Spookers: NZIFF Review
Kiwi director Florian Habicht is a habitual film fest offender.
His latest doco takes a look at the New Zealand institute of Spookers, a fright fest themed attraction based at the old Kingseat psychiatric hospital.
Andy and Beth Watson run the park and have set about making sure its cast of horrifying workers have a good solid workplace, as well as ensuring that visitors to the place get scared enough to deliver their own Code Browns.
It's into this world that Habicht and his non-intrusive camera and soft questioning approach head in - and what emerges from Spookers, in its first half, is a film that captures the quirk of Kiwis and the heart and soul of those who live there. Whether it's asking a zombie bride if they go to the supermarket wearing the outfit or revealing a depth to one woman who works in insurance and who channels her frustration into the scares, Habicht has an eye for ensuring there's as much heart as there is offbeat material in the film for us all to latch onto.
But it's in the back half of Spookers that it feels a little like Florian's lost his way.
Relying increasingly on more performance art pieces which feel fresh and enticing early on, than any kind of ongoing narrative, it feels like Spookers becomes a touch repetitive and lacking in anything new to say, other than to compound its previous speakers who talk of their connection to one another.
That's not to deny the power of those stories - and while Beth and Andy seem grounded, the range of their workforce appear to have a whole heap of issues that they have to contend with. From mental health to actual health issues, the sense of community behind the make up is pervasive in Spookers and deserves to be applauded.
More interestingly the former patient and nurse of the hospital get to deliver their views on how the attraction is now, providing a contrast in perception and an ideological conflict with then and now. Habicht allows his speakers the time and space to breathe thought into these beliefs and is also smart enough to not belittle anyone in his film.
There's no denying that Spookers is an essential piece of Kiwiana and a quirky celebration of the power of family, both adopted and parental, but if the back half's structure were a little tighter and perhaps the journey a little more strongly plotted, Spookers could have risen a bit more strongly to the top.