It might surprise you to learn that New Zealand isn’t just the birthplace of gore-hound Peter Jackson, or the island that doubles as Middle Earth from time to time; it’s also a hot-bed of horror–or, more specifically, horror-comedy.
Although Jackson’s still-brilliant Braindead (AKA Dead Alive, depending on where you’re from) is still the definitive NZ horror-comedy movie, intrepid Kiwi filmmakers have been quietly working away to produce some amazing content in this sub-genre for quite some time.
The past five years alone have seen a serious influx of completely mental, gory as hell New Zealand horror-comedies that more than live up to the grandaddy of ’em all when it comes to scares and laughs.
The following are my picks for some of the coolest, must-see New Zealand horror-comedy movies, most of which sadly flew under the radar upon initial release.
Track ’em down and find your misgivings about this notoriously difficult to pull off sub-genre immediately soothed:
Not since the annoyingly short-lived TV series Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil have metalheads–and, one could argue, Satanism–been so accurately portrayed. Rather than a pretty boy wearing a bad wig (hello, Some Kind Of Hate), the anti-hero here is a stringy, nerdy little piss ant with whom it’s easy to empathise. We recognise, and immediately root for, he and his Han Solo-esque buddy because they look, talk and act like the metalheads we know from hanging around our small towns all over the world. Fast-paced, furiously funny and with some cracking, crunchy practical gore, Deathgasm is a bit like Turbo Kid‘s obnoxious older brother. But when it pushes our heads into the dirt, we love it.
This little indie gem made quite the impression at Frightfest 2014 before limping onto home video, to little fanfare outside of its home country. A damn shame it was too as, despite the dodgy, possibly offensive, title I Survived A Zombie Holocaust is actually one of the most inventive, gory and genuinely funny zombie movies in a very long time–up there with Shaun Of The Dead and this year’s rather brilliant Night Of The Living Deb. The setting sees a group of delightfully spoiled actors torn to bits by ravenous zombies while on set, trying to make a zombie movie. A shy but intrepid wannabe writer is tasked with saving the day, with bloody and endlessly quotable results. Sample line: “Even when he’s dead, he’s overacting!”
A troubled young woman finds herself stuck back at home, living with her dull but eccentric mother, in this surprisingly creepy, assured first offering from writer-director Gerard Johnstone. Neighbours alum Morgana O’Reilly is the grumpy daughter hearing bumps in the night, her dynamic with well-meaning but irritating Miriam (a riotously funny Rima Te Wiata), providing some much-needed light amid the darkness. This is, at its heart, a very relatable story about the struggles of a family keeping it all together in the face of mounting issues from one side. If the ending feels slightly anticlimactic, it’s worth it for the well-judged moments of horror and humour leading up to it.
Not to be confused with rubbish Irish horror movie Isolation, which deals with evil cows, Black Sheep concerns, as its title suggests, crazed, bloodthirsty sheep. The tagline screams “There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand and they’re pissed off!” while the poster sees a group of people cowering in a car while a deformed sheep screeches from the roof. Neither of these things really capture what this bizarre, but entertaining, film is all about. Suffice to say, it concerns genetic experimentation gone very much awry and a crippling, but entirely justified, fear of sheep. It’s a bit like Zombeavers when it comes to balls-to-the-wall crazy transformations. But, again, with sheep.
What We Do In The Shadows
Taiki Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s vampire mockumentary hardly needs any introduction, given its smash success–with horror fans, at least–last year. Already, arguably, the most famous Kiwi horror comedy film of all time (sorry, Peter Jackson), What We Do In The Shadows posits that a group of vampires sharing a flat in New Zealand would be exactly as dull and fraught with petty arguments about the washing up as it would with humans involved. Requires an immediate re-watch, just to catch the jokes you missed while snorting with laughter the first time around.
Bonus: Turbo Kid
This one is technically a Canadian-New Zealand co-production but a conversation about kerazy Kiwi komedy-horror (sorry) simply cannot be had without at least mentioning RKSS’s (writing-directing team François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell) triumph. Relentlessly gory, hilariously funny and disarmingly sweet-natured, Turbo Kid was one of the best movies of 2015 in any genre. If you somehow managed to miss this blood-and-guts-splattered masterpiece last year, what the hell are you waiting for?