horror favorite that’s been sorely passed over through the years.
When a deadly robbery strikes one of Darcy Security Services armored cars, the security company’s chief executives aim to crack down on the already rigorous operational security protocols by implementing vastly unpopular and Union-irritating measures. The hit not only induces change to security procedures, but also opens up a can of worms that forces the hand of the three internal company men, who’ve been planning to steal from inside Darcy Security Services over the last five years, to accelerate their timeline. Their carefully laid out plan quickly becomes complicated when the mob gets wind of their elaborate heist, compelling the small three man crew to work for the crime boss without much of a choice as life and limb come to stake. Now the only thing that can stand between them and millions of dollars are two new Darcy recruits, a highly trained former police officer with a penchant for doing what’s honorable and a gun shy bloke targeted to be a prime suspect in previous armored car robberies.
Based loosely on a pair of actual robbery events authored by novelist Devon Minchin, “Money Makers” bares a ruthless resemblance to hardnose acts of crime as filmmaker Bruce Beresford captivates as the maestro behind the orchestration of Minchin’s book that’s gritty and enthralling on the big screen. The “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Double Jeopardy” director also pens a script full of bloody encounters and unflinching greed that delivers “Money Movers” as the first R-rated feature to stem out of South Australian Film Corporation, a production company that, up until then, co-produced dramas, mysteries, and family films, such as Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “The Last Wave,” with McElroy & McElroy and later co-produced the widely successful Outback horror “Wolf Creek” starring John Jarrett nearly 30 years later.
While numerous characters are subject to suspect and their roles’ intentions are guarded to the very end, the plot, for all intents and purposes, circulates around Eric Jackson, a former champion race car driver who now tenures as a 5-year senior security guard at Darcy’s, played by Terence Donovan. Donovan gives the performance his all with a wide range of subversive behavior. From cool, calm, and collective to feral gumption, Donovan race ends in drenching ferocity that’s fueled by his fellow costars who meet him at his level of performance. The most recognizable face, at least for me, is “F/X’s” Bryan Brown who portray’s Eric’s brother, Brian Jackson. They butt heads with former police officer Dick Martin and his no tomfoolery. The late Ed Devereaux had an old school acting method, very impersonal and straight forward like a John Wayne-type, and that worked perfectly in the role of Martin who befriends the projected patzy Leo Bassett played by “Quigley Down Under’s” Tony Bonner. Bonner’s able to capture Bassett’s unconfident, yet smooth persona that’s complete opposite of his partner Dick Martin, whose confident, but brash. What’s curious about the characters lies under the surface of a domineering male lineup – the women. Not one female character is apparent in a co-lead role and each role has a presumable flaw to them. Candy Raymond is an undercover private eye who uses her body and wits for information, Eric Jackson’s wife, played by Jeanie Drynan, has an absent and naive approach, and a handful of minor roles involving non-verbal girlfriends and late night secretary carnalities. The cast rounds out with Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Alan Cassell, Lucky Grills, Hu Pryce, Terry Camilleri and Frank Wilson.
“Money Movers” doesn’t scream perfection, but plays a major influential part in the infancy stages of violent crime thrillers that paved the way for such films like “Heat” or “Point Blank” and supplies another keystone in constructing the genre a solid foundation. “Money Movers” is bookend with graphic shootouts and peppered with conniving dealings and unsavory characters toward a shoot’em up heist climax that Bruce Beresford was able to depict visually and script confidently. In early scene, the storyboards could have been revised, restructured, or reordered to unearth a clear picture of establishing character backstories and setup that still process a puzzling connection between their nefarious intentions, but the ample storyline corrects course quickly without loosing too much time to ponder about the after effects of the early scenes.
Umbrella Entertainment re-releases “Money Movers” on a PAL DVD home video. The region free DVD is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Definition is key as the colors are, for lack of a better word, washed, but the clear cut outline that produces a sharp finish image grants this release of “Money Movers” a seal of approval that isn’t asterisked with blatant enhancements. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is on point with clarity in the dialogue and properly aligned, volumed, and untarnished ambiance. What’s interesting about “Money Movers” is the lack of a score that forces the viewer, subconsciously, to hone in more acute to the characters and their brazen actions. Bonus material includes “Count Your Toes – a making-of featurette with writer-director Bruce Beresford and cast members Bryan Brown, Terence Donovan, Tony Bonner, and Candy Raymond. There’s also the theatrical trailer and Umbrella Entertainment’s propaganda material. One of the first to be up on a prestigious pedastal of heist films, “Money Movers” is a violent, toe-cutting, experience armored with a great cast of acclaimed actors and filmmakers in this Ozploitation classic.
