Julie Devaney
Assignment II
Garry Gillard, Thursday 1:30-3:00

Heavenly Creatures
By: Julie Devaney

Part I Film Information
List of principal cast and credits:

Director: Peter Jackson
Producers: Jim Booth & Peter Jackson
Executive Producer: Hanno Huth
Writers: Fran Wolfe & Peter Jackson
Cinematographer: Alun Bollinger
Screenplay: Peter Jackson and Frances Walsh
Editor: Jamie Selkirk
Composer: Peter Dasent
Sound Design:  Michael Hedges & Hammond Peck
Hair/Make-up/Wardrobe: Debbie Watson, Marjorie Hamlin, & Nqila Dickson

Production Companies:


Budget: $5,000,000 (estimated)
Opening Weekend: $31,592 (USA) (November 1994)
Gross: $3,049,135 (USA)
Copyright Holder: WingNut Films Ltd.
Film Location: New Zealand
New Zealand Release Date: 14/10/94
Australia Release Date:  22/5/94
U.S. Release Date: 12/94
Running Length: 1:38
MPAA Classification: No MPAA Rating (Mature themes, sexual themes, violence)

Melanie Lynskey - Pauline Parker
Kate Winslet - Juliet Hulme
Sarah Peirse - Honora Parker
Diana Kent - Hilda Hulme
Clive Merrison - Henry Hulme
Simon O'Connor - Herbert Rieper
Jed Brophy - John/Nicholas
Peter Elliot - Bill Perry
Gilbert Goldie - Dr. Bennett
Geoffrey Heath - Reverend Norris
Jean Guerin - Orson Welles
Stephen Reilly - Mario Lanza
Kirsti Ferry - Wendy
Ben Skjellerup - Jonathan
Darien Takle - Miss Stewart
Elizabeth Moody - Miss Waller
Liz Mullane - Mrs. Collins
Moreen Eason - Mrs. Stevens
Pearl Carpenter - Mrs. Zwartz
Lou Dobson - Grandma Parker
Jesse Griffin - Laurie
Glen Drake - Steve
Nick Farra - Boarder
Chris Clarkson - Boarder
Ray Henwood - Professor
John Nicoll - Professor
Mike Maxwell - Professor
Raewyn Pelham - Laura
Toni Jones - Agnes Ritchie
Glenys Lloyd-Smith - Miss Digby
Wendy Watson - Mrs. Bennett
Andrea Sanders - Diello
Ben Fransham - Charles
Jessica Bradley - Pauline--age 5
Alex Shirtcliffe-Scott - Juliet--age 5
Barry Thomson - Farmer/Policeman


Bibliography of Interviews with Filmmakers:

Heaven Can Wait: An Interview with Peter Jackson, accessed from Peter Jackson Fan Club

Interview: Peter Jackson 8/12/03, accessed from IGN.com

Peter Jackson Interview, accessed from At The Movies

Director Peter Jackson proves to be the lord of The Fellowship of the Rings, accessed from SciFi.com

Bibliography of Reviews:

Heavenly Creatures review, accessed Roger Ebert.com

Heavenly Creatures film review, accessed Reel Views.com

Heavenly Creatures, accessed The Washington Post.com

55 External reviews of Heavenly Creatures, accessed from IMDb.com

Details of the film’s online presence in the web literature:

The primary notoriety for Heavenly Creatures stems from the popularity of the film’s director Peter Jackson, as well as its main character Kate Winslet. The film is based on a true story that occurred in the 1950’s in New Zealand. Most of the online information documents the history of lives of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker.  Searches for further information on the film generally led to websites and facts about Peter Jackson. It was difficult to find many articles and reviews solely about the film without links and other pop ups relating to The Lord of the Rings and other more popular Jackson films.
Part II. Critical Review of Film and its Literature

