Series Ghost Hunt made dead of night visits to locales with a reputation for being haunted. The trio of presenters became paranormal investigators, trying to detect ghosts in iconic locations across New Zealand. In this excerpt, the crew visit St James Theatre in central Wellington, and discover a number of mysterious lights on their footage. The presenters are former What Now? host Carolyn Taylor, actor Michael Hallows, and team leader Brad Hills, who would go on to direct and star in 2015 romantic comedy Excess Baggage.
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.
Over ten episodes, Ghost Hunt crisscrossed Aotearoa on a mission to find ghosts — or at least signs they might have been in the building. Presenters Carolyn Taylor (What Now?), actor Michael Hallows and actor/director Brad Hills visited locations with a reputation for hauntings, usually arriving after dark. The locales included Dunedin's Larnach Castle, Waitomo Caves Hotel, and the Fortune and St James Theatre — plus cemeteries and abandoned psychiatric hospitals. The 2006 Screentime show is not to be confused with the anime series which premiered in Japan the same year.
Long isolated, New Zealand contains a world of Alice Through the Looking Glass natural oddities: birds, insects and plants like nowhere else. Scientist Jared Diamond remarked "it is the nearest approach to life on another planet". Palaeontology (from Professor Michael Archer) and Māori myth (told by Hirini Melbourne) reveal these 'Ghosts of Gondwana'. Then cutting edge camera techniques (earning a Merit Award at 2002 International Wildlife Film Festival) delve into a night world of bat-filled tree trunk saunas, “demon grasshopper” wētā, and furry kiwi with chopstick bills.
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.
Mike King presents the story of Gustavus Von Tempsky: swashbuckling colonial soldier of fortune, "flamboyant folk hero" and "our first pin up boy". The Prussian-born artist, self-promoter, romantic and adventurer, led an elite unit - the Forest Rangers - in the 1860s New Zealand Wars, garbed in trademark Garibaldi shirt, kilt and calvary sabre. His bush-fighting skill attracted respect from Māori foes, who named him "manu rau" (many birds); but also controversy after an infamous raid. He met his demise fighting guerilla leader Titokowaru.
This 2011 anti-drink driving ad campaign became a Kiwi pop cultural phenomenon, spawning countless parodies, memes, t-shirts and over a million YouTube views; phrases from the ad entered the vernacular (“you know I can’t grab your ghost chips”). Eschewing the usual shock and horror tactics, the Clemenger BBDO campaign for the NZ Transport Agency was targeted at young male Māori drivers, and used humour to get the message across that it was choice to stop a mate from driving drunk. Directed by Steve Ayson, it won a prestigious D&AD Yellow Pencil award in 2012.
Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.
Great adverts are strange things: mini works of magic, with the power to make viewers smile, cry, and even buy. Kiwi directors have shown such a knack for making them, they've been invited to do so across the globe. But this collection is about local favourites; dogs on skateboards, choc bar robberies, ghost chips. NZ On Screen's Irene Gardiner backgrounds the top 10 here.
This collection celebrates Kiwi comedy on TV: the caricatures, piss-takes, and sitcoms that have cracked us up, and pulled the wool over our eyes for over five decades. From turkeys in gumboots and Fred Dagg, to Billy T, bro'Town and Jaquie Brown. As Diana Wichtel reflects, watching the evolution of native telly laughs is, "a rich and ridiculous, if often painful, pleasure."