In the Australian outback, a prehistoric and ginormous crocodile has surfaced in the wake of mankind’s gentrification of the wilderness land. Between ambushing crocodile poachers and snatching little Aborigine children from off the river shore, the ancient saltwater hunter has become the hunted as park ranger and crocodile preservation expert Steve Harrison has been assigned to kill the beast, but the local Aborigine tribe holds the killer croc sacred, calling it Numunwari, an ancient, spirit carrying crocodile that has embodied the bones and souls of ancestral aborigine. Together, Harrison and local tribe leader Oondabund must find a way to stop the chaos without terminating the Numunwari while combating drunken poachers and a rattled ranger chief looking to abruptly end public fear. With the enthusiastic help of Harrison’s ex-lover, Cathy Pope, the three devise a dangerous plan to sedate the massive croc and transport it to a secluded habitat before death rears it’s ugly head once again.
Arch Nicholson’s “Dark Age” is the Australian “Jaws” equivalent, introducing a massive crocodile that puts the fear of the murky rivers into the hearts of audiences much like a giant great white shark did for the ocean beaches. “Dark Age” is a raging adventure with a delicate undertone about nature fighting back against an aggressive, occupying force called man, especially the white man, who kills without cause, who plagues without consciousness, and whose power instills a reactionary fear to kill. A single, monstrous crocodile embodies and symbolizes the essence of an entire habitat, chomping through flesh and doing a death roll to make known that nothing can stop nature or as “Jurassic Park’s” Dr. Ian Malcolm so eloquently put it, “Life, uh, finds a way.” Nicholson’s film, from the novel of Grahame Webb novel Numunwari, isn’t solely a man versus nature horror despite marketed as one; instead, “Dark Age” unveils more the cruel side of human nature that’s more Machiavellian than nature running its course.
“Wolf Creek” star John Jarrett, who I better know from “The Odd Angry Shot,” stars as the conflicted park ranger and crocodile preservation expert Steve Harrison. Jarrett’s more convincing a maniac outdoors man than a crocodile conversationalist, but the iconic Aussie convinces us all that being in between two opposing sides is no easy task with this willingness to do what’s right on both sides. Nikki Coghill portrays Steve Harrison’s love interest, Cathy Pope, and Coghill is a dominating female lead by, not only being the only prominent female character, but with her striking ability to overpower Jarrett in scenes and with her also very striking beauty that comes to peak in a fleshy sex scene with Jarrett. The second most recognizable face behind Jarrett is aborigine descendant David Gulpilil. Most Stateside filmgoers may recall Gulpilil’s long locks and distinctive facial features from Crocodile Dundee in a ceremonial Aborigine dance alongside Paul Hogan. In “Dark Age,” Gulpilil plays Adjaral, son of Aborigine tribe leader Oondabund played by Burnham Burnham. “The Howling III” actor acts as a spiritual liaison between the crocodile and the white man world and Burnham Burnham’s childlike presence onscreen makes the actor very memorable and likable. Ray Meagher, Max Phipps, Jeff Ashby, Paul Bertram, and Ron Blanchard co-star.
There have been many installments and versions of crocodile leviathans. In fact, in It’s Bloggin’ Evil’s last review, Sion Sono’s Tag, there’s a dream sequence of a giant crocodile gorily snapping down upon a Japanese schoolgirl with blood spraying everywhere. While the scene is graphic, eye-catching, and notable, the croc was a mockery of reality with disproportionate jowl and a flimsy design that’s more cartoonish than substantially factual. Kuddos to the monster effects and long time visual effects artist Roger Cowland for constructing a frightening behemoth of a crocodile. Though slightly stiff in some scenes, Nicholson camera placement exhibits just enough to warrant a shortage of breath whenever the crocodile goes in for the kill or stalks a prey with the round eyes popping just above the water’s surface. This effect is masterfully executed by the late director who didn’t feel the need to be gratuitously gory with the death scenes that are modest, intense, and sheerly practical.
Yet to be on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S.A., the good blokes over at Umbrella Entertainment release ultra-rare “Dark Age” for the first time hi-definition on Blu-ray as part of Ozploitation Classic series presented in a 1080p widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, format. The image looks clean without any noticeable enhancements, distortions or print damage with only some heavy noise in the darker scenes. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is just as perfect with clarity in the dialogue, a pulsating synthesizing score, and fine fidelity and range. No hissing, popping, or any other noise annoyances were detected. Umbrella unleashes a slew of bonus material includes an audio Commentary with Actor John Jarratt and Executive Producer Antony I. Ginnane, a Bicentenary with Bite: Revisiting “Dark Age”, panel discussion with film historians Lee Gambin, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Emma Westwood and Sally Christie, and Uncut Not Quite Hollywood Interviews with John Jarratt and Antony I. Ginnane which are tremendously enlightening about the film’s birth and concluding reactions. There’s also a 1986 documentary entitled Living With Crocodiles with Grahame Webb, author of Numunwari, trailers, and an image gallery. Forget “Rogue.” Forge “Lake Placid” Lets even forget “Dinocroc!” Umbrella Entertainment’s “Dark Age” is the ultimate formidable 90-minute action-horror with trembling induced fear and adrenaline produced thrills accompanied inside a hi-definition release packed to the razor sharp teeth with extras.