Horror

New Zealand filmmakers have won an international reputation, thanks to their knack for horror. Along the way they have won major acclaim (Braindead, Housebound, The Ugly ) and occasional arguments as to what actually counts as horror (Braindead, Under the Mountain, Trail Run). Early entries — starting with the mutant shenanigans of Death Warmed Up — were often of the splatter variety, laden with gorey moments. This collection of Kiwi Horror also finds room for varied vampires, and uglies inspired by Frankenstein, Margaret Mahy...and milk.

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So Free

The Rickshaws, Music Video, 2008

Clearly made by people with a love of old school Hollywood horror, So Free dredges up a classic monster squad which includes Dracula, 'Frankristein', The 'Wülf Man', and a creature born in a black lagoon— all hell bent on distressing the damsel (Arem Steel). With lovingly-detailed set-pieces and effects, the clip looks tremendous. And after underwater and night shoots in midwinter Wellington, it was fortunate to be supported by a dedicated cast and crew (including band members playing the various monsters).

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Death Warmed Up

Film, 1984 (Trailer, Excerpts, and Extras)

Pre-dating Peter Jackson's arrival (Bad Taste) by three years, New Zealand's first horror movie sees Michael Hurst making his movie debut as he fights mutants (including Bruno Lawrence) on Waiheke Island. Hurst's character is out to avenge the mad scientist who forced him to kill his parents. A grand prize-winner at a French fantasy festival (with cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky on the jury), David Blyth's splatterfest marked the first of many horrors funded by the NZ Film Commission. It was also the first local showcase of the smoothly-flowing Steadicam camera.

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Mr Wrong

Film, 1985 (Trailer and Excerpts)

In director Gaylene Preston's genre-bending tale, Meg (Heather Bolton) buys a stylish old Jaguar so she can be more independent. While driving on a country road, she hears screams in the back – but there's no one there. In the excerpt above, she picks up a mysterious woman in the rain. Later she discovers that the woman was the car's previous owner, and she is missing. Now her killer might just be stalking Meg too. For their first, acclaimed feature, Preston and producer Robin Laing rented out local cinemas, conclusively proving that Mr Wrong had an audience.

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The Haunting of Barney Palmer

Television, 1986 (Full Length)

The Haunting of Barney Palmer is a fantasy film for children about a young boy who is haunted by his great uncle. Young Barney fears that he has inherited the Scholar family curse; a suite of 80s-era effects ramp up the supernatural suspense. The film was a co-production between PBS (United States) and Wellington's Gibson Group, which resulted in Ned Beatty (Deliverance, Network) being cast. It was written by Margaret Mahy, based on her Carnegie Award-winning novel The Haunting, and an early fruitful collaboration between her and director Yvonne Mackay.

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Bride of Frankenstein

Toy Love, Music Video, 1980

This Joe Wylie animation is a veritable treat: the melodramatic grotesqueries, bright colours, surgery porn and animated tomato sauce all contribute to produce one of New Zealand's first iconic music videos. The band apparently kept their breakup a secret until Wylie finished work for the clip, so he could get paid! The Auckland-produced video was the second made for 'Bride of Frankenstein'. The first was shot in Sydney, and in B movie style featured band members as surgeons who construct a bride (played by Toy Love keyboardist Jane Walker).

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What We Do in the Shadows

Film, 2014 (Trailer)

Boy director Taika Waititi teams up with his Eagle vs Shark star Jemaine Clement to present this bloody comedy about the travails of a flat of vampires. Reality TV-style cameras tag the vamps as they struggle to get into Courtenay Place nightclubs, squabble over chores and face off werewolves. A roster of Kiwi comedic talent (including Jonathan Brugh and Rhys Darby) feature. After winning fangtastic reviews at America's Sundance and SXSW festivals, Shadows won a run of global sales, local success and four Moa awards, including Best Self-Funded Feature.

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Rotting Hill

Short Film, 2011 (Full Length)

This gleefully violent "zombie romcom" is another offering from Auckland's Media Design School, where 3D CGI students collaborate with their tutor, director James Cunningham, and industry veterans. Based on an idea from course grad Philip Magnussen, Rotting Hill sees two lovers — played by Anna Hutchison (Go Girls, The Cabin in the Woods) and Australian actor Jason Smith (Home and Away) — finding that "true love never dies" in a post-human future. The short has netted over one million views on Vimeo. Keep tissues handy: you may shed a tear ... or maybe an eyeball.

