Heavenly Creatures 1994

Directed by Peter Jackson Treasures

Returning to the Festival is Peter Jackson’s sublime 1994 film about the notorious Parker-Hulme murder drew rapturous acclaim and brought the former splatter king a newfound mainstream respectability.

Aug 12

The Civic

108 minutes Colour



Jim Booth


Peter Jackson


Frances Walsh
Peter Jackson


Alun Bollinger


Jamie Selkirk

Production Designer

Grant Major

Costume Designer

Ngila Dickson

Original Music

Peter Dasent


Melanie Lynskey
Kate Winslet
Diana Kent
Sarah Peirse
Clive Merrison
Simon O’Connor
Jed Brophy
Kirsti Ferry
Andrea Sanders
Ben Skjellerup


We’re delighted to present special 30th Anniversary screenings of Heavenly Creatures back where we first presented the World Premiere of Peter Jackson’s ground-breaking film. We can’t put it any better than Bill Gosden did back then, so here is his 1994 programme note introducing Heavenly Creatures to the world.

“Peter Jackson was outrageous before, but the outrageousness of his first G-rated movie is something else entirely: he catches us up in the heart-thumping breathlessness of two schoolgirls, giddy with joy and fright at the brilliance of each other’s romantic aspirations. Heavenly Creatures is the whirling, soaring rhapsody that ensues when two misfit imaginations suddenly fit – and lock into a single, gloriously empowering vision. Theirs is certainly not the Christchurch of punts and daffodils being perpetrated in the ’50s ‘Pictoral Parade’ with which Jackson introduces his setting. But it may be the equally improbable city where a schoolgirl choir imprisons the lilt of a gospel hymn in prim, clipped elocution: you can’t always tell when Christchurch is being refracted through the protagonists’ conviction that they live in the stuffiest city on earth.

But you know for sure when their romantic vision of the place prevails. Not since Utu have there been such ecstatic flights of fancy in New Zealand filmmaking. And there’s never been such light-headed delight in cinema magic. Special effects conjure up castles in the air, then rush you through their portals and up, up, up to the parapets. And just as you’re thinking, whoooaa, this is getting nutty, there’s the frisson as you remember: this ‘intense’ friendship between the teenage girls Pauline Rieper and Juliet Hulme is famous for a reason. Together they hatched a plot to kill Pauline’s mother – and then, God help us, murder her is what they did. Forty years on, this story is still recalled in New Zealand as a warning of the dangers of ‘unnatural’ closeness between girls: what possessed these daughters of darkness?

Jackson, who actively sought infamy in his earlier films, has had ample opportunity to test the starch of polite society’s aversion. His own frenzied, transforming visions have not been universally applauded – as the Festival can attest. This may help explain the utter clarity of his imaginative identification with the girls. It does not account for the wonderful new fluency in this work, the assurance of tone, or the refinement and ebullient funniness of a script – co-written with Fran Walsh – which shows us plenty that the fantasists don’t see. His heavenly creatures may have been tragically misunderstood, but we’re given a fair and touching understanding of the decorous little English province that they so unnerved and which they helped to unmake. For a film that takes its audience on such an emotional joyride, Heavenly Creatures is rich, detailed and resonant on so many levels.

There is not the space here to enumerate the security and vividness with which the performances are etched into an apparently insecure surface. The two young leads embody their characters indelibly: the film seems to swirl about them. Alun Bollinger’s breathtaking CinemaScope is an equally crucial player and may start an international tourist stampede to the Port Hills when Heavenly Creatures becomes the sensational new movie from New Zealand in cinemas around the world. There is no debate; this one was nourished all the way to startling fruition in New Zealand. And it is, in the best possible way, sensational. The Festival is privileged to host the world premiere.”

Bill Gosden, Wellington Film Festival 1994