Inside the charmingly frightening world of Spookers, New Zealand's top scare park

Spookers As night falls at Spookers, dozens of seemingly ordinary people become freaks, zombies and chainsaw-wielding clowns. Every weekend come rain, hail or shine, this diverse group of amateur performers unite to terrify punters at the southern hemisphere’s largest scream park, based in a former psychiatric hospital. This surprising doc reveals the transformative and paradoxically lifesaving power of belonging to a community that celebrates fear.

A softly-spoken, middle-aged woman is busy painting two deformed little bodies. “I’m bloodying up these two-headed babies to go in the incubator room”, she explains mildly. “It’s hard to find the right sort of recipes for the blood, whether you want flat dried blood or have it looking really glossy.” Meet Beth Watson, the unlikely co-founder of Spookers, New Zealand’s largest scream park.

"Copy - code brown in the toilets", comes a crackly message across the radio. "We've got a customer who's got a really bad fright and crapped their pants", explains Beth. Inside Spookers, punters from around the world pass through the dark, winding corridors, confronted by a whirling chaos of shrieks, boos, flashing lights, blood and gore, extreme horror paraphernalia and elaborately-costumed actors doing their best to immerse them in a nightmare. For the really brave there is also a vast wheat field maze, complete with terrifying characters poised to jump out and give chase.

Formerly Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital, the location of the park has been controversial. Some former Kingseat patients fear that the park is only working to further stigmatise mental health. “To think that they would be mocked in any way...the idea that the people who were here were violent and dangerous couldn’t be further from the truth”, says former patient Deborah as she surveys the maze.

The former hospital is now home to a varied array of self-confessed ‘freaks’. “When you’re at Spookers you’re allowed to be a freak… I think being a freak is a good thing. Someone who stands out, is different, expresses themselves and isn’t ashamed”, says David Palu, aka Zombina. The Spookers family is made up of the dispossessed, the anxious and the bullied, and all have followed unique paths to this most spooky of households, finding a nurturing community and safe haven.

Huia Apiata, The Clown, is an over-weight Mormon who fears for his health and his place in society, but he finds relief from his anxieties at Spookers. “I feel comfortable there. I feel wanted there. I feel there’s something I can give.” Juneen Borkent (Possessed) takes inspiration from her own mother’s demonic possession for her character. Juneen had struggled with depression and anxiety, and had even attempted suicide. “But this year, it’s just so much better”, she says tearfully.

Spookers Review in The Guardian

Please Note: This film is not available for broadcast rights in United States

The Producers

Florian Habicht was born in Berlin, and immigrated with his family to New Zealand in the early eighties. He studied at the Elam School of Fine Arts Auckland and Binger Filmlab in Amsterdam. He is the son of Sixties photographer Frank Habicht. In 2010 Florian was the inaugural recipient of the Harriet Friedlander NYC Residency and spent a year in New York where he made the feature romance Love Story. He is also the director of the acclaimed documentary Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets, which has featured in 50 international film festivals to date and was listed as one of 2014's top ten film's in New York's Village Voice magazine.

Making The Film

Madman Entertainment is an Australian company that distributes Australian and foreign films as well as television series, children's content, sports, Japanese anime and manga, graphic novels in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the rest of Australasia. Madman is one of the major entertainment companies in Australia. It employs approx 100 people and has an annual turnover of around A$50 million. Its headquarters is in Richmond, Victoria.

Madman has secured the local release rights to popular titles including Sailor Moon , One Piece , Dragon Ball , Neon Genesis Evangelion , Akira , Steins ; Gate and almost all of Studio Ghibli's catalogue. In addition to DVD sales, Madman manages the theatrical release of some of their titles, particularly the Studio Ghibli movies.

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