NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop counts down to Halloween with some ghoulishly good local screen gems.

As our film and television history reveals, New Zealand directors have long held a fondness for the dark side, resulting in a crypt-load of zombies, ghosts and ghouls on our screens. Some spine-chilling, some side-splitting, we revisit a few of our favourites here.

New Zealand's most famous screen vampire was introduced to us in the late 1970s. Count Homogenized, a curly-topped mischief-maker with an insatiable lust for milk, made his debut on children's show A Haunting We Will Go, before moving on to star in his own spinoff series, It Is I Count Homogenized. Portrayed by actor Russell Smith, The Count remains lodged in the hearts of a generation of Kiwi kids, and has become an unlikely icon of New Zealand television. Easily our pick for best Kiwiana costume inspo this Halloween.

Watch an episode of A Haunting We Will Go here:

Starring veteran ghoulster Al Lewis (who played Grandpa in 60s sitcom The Munsters), Grampire - originally titled Moonrise - was released in 1992. Directed by Kiwi horror pioneer David Blyth, the film follows American teen Lonny, who, while visiting family in New Zealand, catches up with his grandfather, a man with an infectious giggle, a thirst for adventure - and a set of rather large fangs.

See excerpts from Grampire here:

In 2014, Taika Waititi took vampires to the big screen again, in the brilliant What We Do in the Shadows. A mockumentary about a group of blood-thirsty Wellington flatmates, it captures the vamps as they struggle to get into Courtenay Place nightclubs, squabble over chores and face off against a crew of werewolves (led by Rhys Darby).


See the trailer for What We Do in the Shadows here:

Based on Margaret Mahy's award-winning novel The Haunting, children's drama The Haunting of Barney Palmer follows a young boy who is visited by the ghost of his great uncle. Released in 1986, it ramps up the supernatural suspense with plenty of 80s-era effects, but remains a family-friendly spooky good watch.

Watch The Haunting of Barney Palmer here:

Hauntings of a slightly scarier kind are examined in Ghost Hunt. Visiting some of New Zealand's spookiest locations - in the dead of night - the series leaves presenters on their own to investigate signs of paranormal activity. In this excerpt, actor Michael Hallows and former What Now? presenter Carolyn Taylor attempt to capture ghostly goings-on at Wellington's St James Theatre.

See an excerpt from Ghost Hunt here:

Fittingly, Halloween also marks the birthday of Sir Peter Jackson - a man responsible for delivering a veritable smorgasbord of gore to New Zealand cinema. Released in 1992, it was Jackson's early feature film Braindead that really cemented his status as the 'Sultan of Splatter', a horror-comedy that took local screen carnage to a whole new level.

Watch the trailer for Braindead here:

You can see more great content here, in NZ On Screen's Halloween Screen Screams Spotlight.