Critical Review of Film

Set in 1950s in New Zealand, Heavenly Creatures is based on the true story of teenagers Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) and Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey), two friends who form a very close yet bizarre friendship in Christchurch. The girls have a passion for reading and writing, and together create their own imaginative fantasy world. The friends become obsessed with their fantasy life and become estranged from their families, to the point that their parents decide to separate them. Horrified, the girls decide that their only option is to kill Pauline’s mother so they can stay together forever. As the girls become increasingly absorbed in their fantasy world, a plan to murder Pauline’s mother develops. With extreme intervals between reality and fantasy, it is uncertain if the murder will take place. Yet, on an afternoon when Pauline’s mother takes the girls out for the day, they lure her to walk deep into the woods where Pauline violently strikes her mother over the head with a brick until she is motionless.  There is not any violence throughout the movie, making the conclusion especially astonishing.  Moreover, the scene of the murder lasts several minutes, vividly showing blood and the struggle of Pauline’s mother.
The film exhibits the haunting and gradual obsession with fantasy that transforms the personalities of both girls.  Their perceptions of reason and normalcy become consumed with the bizarre land that they mentally construct, and block all others from. Jackson’s ability to trace the subtle changes in each girl is superb, as the conclusion of murder is shocking to the audience given its lack of emotion and human compassion the girls have by the end of the movie.
Uptake of film at time of release and subsequently
            Heavenly Creatures received excellent ratings at its initial release and continues to have a dedicated following of fans.  Siskel and Ebert gave the film two thumbs up, and the review by Time Magazine call the film “thrilling,” (IMDb.com, 2006) Prior to the release of his more popular films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, critics and viewers gave Heavenly Creatures positive feedback. Some reviews comment that it is the first film that got Peter Jackson and Kate Winslet noticed in Hollywood (rottentomatoes.com, 2006). Fans have taken a cult-like response to the film, and various Heavenly Creatures websites and fan clubs exist.
Circumstances of production, release, and box office
            Heavenly Creatures was filmed in both Canterbury and Christchurch New Zealand and followed the original script written by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.  Jackson collaborated with the sister of Pauline Plume to ensure the portrayal of the main characters and the story itself were accurately expressed  (Heavnelycreatures.com, 2006) The film was first released on September 12, 1994 at the Toronto Film Festival, and opened a month later in New Zealand. The movie was re-released in 2004 in Australia and Hong Kong. The estimated budget for Heavenly Creatures was $5,000,000 and made $31,592 during its opening weekend in the USA. The gross profit of the film was $3,049,135 (IMDb.com, 2006). The movie also nominated and chosen for a number of awards including:
1994 - Toronto International Film Festival - Metro Media Award
1994 - Venice Film Festival - Silver Lion
1995 - Gerandmer Film Festival - Grand Prize
1995 - New Zealand Film Awards - Best Director; Best Actress: Melenie Lynsky; Best Supporting Actress: Sarah Peirse; Best Foreign Performer: Kate Winslet; Best Screenplay; Best Editing; Best Design; Best Cinematography; Best Soundtrack; Best Film Score.
1996 - London Film Critics Circle - ALES Awards to British Actress of the Year: Kate Winslet and Director of the Year: Peter Jackson. (New Zealand videos.com, 2006)
Film in relation to subsequent work of the director, cinematographers, writers, lead actors and others
            Heavenly Creatures was a breakout accomplishment primarily for its director, producer and writer Peter Jackson, whose most recent work with The Lord of the Rings trilogy has generated a reputation of creativity and success for Jackson.  The making of Heavenly Creatures in 1994 is considered by some critics to be Jackson’s greatest movie (IMDb.com, 2006). Known prior to Heavenly Creatures in the zombie/cult film community, the creation of the psychodrama Heavenly Creatures was a deviation from the horror genre, and allowed Jackson to combine his talent of creating outrage and suspense (Heavenly creatures.com, 2006).  Moreover, the creation of a film drawn from the basis of actual events may have been necessary practice for Jackson as he later created The Lord of the Rings films based on existing science-fiction literature.
