What’s awesome about the power of movies is that you can see the same genre done by different filmmakers from different parts of the world. Crime movies in America look different from Australian crime films. Romance movies look different in France than they do in South Korea. Italian horror looks different from Japanese horror. Speaking of horror movies, that brings us to the subject of this list: a certain country that loves its gore and its offbeat humor, New Zealand.
With American-produced horror films like X and shows like Ash vs. Evil Dead being produced there, New Zealand has always been a champion of scares, blood, and guts. Just ask the maestro of all of those kinds of movies, Peter Jackson (more on him in a little bit). There’s got to be more scratching underneath the surface as to why they have their own breed of horror movies over there. Let’s dive deep and look at their best horror films and why they are so important to the genre.
10 Dark of the Night (1984)
Dark of the Night falls into the subgenre of car horror. Its simple plot is about a woman who is swayed into buying a Jaguar (the car, not the animal). She does not know until after the fact that the car is haunted by the woman who was murdered in it.
Also Known as Mr. Wrong
If you find Dark of the Night hard to seek out, just try and look up the other title it’s under, Mr. Wrong. Dark of the Night is a nice, eerie, atmospheric horror film that may be small in budget but not in execution. Its characters have a lot of depth to them. The movie was produced in the 1980s but feels reminiscent of the old BBC horror thrillers that were made for television in the 1970s. Lastly, you’re probably thinking about the Stephen King/John Carpenter comparisons with Christine. Dark of the Night has a tagline that states, in short, “If you thought Christine was mean…”
Dark of the Night Is Not CurrentlyStreaming Anywhere
9 Deathgasm (2015)
- Release Date
- August 28, 2015
- Jason Lei Howden
- Milo Cawthorne , James Blake , Kimberley Crossman , Sam Berkley , Daniel Cresswell , Delaney Tabron
Deathgasm dives into the world of metal heads and black magic. It’s about two teenage boys who happen to summon a demon called The Blind One into our world. They do it out of the pure boredom of their mundane lives; what ensues is some hilariously produced chaos for fans of horror comedy.
Deathgasm is a great addition to this list because of how charming it is. It’s the feature film debut of writer/director Jason Lei. Heavy metal and horror can always go hand in hand, and sometimes they’re fused together to make really terrifying films. However, Deathgasm has a perfect balance of teenage angst to draw us in and some dark, demonic horror to keep us there. It’s a ridiculously bloody fun film that feels reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead and Evil Dead with its likable protagonists and has some over-the-top visuals that look like a live-action take on the cult animated feature Heavy Metal.
8 Jack Be Nimble (1993)
Jack Be Nimble is a highly popular cult film produced in New Zealand during the 1990s. It follows two siblings who were separated by their parents not long after birth. Jack was adopted by a band of sadists and is in grave danger. Jack’s sister Dora has had more of a positive life but seems to have developed sensory powers; she uses them to try and track down her brother.
Jack Be Nimble Is About Childhood Trauma
Great horror focuses on the things that can harm us in the outside world, and what can harm us internally. Jack Be Nimble is more than just the 18th-century nursery rhyme the film borrows its name from. It is a brilliant look at childhood trauma. The film got high praise from the New York Times for its hallucinatory power, but not long after the rave review, it fell into obscurity and was not seen or talked about outside of lovers of the movie. Many call it a cult film now, but its themes of redemption and despair are there to be seen and felt on a grander scale by those who watch it.
7 Aberration (1997)
Aberration is a fun B-movie creature feature that takes place in America but was shot and produced in New Zealand. It’s about a woman who returns home to live in the house she grew up in, a rural and very secluded house. There, she encounters mutated lizards all over the property that become a big cause for concern.
New Zealand is known for really giving us a good creature feature or two; even if the film fades away into obscurity, it sure is memorable to those who have seen it. Aberration is the perfect example of that. To expand on the plot a bit, it’s about a nature researcher who discovers that some of the animals and plants in the area are becoming extinct. Thus, leading them to discover these mutant lizards all around this cabin.
Despite the campy B-movie feel to it, that’s a cool approach, and since New Zealand has a ton of nature in it, it’s very easy to seek out creature features like Aberration and many other movies about creatures in the wilderness. Aberration is one of many straight-to-video horror films of the 1990s about a sea of tiny monsters outnumbering humans.
Aberration is Not Currently Streaming Anywhere
6 Housebound (2014)
Housebound is about a teenage thief named Kylie, who is caught and forced by a court order to go live with her estranged mother. The pair don’t hit it off really well and are at odds with one another, but things take a turn as Kylie starts to believe that her mother’s beliefs about her house being haunted may be true.
Ghosts, Mystery, Home Invasions, and Comedy
Chances are you’ve scrolled past Housebound on a streaming platform before. It has been around since the early days of watching movies at home, and it’s still available on a platform or two. If you have yet to click on it, let this be a little write-up to sell you on it. Nobody does horror-comedy like the country of New Zealand. As much as they sell you on the humor, the horror of it all feels authentic and well-thought-out. Housebound is multi-layered with ghosts, mystery, and humor. The scares are worth it, but stick around for a fun, well-written mother-daughter character arc.
