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Australian (and New Zealand) Horror Films

Part 3: New Zealand Horror Movies List

by Robert Hood

First published in The Scream Factory (US) in June/July 1994; ed. Bob Morrish; also published in Sirius, 1994 (over two issues); ed. Garry Wyatt.

Dead Kids (Michael Laughlin, 1981) aka Strange Behaviour. PC: Antony I. Ginnane and John Jarratt. Executive producer: David Hemmings. Teenagers are being brutally murdered in a small-town in Illinois. The local cop (played by Michael Murphy) narrows the investigation down to a research establishment where some secret mind-experiments are taking place, mostly by a mad doctor played by Arthur Dignam. Effective and idiosyncratic horror that was filmed in New Zealand. Cast also includes Louise Fletcher.

Battletruck (Harley Cokliss, 1982) aka Warlords of the 21st Century. PC: New World. Another post-Mad Max 2 action film — with bad guys after precious fuel and good guys seeking peace and a new life — featuring a biker hero played by Michael Beck in a world ravaged by the 'oil wars'. An American production filmed in New Zealand. The director was later responsible for the excellent nightmare film, Dream Demon (1988).

Scarecrow, The (Sam Pillsbury, 1982). PC: Oasis Films and the NZ National Film Unit, in conjunction with the NZ Film Commission. Cast includes John Carradine as the Scarecrow. The fears of a young boy provide gothic elements in a story which explores the life of a small New Zealand town.

Death Warmed Up (David Blyth, 1984). PC: Skouras Pictures. The young hero is programmed by an evil scientist to murder his parents and is sent to an asylum. Upon his release he seeks out the scientist, learns what happened and finds himself up to his armpits in zombie-like mutants, the results of the scientist's continuing research. Hip, violent and competent, if a bit too technically self-conscious. (See text.)

Dark of the Night (Gallene Preston, 1985) aka Mr Wrong. PC: Castle Hill Productions. A woman buys a car which is haunted by the spirit of a girl murdered in it, and is driven (literally) to investigate the killing.

Bad Taste (Peter Jackson, 1988). PC: Wingnut Films. Peter Jackson's first feature, about invading aliens who eat people and the anti-alien combat group sent to deal with them. Bizarre and hilariously funny, if rough around the edges. (See text.)

Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey, The (Vincent Ward, 1988). PC: Arena Films, with the Australian Film Commission and the New Zealand Film Commission. A group of medieval villagers burrow through the earth to modern-day Auckland in accordance with a boy's vision. They wish to save their village from the Black Death by braving the industrial horrors of the twentieth century and restoring the cross on a great cathedral. But there is death there too. Moody, beautiful and striking film. Strong visual imagery especially. Won six Australian Film Institute awards. (See text.)

Meet the Feebles (Peter Jackson, 1989). PC: Wingnut Films. A truly odd movie, which features a cast of puppets, who, Muppet-like, are engaged in the production of a TV variety show. Their behaviour, however, is anything but Muppet-like. Great stuff. (See text.)

Returning, The (John Day, 1990). PC: Matte Box Films, in association with David Hannay Productions. An executive becomes obsessed with a dead woman who comes to him in his sleep and makes love to him. The film starts well, but loses pacing as it goes along, distancing the viewer through an often confused presentation of narrative elements. Too often the characters react to things never, or belatedly, clarified for the audience.

Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1992) aka Dead Alive. PC: Wingnut Films. The ultimate zombie splatter movie. Hilariously funny and not to be missed. (See text.)

 

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