Māori culture and New Zealand's natural beauty will be showcased in the new supernatural action-adventure series The Dead Lands.
The eight-episode original series - a co-production between Shudder, AMC Networks' premium streaming service for horror, thriller and the supernatural, and TVNZ - will premiere with two episodes on TVNZ OnDemand on January 24 following its international debut.
Inspired by Māori traditions and histories, The Dead Lands features a supernatural adventure set in Aotearoa's mythic past, with an aesthetic reminiscent of both the comedy horror series Ash vs Evil Dead and Xena: Warrior Princess.
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"The Dead Lands is a Māori story on a global scale," explains TVNZ Director of Content, Cate Slater.
"It's important content filled with wairua. Our viewers are going to love this epic drama and we're excited to be part of the international conversation surrounding the programme, as we stream at the same time as our friends at Shudder."
The series is written by Glenn Standring (Six Days) who also wrote the 2014 The Dead Lands feature film, which is set in the same mythical world as the show but is unconnected to its characters or story.
The plot features a murdered Māori warrior, Waka Nuku Rau (Te Kohe Tuhaka), who is sent back to the world of the living to redeem his sins. But the world Waka returns to is ravaged by a breach between Life and the Afterlife as the spirits of the newly dead now stalk the land and hunt the living.
Waka encounters a determined young woman, Mehe Te Wehiwehi (Darneen Christian), who becomes both his protégé and moral compass. Together, they navigate tribal politics, the unsettled ghosts of ancestors and other forces both natural and supernatural, on a quest to discover who "broke the world" and how to repair it—if it's not too late.
Kirk Torrance (Outrageous Fortune) also stars as Kā and Vicky Haughton (Whale Rider, King Kong) as Turika.
The series also features screen combat performed in the Māori martial art of Mau Rākau, while elements of action and fantasy throughout the story have been given shape by versions of Māori rituals reimagined for the show.
Māori cultural advisors assisted the show's creators throughout the production of the series.
"The modern Māori world thrives because our story traditions insist we respect the past before we explore the potential of the future," said producer Tainui Stephens.
"With The Dead Lands, we're proud to bring our people and those traditions to global audiences."
The series from Auckland and Sydney-based production company GFC Films is also executive produced by Standring, Fraser Brown and Matthew Metcalfe, produced by Stephens and Liz Adams, and directed by Peter Meteherangi Tikao Burger and Michael Hurst.
"The Dead Lands is a bold, exciting series unlike anything else on TV—an epic adventure in a breath-taking setting, based on Māori culture," said Craig Engler, Shudder's General Manager.
"It's got action, scares and humour in equal measures, and we can't wait to share it with Shudder members around the world."
The Dead Lands premieres with two episodes on TVNZ OnDemand on January 24.