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.
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.
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.
This documentary showcases some of the tricks of the trade used by Peter Jackson in the making of his first feature — the aliens-amok-in-Makara splatter classic, Bad Taste. Compiled following the film's 1988 Cannes market screening, it's framed around an extensive interview with a 25-year-old Jackson at his parents’ Pukerua Bay home. These excerpts offer fascinating insight into his ingenuity: from building a DIY Steadicam, to the making of the infamous sheep-obliterating rocket launcher scene, to PJ musing on the impetus that being an only child provided him.
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.
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.
Director Peter Jackson's second feature Meet the Feebles offers even more bad taste than his debut. The irreverent, outlandish, part-musical satire is populated almost entirely by puppets, but it is by no means cute. The motley creatures are all members of a variety show that’s working up to a major performance. They include Bletch the two-timing pornographer walrus, an obese hippo femme fatale, a drug-dealing rat, and a heroin-addicted frog — in other words, something to offend everyone. Richard King writes about the creation of New Zealand's first puppet movie here.
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.
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.