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Braindead

Film, 1992 (Trailer)

After his mother gets infected by a bite from a deadly Sumatran rat monkey, Lionel (Almighty Johnson Tim Balme, in an award-winning performance) has to contend with a plague of the living dead while attempting to woo the love of his life. Peter Jackson had already been tagged with the title  ‘The Sultan of Splatter’ after his first two features, but this was the film that confirmed it. Armed with a decent budget, he takes a Flymo to fusty 1950s New Zealand and takes cinematic gore to a whole new extreme in the process.

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The Murder House

Short Film, 1998 (Full Length)

"I hope you're braver than your brother." A young schoolboy (James Ordish) finds his day plunging into nightmare, when he gets called in for a session with the school dental nurse. The nurse (a sly performance by future casting director Tina Cleary) seems to take pleasure in other people's pain. Directed by cinematographer Warrick ‘Waka' Attewell (Starlight Hotel), this short film for the dental wary was written by Ken Hammon, who was part of the team behind Peter Jackson's debut feature, splatter flick Bad Taste

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Housebound

Film, 2014 (Trailer)

Described as “bloody brilliant” by horror legend Peter Jackson, Housebound follows a woman dealing with the triple threats of house arrest, potential ghosts, and having to live with her mother. Morgana O’Reilly (TV movie Safe House) is the criminal facing eight months home detention with an annoying Mum (Rima Te Wiata). Jaquie Brown Diaries director Gerard Johnstone’s film debut won near universal praise, and the remake rights sold to New Line in the US. Fangoria loved its mixture of "fantastic comedy" and mystery and it was nominated for ten Moas, including Best Film. 

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Moonrise (aka Grampire)

Film, 1992 (Excerpts)

While visiting family down under, American teen Lonny catches up with his grandfather, a man with an infectious giggle, a thirst for adventure — and two vampire-sized incisors. Released locally as Grampire, this family-friendly adventure combines local names (among them future Pluto singer Milan Borich) with a winning turn as nice guy vampire by American Al Lewis (cult series The Munsters). Director David Blyth was won over by Michael Heath’s script because it reversed convention, and “was a plea for children to be allowed to keep and develop their imaginations”.

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Black Sheep

Film, 2007 (Trailer, Excerpts, and Extras)

A mutant lamb escapes from the lab after dodgy genetic experiments, and herds of sheep are turned into bloodthirsty predators. Three hapless humans are stranded on the farm as the woolly nightmare develops. They discover a bite from an infected sheep has an alarming effect on those bitten. With his first feature, director Jonathan King (Under the Mountain) provides splatter thrills and attacks a few sacred cows. Black Sheep was invited to 20+ international festivals, where it scored acclaim and multiple awards. The interviews include King, Weta's Richard Taylor, and the cast.

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About Face: The Lamb of God

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

Two decades before the animals of Black Sheep run amok, comes this Sunday night horror about a couple trapped in the countryside as the sheep start getting restless. In between encounters with a cheerful butcher and a man of God, we learn that New Zealand has undergone revolution: anyone who farms or harms animals is now branded a criminal. Directed by Costa Botes; scripted by poet and lawyer Piers Davies, who co-wrote Skin Deep (plus cult movie The Cars that Ate Paris, with acclaimed Australian director Peter Weir).   

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The Monster's Christmas

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

No ordinary Christmas tale, The Monster’s Christmas throws viewers into a world of friendly creatures, talking hot pools and witches with gym equipment in their cave lairs. Child find Lucy McGrath revels in the role of a plucky girl who encounters a one-eyed monster with smoke billowing from his head. The monsters need her help to steal their voices back from an evil witch. The stylings of the live action creatures were influenced by the volcanic North Island locations, and designed by Janet Williamson and cartoonist Burton Silver. Yvonne Mackay (Kaitangata Twitch) directs.

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Under the Mountain - The Alien World Below (Episode Four)

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

Classic sci-fi TV series Under the Mountain follows the adventures of redheaded twins with psychic powers — Rachel and Theo — as they battle the alien Wilberforces. This fourth episode sees the twins venture into the aliens' submarine lair for the first time. The lair's uterine production design, the NZSO score, and still-creepy transmogrifying SFX contributed to the slimy imprint the series left on a generation of NZ kids, haunted by the giant slugs slithering underneath Auckland's volcanoes. The award-winning series was adapted from the Maurice Gee novel.

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Next of Kin

Film, 1982 (Excerpts)

After taking over the retirement home formerly run by her late mother, a young woman (Jackie Kerin) starts to worry that a pattern of unexplained deaths and strange visitations is repeating itself. Tony Williams’ cult feature began development as a black comedy about murderous Kiwi caterers, before morphing into this moody gothic mystery — the first horror film directed and written by Kiwis (though it was ultimately shot and set in Australia). Years after winning best film at fantasy festivals in Sitges (Spain) and Paris, fanboy Quentin Tarantino praised it as “mesmerising”.

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The French Doors

Short Film, 2001 (Full Length)

Steve Ayson’s supernatural short puts a twist on ‘domestic violence’ as a DIY home renovator fits a set of second-hand french doors to his doer-upper. He discovers that light isn’t all they let in. French Doors won selection to Melbourne and Clermont Ferrand festivals and sold to UK’s Channel 4 and France’s Canal Plus. At Locarno in 2002, Ayson won a ‘Leopard of Tomorrow’ prize, in a year the festival spotlit down-under films. Ayson has gone on to build a global career as a commercials director (including local classics Ghost Chips, and Lotto’s Lucky Dog).

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When Night Falls

Film, 2007 (Full Length)

When Night Falls is a mystery thriller involving an isolated house, a dark night and an unseen killer. Tania Nolan (Go Girls, The Hothouse) takes centre stage as a 30s-era nurse with a soft spot for her only patient (Kevin Keys, from The Blue Rose). But as darkness falls she finds herself facing off against a killer on the loose, who is seemingly out to play games with her mind. The full length film marks the feature debut of writer/director Alex Galvin (Eternity). Galvin took on multiple roles behind the scenes, some under assumed names; he also cameos early on, as a doctor.

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The Ugly

Film, 1997 (Trailer and Excerpts)

In the debut feature from writer/director Scott Reynolds, serial killer Simon (Paolo Rotondo) has been locked up for the last five years, and is being interviewed by psychologist Karen Schumaker (Rebecca Hobbs). Narrated flashbacks reveal Simon's past, the demons and bad treatment in his present, and the potential for more killing. The Ugly won rave reviews, awards at fantasy festivals in Italy and Portugal, and over 30 international sales: Variety called the film "a tricky, stylish horror", praising it's suspense, visuals, and casting. The Listener's Philip Matthews found it "genuinely creepy".

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Trial Run

Film, 1984 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Rosemary (Annie Whittle) is a photographer, mother and middle-distance runner. A project photographing the rare yellow-eyed penguin sends her to a remote Otago cottage. Despite menacing happenings, she refuses to be intimidated. Then events escalate, sending her running for help in the race of her life. Bird-watching, stranger danger and feminist film theory line up for a time trial in Melanie Read's first movie, for which 20 of the 29-strong production crew were women. Marathon champ Allison Roe — who trained Whittle off-screen — makes a brief cameo.

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The Locals

Film, 2003 (Trailer and Excerpts)

In this first feature film from writer/director Greg Page, two urban bloke best friends take off on a surfing weekend. Their prospects of finding fun go down with the sun. Instead of enjoying surf and black sand, the boys find themselves lost in a rural nightmare, battling an inescapable curse and nocturnal field bogans. Page, known for his high energy music videos, wheel-spins city limits phobia into the Waikato heartland for a Kiwi twist on thriller genre thrills. Horrorview.com called it: "different and inventive enough to stand out from the crowd." 

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Larger Than Life

Short Film, 1997 (Full Length)

In Larger than Life Jo (Rebecca Hobbs, star of horror tale The Ugly) discovers her new house is inhabited by an array of mutant arachnids, each larger than the last. Kiwi writer/director Ellory Elkayem cleverly melds puppetry and digital effects to give his spiders maximum yuck factor, while the violin-fuelled soundtrack pays spirited homage to the 50s monster movies (Them!, Tarantula) which inspired the whole enterprise. After the success of this spider tale, Hollywood called: Elkayem answered with bug tale They Nest, and comical spider epic Eight Legged Freaks.

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Spookers

Film, 2017 (Trailer)

Long fascinated by the idea of community, Florian Habicht (Love Story, Kaikohe Demolition) discovered one in an unexpected place while making his eighth feature. Spookers is the name of a live horror attraction south of Auckland, adjoining what was once Kingseat psychiatric hospital. Habicht got to know a number of the performers working there. Alongside engaging and sometimes emotional interviews — and scenes of the staff at work, scaring the punters silly with zombie brides and chainsaws — he created scenes inspired by the performers' dreams and nightmares.

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The Lost Tribe

Film, 1983 (Excerpts)

Anthropologist Max Scarry goes missing in Fiordland, while searching for a fabled Māori tribe. The local policeman believes Max broke local tapu. Max's partner Ruth sets off with his twin brother, murder suspect Edward, to try to unravel the mystery. John Laing's second feature attempts an ambitious Hitchcockian plot, and the cast — especially John Bach's terse doppelganger performance — testifies to the talent on hand in the early days of the Kiwi film renaissance. Atmospheric camerawork makes the most of damp Wellington, and remote bush settings.

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The Brain that Wouldn't Die

Tall Dwarfs, Music Video, 1984

The video for this track from the Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster EP features expressionist shadows, odd science experiments in the basement, Frankenstein-like freaks, a flickering TV set, and an amateur brain transplant — demonstrating clearly that grunge-master Chris Knox is a major horror fan.

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A Haunting We Will Go - Cellar Ghost

Television, 1980 (Full Length Episode)

Programmes featuring the immortal Count Homogenized are among the most-requested by visitors to NZ On Screen. Homogenized - a vampire with a white afro and cape and a lust for milk - made his debut in this children's show, ultimately going on to star in his own series. In this early episode the Count turns up at Major Toom's haunted house on his unending search for bovine liquid sustenance, and befriends Toom over some wine. Shark in the Park actor Russell Smith's mischievous Count has lodged itself in the hearts of many Kiwis of a certain vintage.

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The Irrefutable Truth about Demons

Film, 2000 (Trailer and Excerpts)

The debut feature from writer-director Glenn Standring, The Irrefutable Truth about Demons sees anthropologist Harry Ballard (Karl Urban) threatened by a sinister cult. With the help of beautifully bizarre Bennie (Katie Wolfe) he endures a terrifying night as his friends are killed by demons. Or are they? Hounded by the memory of his dead brother, Harry suffers beatings, heart surgery and assault by cockroaches. Variety said Demons "conjures a creepy, brooding atmosphere and enough thrills to keep young horror enthusiasts glued." The film sold to more than 50 countries.

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Jack Be Nimble

Film, 1993 (Trailer and Excerpts)

In director Garth Maxwell’s 1993 gothic horror twins Jack and Dora (late US actor Alexis Arquette and Kiwi Sarah Smuts-Kennedy) are separated while young; their adult reunion sees them battling the trauma of their past while being pursued by Jack’s sadistic step sisters. Complete with ESP,and a steam-driven hypnosis machine, Maxwell makes an exuberant and surreal contribution to the cinema of unease. New York Times’ Stephen Holden lauded the heady head-spinner as “a superior genre film” with a “feverish intensity that recalls scenes from Hitchcock and De Palma.” 

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Deathgasm

Film, 2015 (Trailer)

Designed to provide viewers with a “perfect storm” of gore, guitars, girls and comedy, Deathgasm is the tale of a two young heavy metallers who accidentally summon up a demon. Blazing a bloody trail at festivals across the US, the film was born from the Make My Movie Project. Four hundred pitches for a low budget Kiwi horror movie led ultimately to one winner, a tale inspired by the metal and movie-mad youth of digital effects man turned director Jason Lei Howden. After debuting at US festival SXSW, Deathgasm won enthusiastic reviews and festival slots in Sydney and NZ.

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The Frighteners

Film, 1996 (Trailer)

Peter Jackson’s fifth feature is a playful blend of comedy, thriller and supernatural horror and was an effective Hollywood calling card for Weta FX. Frank Bannister (Michael J Fox) resides in Fairwater, where he runs a supernatural scam. Aided by some spectral consorts, he engineers hauntings and “exorcises” the ghosts for a fee. When a genuine spook starts knocking off the locals, the FBI suspects Frank is the culprit. To clear his name, Frank must deal to the real perpetrator – none other than the Grim Reaper ...

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The Devil's Rock

Film, 2011 (Trailer and Excerpts)

June 1944. On a sabotage mission shortly before D-Day, a Kiwi Commando (Outrageous Fortune’s Craig Hall) sneaks into a German bunker on the Channel Islands. Inside he finds an SS officer who is an expert in the occult (Out of the Blue’s Matt Sunderland), much blood, and a mysterious lone woman who may not be what she seems. Shot in Wellington, the feature debut of effects man Paul Campion ratchets up the tension in the claustrophobic setting. The makeup effects — horned demons, bullet wounds and gore — are led by Weta veteran Sean Foote.

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The Dead Room

Film, 2015 (Trailer)

Filmmaking team Jason Stutter and Kevin Stevens plunge back into the paranormal with this feature, which sees three investigators arriving at a rundown farmhouse, to discover just how haunted it really is. The ghost hunters are played by screen veteran Jeffrey Thomas (Mercy Peak), Jed Brophy (The Hobbit) and Laura Petersen (Shopping). The Dead Room’s Halloween release saw a perfect storm of publicity, from a contest involving a special app which allowed contestants to photograph ghosts, to a video blogger who claimed to have tracked down the house where the movie was filmed. 