5 Black Sheep (2006)
- Release Date
- September 10, 2006
- Jonathan King
- Nathan Meister , Peter Feeney , Danielle Mason , Tammy Davis , Oliver Driver , Tandi Wright
Black Sheep is a New Zealand and South Korean co-production about a sheep-fearing man named Henry (Nathan Meister) who returns to his siblings’ sheep farm in the New Zealand countryside in hopes that he will buy out his share of the farm. What Henry soon learns is that there are genetically altered sheep that move and act like the walking dead and prey on humans. Mayhem ensues as Henry and a few others try not to be bitten by them and turn into the undead.
Sheep Have Never Been so Scary
Horror fans finally got their killer sheep movie in the form of this New Zealand cult classic. The comedy lives in the concept, but the fear of these sheep is pretty well crafted by the director, Jonathan King. There are also great character arcs that set up people going against the grain of what they believe in. Case in point: One of the characters on the run from sheep is an animal rights activist. You’ll never visit a farm and look at a sheep again after this one.
4 Meet the Feebles (1989)
Meet the Feebles
- Release Date
- August 12, 1989
- Peter Jackson
- Donna Akersten , Stuart Devenie , Mark Hadlow , Ross Jolly , Brian Sergent , Peter Vere-Jones
Meet the Feebles is Peter Jackson’s ode to child entertainment, and it’s as bonkers as you may think it could be in this phase of his career. It’s sleazy, grimy, and funny as hell, as it tells the story of celebrity puppets who begin to experience the darker side of being famous.
Peter Jackson was just kind of getting on as a filmmaker in 1989. Meet the Feebles feels like he has a lot to say about the exploitation that can happen to anyone in show business, even if you are a puppet. Peter Jackson does not miss a beat with these characters, as their filthy lives are there for us to see unravel. A rabbit has an STD, and a walrus cheats on his hippo girlfriend. You will be saying, “What the f*ck did I just watch?” after it’s over, and that’s okay; we all did too.
Meet the Feebles iIs Not Currently Streaming.
3 The Quiet Earth (1985)
In The Quiet Earth, a scientist (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up and finds himself to be the only person alive on Earth. After being driven nearly mad, he soon adapts to the way of life and finds two other survivors. The trio all roam New Zealand in search of answers as to what happened and if it will happen again.
The Last Man on Earth
The Quiet Earth is not a full-on horror film, so to speak, but it very much lives in the genre as a science fiction film with some deep and dark psychological beats that give it its reputation among the horror crowd. It may also just be one of the best films to ever come out of New Zealand. It’s low on budget, but its scale and epic ending pay off big. Be prepared to have more questions than answers when you watch The Quiet Earth. Are we in a hell of our own making? Or are we at the mercy of forces beyond our understanding?
2 Bad Taste (1987)
- Release Date
- December 1, 1987
- Peter Jackson
- Terry Potter , Pete O’Herne , Craig Smith , Mike Minett , Peter Jackson , Doug Wren
Bad Taste is Peter Jackson’s first film that blew him up into the big leagues. It’s a horror comedy about a small New Zealand town where the people are being harvested by aliens who want to use human flesh for their intergalactic fast-food chain. Some friends in town begin to investigate the strange events in town and discover some repulsive activities.
An Inspirational Gross-Out Movie
Bad Taste looks like a movie that was made by some friends who were screwing around with a camera on the weekend, but then caught a stride on the project and would go on to make a cult classic. Many look at Peter Jackson’s earliest known film as an inspiration. Even if you’re not into the material, he made a disgustingly funny film about aliens and then, over a decade later, was given permission to make one of the biggest projects of all time, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For anyone making a weird movie on the weekends with friends, put on Bad Taste for some inspiration to keep going.
1 Dead Alive (1992)
- Release Date
- August 13, 1992
- Peter Jackson
- Timothy Balme , Diana Peñalver , Elizabeth Moody , Ian Watkin , Brenda Kendall , Stuart Devenie
Dead Alive is Peter Jackson at it again with a film that pushes the envelope with its gore, and yet it keeps us coming back to it for just that. It’s a comical tale about an overprotective mother who stalks her son one day as he meets a girl at the zoo. She ends up getting bit by a fearsome Sumatran monkey that ends up turning into a flesh-hungry zombie. Once her son discovers this, he locks her in the basement, but that ends up doing no good.
Banned in Germany
Dead-Alive, otherwise known as Braindead, was so grotesque that it was banned in Germany upon its release. To this day, you still can’t even publicly show the movie. If you want to get the gist of how bloody this horror comedy is, the final sequence alone has 300 liters of fake blood in it.
The controversy that surrounds Dead-Alive is loaded with slapstick that only adds to the fun of the film as it doubles as one of Jackson’s best comedies. Always be on the lookout to watch the film on streaming platforms, because as quickly as it goes up, it may also disappear from it very quickly.
Dead-Alive Is Not Currently Streaming