Episode 41: American Horror/Thriller Halloween Special

In this special episode of Never Repeats we’re watching three horror/thriller films that were shot in New Zealand during the ’80s but aimed squarely at the American market. None of these are films we’d normally cover on this podcast, but we found an excuse to talk about them anyway! First up is Dead Kids, a tale of gruesome murders and shocking experiments in a small American town; next is Mesmerized, in which a young woman’s unhappy marriage descends into hypnotism and murder; then comes Restless, about a bored, rich socialite who falls in love with the wrong man. We discuss horror conventions, bad accents, bonkers plot twists, and the perils of writing fiction with an historical setting.

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Director: Michael Laughlin
Producers: Antony I. Ginnane, John Barnett
Screenplay: Bill Condon, Michael Laughlin
Director of photography: Louis Horvath
Editor: Petra

Cast:
John Brady…Michael Murphy
Pete Brady…Dan Shor
Barbara…Louise Fletcher
Prof. Parkinson…Fiona Lewis

Director: Michael Laughlin
Producer: Antony I. Ginnane
Screenplay: Michael Laughlin based on work by Jerzy Skolimowski
Director of photography: Louis Horvath
Editor: Petra von Oelffon

Cast:
Victoria…Jodie Foster
Oliver…John Lithgow
Wilson…Michael Murphy
George…Dan Shor
Old Thompson…Harry Andrews

Director: Denis Lewiston
Producers: John Barnett, Brian Cook
Screenplay: Denis Lewiston from a story by Gerry O’Hara
Director of photography: Alec Mills
Editor: Michael Horton

Cast:
Christine Webber…Simone Griffith
Greg Sandford…Steve Marachuk
Clive Webber…Brian Marshall

Notes:

  • All three films are fairly easy to track down, though getting your hands on a good quality copy of Mesmerized can be tricky. There’s plenty of information on where to find them over at NZ Videos.
  • Dead Kids was shot in 1981 and produced by Tony Ginnane and John Barnett, who both produced Race for the Yankee Zephyr at roughly the same time. It received a New Zealand theatrical release in 1983. Though both Mesmerized and Restless were wholly or partially NZ-funded their end credits refer to them as UK productions, presumably for various tax or legal reasons.
  • Curiously, although the book ‘New Zealand Film 1912-1996’ states that Mesmerized never received a theatrical release in New Zealand, the OFLC database notes that a film of that title was classified on 35mm in February 1986 with a GA rating. It seems unlikely this was for a video release, as GA ratings did not apply to video. It’s possible the film was classified, but a planned theatrical release never materialised.
  • Whoever painted the above poster art for Mesmerized did a good job capturing Jodie Foster’s likeness. Not so much for John Lithgow.
  • Hayden makes a slight error late in this episode when he refers to Gerry O’Hara’s 1977 film The Brute as being based on a Jackie Collins novel. He was thinking of The Stud, which was not directed by O’Hara.
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2 thoughts on “Episode 41: American Horror/Thriller Halloween Special

  1. I would agree that ‘Dead Kids’ and ‘Restless’ have a weak connection to New Zealand, but ‘Mesmerized’, aka: ‘Shocked’, is based upon true New Zealand events, plus being filmed in New Zealand. The lead actors are not Kiwis, but many of the supporting roles were filled by New Zealanders.

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    • Actually ‘Mesmerized’ is based on a British murder case, but you’re right that there is a strong argument to be made for classifying it as a ‘New Zealand film’. L.J. would probably agree with you, but I still view it as more of a curiosity than anything else. – Hayden

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