Sunday, 22 April 2018

Dead By Dawn 2018: Spookers (2017)

On the surface, Spookers is a documentary that looks at a New Zealand scare park now situated in an abandoned psychiatric facility. Viewers get to meet the owners, the many staff, and also see some of the paying customers who often react strongly to the terror being unleashed upon them (I think you can guess what reaction leads to someone being asked to clear up a "code brown" over a radio). And that in itself is fun.

I couldn't tell you the names of the main people speaking here, even the owners, but I can tell you that there's a great mix of winning personalities. The people delivering the scares are some of the loveliest people you can imagine, despite often being hidden under impressively terrifying make-up.

On another level, however, Spookers looks at the catharsis that scares provide. By throwing you in with the guests, it reminds you of how much fun you can have being terrorised and terrified in a safe environment. And it shows you how that also works for the people delivering the scares, as they focus on their characters and performances alongside colleagues that have become almost like family members.

And, on yet another level, Spookers looks at the balance between using horror tropes in performance art and being respectful to the memories of those who may be affected by certain ongoing social stigmas. It's one thing to laugh off the idea of clowns complaining about more and more people being scared of them in recent years (as was reported in some news articles) but not so easy to dismiss the conerns of those who view portrayals of deadly psychiatric institution residents as disrespectful to those who used to reside in the very building in which the scares are taking place. Some people are speaking from personal experience, either as a staff member or former resident, and the documentary does well in letting them have their say without making them out to be grouchy party poopers.

Ultimately more intriguing than I expected it to be, Spookers prompts viewers to ask themselves one or two questions that it never sets out to answer, probably because there are no answers. What scares people can vary wildly from individual to individual, as is the case with what (if anything) offends them. Although it gives you a bit more to think about, this doesn't quite match up to the enjoyable The American Scream documentary from a few years ago, but it's much more enjoyable and entertaining than the risible attempt to turn this kind of thing into a proper horror movie that gave us The Houses Of Halloween AKA The Houses October Built.


Spookers is available to buy just now in New Zealand, UK film fans can currently see it on Shudder.
And here is the Dead By Dawn website/schedule.

No comments:

Post a Comment