If you’re a horror fan, the streaming service Shudder is a necessity. I’ve been a subscriber for over 2 years and without Shudder, there are countless amazing independent and foreign films that I would not have been able to see. One of those is the newly added Shudder exclusive, and U.S. premiere, of the Spookers.
Contrary to popular belief, haunted houses aren’t just for October. Spookers is a massive indoor/outdoor haunted attraction in New Zealand that is open year-round. Having some experience working behind the scenes in haunted attractions, I was pleasantly surprised that Spookers is not just another haunted house documentary; it’s a beautifully shot film about what it’s like to be “different” and dealing with very real personal demons by expressing yourself in ways you may not have thought possible.
I know from personal experience that working as a scare actor can be a positive way of coping with stress and you can form strong, meaningful bonds with your co-workers. All of this is demonstrated wonderfully in this film. Director Florian Habicht manages to perfectly capture the essence of what it’s like working as a scare actor at a haunted attraction, while also intimately showcasing some of the actors’ stories about their own struggles and everyday lives.
Spookers is huge, so they have a very large cast of scare actors. The first thing I noticed was the special effects make-up. All the actors do their own make-up and costumes and they are so good at it, the make-up effects are better than a lot of what we see in current horror movies. These people are insanely talented!
The heart of Spookers is when it gets up close and personal with several of the cast members. Just a few of the featured actors are: David, who plays a zombie bride he calls Zombina; Huia, a creepy psycho clown; and Juneen, who plays a possessed character, influenced by both a terrifying incident involving her mother, as well as her own physical and mental illness. The actors may not be related, but they are the true definition of family and they support each other unconditionally.
Director Habicht magnificently weaves the actors’ personal stories with whimsical, sometimes musical, fantasy sequences starring the actors. This adds a surreal element to the film and takes it to the next level artistically, especially since many of the actors have talents that go far beyond mind blowing make-up skills. Aside from being fantastic scare actors, these are good people, and like all of us, some of them have experienced difficult situations in life. Their personal stories prove that even if you live with physical or emotional limitations, nothing is impossible and it’s more than okay to let your freak flag fly high.
The owners of Spookers, Andy and Beth Watson have been married for over forty years, have never watched a horror movie (what?!), and started with a corn maze that could only operate a few months out of the year. Wishing to expand into a larger haunted attraction, they purchased the former Kingseat Hospital, which was as a psychiatric hospital from 1932 until 1999. Choosing to open a haunted attraction in an old psych hospital has certainly caused controversy for the Watsons, and the film Spookers includes thoughtful interviews with both a former nurse at the old hospital as well as a former patient. There is no indication that the people of Spookers use the building to exploit the former patients and staff; instead they respectfully pay homage to the history of the location while also tapping into some of their own fears to scare the guests.
In a time when some haunted attractions believe the only way to be successful is to be more extreme and use methods such as torturing guests with no safe word or way of escape, Spookers instead concentrates on extreme creativity and making sure the guests are comfortable. If the staff see a guest that is too afraid to continue through the haunt, they will stop, make sure they feel safe, and escort them out, as well as check on them afterward. Haunted Houses are supposed to be scary, entertaining and fun, and Spookers is doing everything right.
Add Spookers to your Shudder list for your next movie night. It will make you laugh, cry, and it might even inspire you.