Spookers 2017

Directed by Florian Habicht Aotearoa

In this funny and improbably charming documentary Florian Habicht looks behind the curtain to show us the real lives of the frighteners at the infamous and hugely popular horror theme park at the old Kingseat Hospital.

83 minutes DCP
M
adult themes

Director

Producers

Nick Batzias
,
Lani-rain Feltham
,
Suzanne Walker
,
Virginia Whitwell

Screenplay

Florian Habicht
,
Peter O’Donoghue
,
Veronica Gleeson

Photography

Grant Adams
,
Jon Baxter
,
Florian Habicht

Editor

Peter O’Donoghue

Art director

Teresa Peters

Music

Marc Chesterman

With

Beth Watson
,
Andy Watson
,
Julia Watson
,
Huia Apiata
,
Juneen Borkent
,
Jake Graham
,
Cameron Judson
,
Cameron Wetzel
,
Lomaks Tangihaere
,
Claudia Aiono
,
David Palu

Festivals

Hot Docs, Sydney 2017

Florian Habicht will be in attendance to introduce the 22 July screening and for a Q+A following the 26 July screening.

Zombie brides, baby-killing banshees and psycho-killer clowns are all family in director Florian Habicht’s fanciful and funny documentary portrait of Spookers, the popular theme park occupying the former Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital. Ex-sheep farmers Beth and Andy Watson along with daughter Julia are the down-to-earth proprietors of the sprawling four-location destination where multifarious fiends lie in wait to scare the bejeezus out of tens of thousands of screaming customers every year.

In Habicht’s enchanted view, the Watsons run a family business in more senses than one. The actors he interviews have never had as much entertainment in their lives as creating havoc as Spookers, nor found such camaraderie or reinforcement as in letting their demonic fantasies run riot. Bringing in his own art department and some cute lo-fi fx, Habicht cements the effect, casting their horror-show personae in florid dream scenarios. Former patients worry that Spookers promotes the unhelpful notion that psychiatric illness is a terrifying thing, but there seems little doubt for Habicht or the current inhabitants: Kingseat under the Watsons’ watch is better for the nation’s mental health than it ever was before.

“What are haunted houses if not a safe place to be scared? Spookers is a celebration of strangeness rather than a mockery of it, and it is Deborah [a former patient at the hospital] who succinctly encapsulates its communal power by observing, ‘If there are so many lonely people in the world, they just have to meet each other.’” — Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com