In his first feature, New Zealand writer and Director Nic Gorman has crafted an impeccably paced thriller that sits well within New Zealand's own "cinema of unease".

Human Traces is a chamber piece of isolation and paranoia played out amid the heaving shores and bitter winds of a remote outpost. A married couple who work for the Department of Conservation have been posted on a remote subantarctic research station. It's a barren windswept environment and not for the faint-hearted.

When their co-worker finishes her allotted six-month stint, she is replaced by a young lad whose tentative demeanour raises suspicions. As can be expected, all is not as it seems on the island and the film takes great delight in teasing out all its secrets.

The familiar setup might suggest "Dead Calm-on-an-island" but there is a whole lot more going on in this distinctively Kiwi thriller. Told in three chapters, the film explains the same story from the perspective of each of its three characters, raising questions about whose truth is the "real truth". It's a giddy cocktail of intrigue and disclosure, which is aided by some deft editing, sound design, and choice of score.


The decision to opt for a hand-held camera for much of the action wonderfully captures the island's windswept scape as we are jostled and buffeted among the tundra and its three inhabitants.

As the title suggests, Human Traces has at its heart an environmentally conscious subtext with humans cast as a blight on the natural order of things; as one character expresses, we are an uneasy mixture of nature and creation. Despite it missing opportunities at times to explore this subtext with more vigour, Human Traces remains a surprisingly strong contender for Kiwi film of the year.


Sophie Henderson, Mark Mitchinson, Vinnie Bennett


Nic Gorman

Running time:

86 mins



M (Violence, offensive language & drug use)


An impeccably paced thriller that's a strong contender for Kiwi film of the year.

Australian model Megan Gales was originally cast as Wonder Woman in a 2007 version of Justice League, however the film was canned before it ever finished filming.