Anchor Bay was once a major outlet for cult classics and curios before streaming and Blu-ray boutiques emerged. And hidden beneath the late distributor’s terror horde is the New Zealand horror film The local. This Kiwi oddity found its way overseas shortly after its home theatrical release in 2003, but to date it has had no online presence or commercial release other than out of print DVDs. An unfortunate but fitting fate for a film about the ghosts of a forgotten time and place.
Abbreviations are a bad idea in horror. They shorten kilometers and time, but also lead to trouble. Best friends Grant and Paul (Johnny Barker, DwayneCameron) are victims of their own dangerous detour Gregory Page‘s first and only feature film. When they go on a trip after Grant’s recent breakup, they end up lost in the countryside. The deeper they delve into these rural lands, the more Grant and Paul uncover the dark secrets of the blood-soaked land and risk the chance of becoming one of the film’s namesakes.
An eerie aerial view of the story’s main setting – the open, lifeless landscape – is temporarily disarmed by a more familiar and active environment. Somewhere in metropolitan Auckland, newly single Grant insists on wallowing in his misery until his best brother Paul shows up. They soon load up the Subaru with supplies and surfboards, then head off in search of a much-needed distraction.
With such a small cast The local has the opportunity to build the relationship between the two main characters. Grant and Paul’s banner on the way to their destination is as natural as it is revealing. The larger, dark-haired half of this duo is sensitive and thoughtful, while the smaller dynamo flies by the buttocks. Page elicits different and contrasting personalities from Grant and Paul, but makes sure they’re always on the same page. It’s almost like they can read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences. Character writing is never so inscrutable; audiences can understand these companions without digging too deep beneath the surface. Their close bond, the result of years of friendship, is crucial to the story.
The horror elements become more visible once the protagonists reach their pastoral address. The signs “STREET CLOSED” and “PRIVATE PROPERTY” deter an always suspicious Grant, but the sudden appearance of two attractive and flirtatious women changes his mind. There’s something strange about Kelly and Lisa (Kate Elliott, Adjutant Walker) as they drive to the entrance of Paul’s shortcut. They’re in full ’80s gear, and Lisa’s racquet looks old compared to the modern man’s car. While viewers will no doubt tell them to leave at this point, Grant and Paul have no reason to fear Kelly and Lisa. Of course, they follow them across the bridge without giving a single thought to how this could end badly. Truth be told, Grant and Paul have bigger things to worry about as the night progresses.
Grant and Paul’s real horror begins when they witness a murder; Peter McCauley‘s character Bill slits a woman’s throat in front of her. After the car breaks down, the unfortunate witnesses have to drive across the country in it before finally breaking up. Grant becomes more involved in the murder after killing one of the killer’s other victims, Martin (Paul Glover) who for some reason demands that he help him dig something up. Meanwhile, Paul crosses paths again with Kelly and Lisa, and the three escape a pair of revheads (David Gibson, Glen Levy).
Now it seems strange that the main characters are separated so early in the story, but this time the separation emphasizes the film’s most important theme. As with all close friends, people grow distant from time to time. It is suspected that Grant and Paul did the same and are only now getting back on track. Your brief disagreement could be caused by a number of things besides friction: dating, school, work. So that Grant and Paul go on personal journeys in the wop-wops is a metaphor for their own friendship. Although they struggle with their individual problems, they find each other in the end.
The local is generous with explanations and hints so that the mystery is not too difficult to solve. The audience will have a solid understanding of what’s going on before the final act comes into view. You recognize a Twilight Zone-type of time disruption is responsible for all the spooky goings on. However, Page manages to squeeze out one major surprise in the story that feels like a direct punch to the pit of the stomach. It’s an emotional turn of events that changes the tone of the film while confirming the strengths of Grant and Paul’s relationship.
in the best possible way, The local is a friendship film dressed in horror. Page’s supernatural misadventure between two lifelong buds is rich in enthusiasm, authentic performances and now, most importantly, a remarkable display of intimacy between male friends. This native New Zealand horror film is never scary, but it is a gripping tale of love and loyalty.
terror elsewhere is a recurring column highlighting a wide variety of films from around the world, particularly those not based in the United States. Fears may not be universal, but one thing is for sure – a scream is always and everywhere understood.