            Heavenly Creatures  also ignited success for Kate Winslet who played Juliet Hulme. As her first lead role in a film, the then 19 year old Winslet later won awards for Best Foreign Actress and  the  ALES Awards for  British Actress of the Year in 1994. (New Zealand videos.com, 2006). Only three years later did Winslet land the lead role in the film Titanic which is still considered her most famous movie roll (IMDb.com, 2006).. Able to portray such a haunting and disturbing character in Heavenly Creatures got Winslet noticed by Hollywood, and commenced a career that includes numerous other lead roles and four Academy Award nominations (IMDb.com, 2006).
Position of Australian Film and its value
            The “Australianess” or in this case “New Zealand” qualities of Heavenly Creatures can be attributed to both the recreation of a famous New Zealand event as well as the birth place of the now famous director Peter Jackson. In defining what constitutes a "New Zealand film" the New Zealand Video website follows the description in the Film Commission Act of 1978 which established the New Zealand Film Commission. Under the Act "significant New Zealand content" is defined with regard to subject; nationalities and places of residence of creators, production teams and casts, financiers and copyright holders: money sources; ownership and whereabouts of equipment and technical facilities (New Zealand video.com, 2006). The Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker case shocked New Zealanders, and was recreated in a framework that portrayed images of New Zealand through family, landscape, and interaction.  Yet, it appears that perhaps the contemporary position of the New Zealand film and its value is primarily dependent of technicalities than specific New Zealand content.  Most films do not fit into the categories of the Film Commission Act, and are included in the New Zealand film category simply by any association with New Zealand.  For example, the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, is not based on a New Zealand story, but had input from New Zealand money and personnel (New Zealand video.com, 2006). Therefore, Peter Jackson’s New Zealand roots have broadened the list of New Zealand film and its value. The three Lord of the Rings movies, although having nothing to do with New Zealand within the storylines, were directed and produced by Peter Jackson, and also each shot in New Zealand; therefore can be considered New Zealand feature films.
            Although nominated for numerous awards, Heavenly Creatures did not receive  the international attention or popularity that  Jackson’s other works have. Yet, as Jackon’s reputation and success developed, as did public interest in his other works, which perhaps led to the 2004 re-release of Heavenly Creatures in Hong Kong and Australia (IMDb.com, 2006). Currently, fan clubs for the film exist, as do numerous other archives about the actual events.
Situate the film as a particular type of film and as belonging to a genre or genres
The exact genre reflected by the film Heavenly Creatures is arguably diverse and includes aspects of both the suspense thriller and psychodrama genres. Charles Derry’s book The Suspense Thriller: Films in the Shadow of Alfred Hitchcock claims that suspense thrillers focus either on victims of crime or on pursued and isolated criminals. Within these focuses of crime, the protagonists in a suspense thriller film are faced with deadly and threatening situations of the familiar or unfamiliar (Derry, 1988 as cited by Neale).  The plot of Heavenly Creatures is consistent with Derry’s sub-category of 'the thriller of acquired identity', in which the protagonist acquires an unaccustomed identity which involves a type of murderous plot (Derry, 1988 as cited by Neale). The murderous intentions of Pauline become the most significant attribute of her acquired identity; however, a number of small changes are evident in the protagonist’s character throughout the film.  Prior to meeting Juliet, Pauline is reserved, shy, and extremely close with her mother. Her friendship with Juliet in addition to the conception of their collaborative world of fantasy transforms Pauline into a recluse, a free thinker, a sexual explorer, and eventually a murder.
 The film diverges from Jackson’s , “usual genre of splatter-fest horrors” , and instead involves a suspenseful plot that is dramatic and factual (tbhltheonering.com, 2006). Compared to the common Jackson film prior to Heavenly Creatures, the extreme violence that occurs at the conclusion of this film plays less impact than does the gradual build up of psychological suspense.  The girls become bizarrely engrossed in a fantasy world that consumes their lives and personalities. It is the deviation from reality and clarity, which makes Heavenly Creatures more than a gory and murderous horror flick. Jackson expertly reveals the degeneration of innocence and reason that which lead Pauline and Juliet to become murderers.

IMDb.com Heavenly Creatures, accessed 24 April 2006 from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110005/business.
Heavnelycreatures.com, accessed 24 April 2006 from:
 New Zealand Videos.com. Heavenly Creatures 1994, accessed 25 April 2006 from:
Rottentomatoes.com. Heavenly Creatures, accessed 25 April 2006 from: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/heavenly_creatures/
The one ring.com Heavenly Creatures-Peter Jackson, accessed 25 April 2006 from: