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.
Arm yourself with jaffas and get set for debate: NZ On Screen has gone out on a limb and selected an all-time NZ feature film Top 10. Starring the icons of the Kiwi big screen — Blondini, Ada, Beth, Boy. Whet your appetite for our finest features via choice 10-minute excerpts of the movies. Cook the man some eggs, we're taking this Top 10 to Invercargill!
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.
Director David Blyth has created some of New Zealand’s most graphic and challenging movies dealing with horror, sexuality, and the sub-conscious mind. His career began as an assistant director on the film Solo, but it was his first feature Angel Mine which showed his interests in pushing the boundaries of filmmaking. In his time, Blyth has made a number of documentary features, directed episodes of Close to Home and created New Zealand's first horror film Death Warmed Up.
Michael Heath's imagination has spawned movies bursting with murder and mayhem, as well as lyrical tales of childhood and unheralded artists. Heath's work ranges widely – some of his films are lyrical, comical and murderous all at the same time. His scripts include two contenders for New Zealand's first horror film (Death Warmed Up and Next of Kin), plus an affectionate adaptation of Ronald Hugh Morrieson classic The Scarecrow, which was the first Kiwi movie invited to the Cannes Film Festival. In recent years Heath has blossomed from writer into director.
In this tale of an English servant woman doing it hard down under, Lizzie (Sarah Peirse, who won a Feltex) finds herself trapped on a rundown Canterbury sheep farm alongside three men: one mean, one silent, and one simple-minded (Bruno Lawrence, in one of his favourite roles). Directed by David Blyth between his edgy debut Angel Mine and splatter-fest Death Warmed Up, this pioneer tale was written by English author Elizabeth Gowans. Newbie scribe Fran Walsh later extended the film to tele-movie length, from its original incarnation as A Woman of Good Character.
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.
Nathaniel Lees is an NZ-born Samoan actor who has acted on both stage and screen. Lees began his screen career with small roles in Death Warmed Up and Other Halves, before joining Billy T James on his sketch comedy shows. Lees went on to appear in a number of TV dramas including Shark in the Park , City Life, Gloss, Shortland Street and Street Legal. His many film roles include Sione’s Wedding, The Lord of the Rings, Rapa Nui and The Matrix trilogy.
Michael Hurst is an acclaimed theatre actor and director, who has also featured in a broad range of television and film roles, including his long-running gig as sidekick Iolaus in the American TV series Hercules. In the mid-90s Hurst also began directing for the screen, initially on episodes of Hercules and Xena, but also helming the feature film comedy Jubilee, and TV mockumentary drama Love Mussel.
In director Geoff Murphy's cult sci fi feature, a global energy project has malfunctioned and scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) awakes to find himself the only living being left on earth. At first he lives out his fantasies, helping himself to cars and clothes, before the implications of being 'man alone' sink in. As this awareness sends him to the brink of madness — see the excerpt above — he discovers two other survivors. One of them is a woman. The Los Angeles Daily News called the movie “quite simply the best science-fiction film of the 80s”. Read more about it here.