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Perfect Creature

Film, 2006 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Perfect Creature is set in an immaculately realised alternative colonial New Zealand where steam powers cobble-stoned cities, and zeppelins cruise the skies. A race of benevolent vampires preside over the spiritual life of humanity. When one of them turns rogue, a manhunt begins. Starring international actors (Dougray Scott, Saffron Burrows) Perfect Creature was the second feature for director Glenn Standring. It was the first Kiwi film picked up for distribution by a major Hollywood studio (Twentieth Century Fox), who ultimately dithered with its release.

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Ghost Bride

Film, 2013 (Trailer)

Director David Blyth — the man behind Death Warmed Up, New Zealand’s first horror movie — enters the supernatural with his sixth dramatic feature. Newcomer Yoson An plays a Chinese immigrant whose mother has no idea that he has a Kiwi girlfriend. Insistent on an arranged marriage, she takes him to matchmaker Madam Yin (Geeling Ng), whose idea of the perfect bride sees Jason caught up in the ancient Chinese practise of minghūn: a spirit marriage. After premiering at Auckland's 2013 Asia Pacific Film Festival, Ghost Bride was seen extensively across Asia. 

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I Survived a Zombie Holocaust

Film, 2014 (Trailer)

The first film from Guy Pigden and Harley Neville featured midget zombies in graveyards. Fifteen years later their debut feature was born, with another on the way. I Survived a Zombie Holocaust is the tale of a horror movie in which the zombie extras turn into real-life zombies. Shot in Dunedin as part of the low-budget Escalator scheme, the horror comedy aims to pay tribute to classic zombie movies, while adding fresh twists. The result was given a multi-platform release after good reactions overseas, with viewers able to arrange a local cinema screening through website Tugg. 

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Fresh Meat

Film, 2012 (Trailer)

In search of a hideout, gun-totting Gigi (Kate Elliott) and a gang with criminal tendencies end up in hot water after crashing into the lives of a middle class Māori family. To describe the whānau as meat lovers would be euphemistic. Actor/director Danny Mulheron has often gleefully given the finger to political correctness — witness Meet the Feebles, stage farce The Sex Fiend, and TV's Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby. This Gibson Group production marks his in your face cinematic debut. The anarchic result promises cannibalism, comedy — and chef Tem Morrison.

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Wound

Film, 2010 (Trailer and Excerpts)

David Blyth's first film, 1976’s Circadian Rhythms, was an attempt to "slip past the conscious mind", and inside the head of a car crash victim. Blyth’s latest movie explores the world of another victim - this time a young woman (Kate O'Rourke) engaging in submission games with an unexplained male, who is haunted by her dark family history, and someone claiming to be her daughter. Fellow cinema provocateur Ken Russell (The Devils) praised Blyth’s "gorgeous images and repulsive dream-surgery into the recesses of female consciousness".

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The Creakers

Short Film, 1997 (Full Length)

A light-hearted short film from director Peter Salmon, starring veteran performer Mark Clare (Clare achieved fame as the bungy jumper in the classic 1992 Instant Kiwi ad and is the singer for legendary NZ band The Newmatics). Here Clare plays a real estate agent with a penchant for song and dance who discovers he can make music by jumping on the creaky floorboards of an old villa. But wait, there's a punch line to this quirky little comedy that Roald Dahl would be proud of: a sinister surprise lies in wait beneath the floorboards.

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Trial Run

Film, 1984 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Rosemary (Annie Whittle) is a photographer, mother and middle-distance runner. A project photographing the rare yellow-eyed penguin sends her to a remote Otago cottage. Despite menacing happenings, she refuses to be intimidated. Then events escalate, sending her running for help in the race of her life. Bird-watching, stranger danger and feminist film theory line up for a time trial in Melanie Read's first movie, for which 20 of the 29-strong production crew were women. Marathon champ Allison Roe — who trained Whittle off-screen — makes a brief cameo.

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Such a Stupid Way to Die

Short Film, 1971 (Full Length)

This educational video was made by the NFU for the National Mountain Safety Council to promote awareness of bush safety. After a blackboard science lesson (check out a bearded Ray Henwood) things get interesting. A fictional trip into the bush turns into a Stubbies-clad 70s Kiwi version of the Blair Witch Project as we're told that one of the group will not survive the night, picked off by that fearsome killer: exposure. The message is serious, but the doom-laden tone induced titters in school classrooms and scout halls throughout NZ.