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Overall Rating
4.59

Awesome67.11%
Worth A Look: 27.63%
Average: 3.95%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 1.32%

4 reviews, 52 user ratings


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Heavenly Creatures
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by Justin Helmer

"Love can kill you..."
4 stars

Despite it’s relative lack of gore, and single body count Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” is one of the more disturbing movies I’ve seen recently. Telling the all but true (We really don’t have a good system of qualifying the phrase ‘based on a true story’.) story of a famous New Zealand murder case, none of the names here have been changed. When a crime like this explodes out of a quiet little town inevitably we want first to know why. This dark and imaginative film looks at the killer in the innocent disguise, and to it’s credit it refuses to give us any easy answers.

The loving attention to detail that Peter Jackson and his family of filmmakers show towards the text of JRR Tolkien’s world in the Lord of the Rings films, came as no surprise to anyone who had seen this film. Working from the solid basis of careful research, they pieced together (With some obvious dramatic license…) the details of not just the crime, but also the world that gives it context. Having never been to New Zealand, let alone to Christchurch circa 1950 I can only tell you that the world presented feels authentic to the last detail.

From the opening moments we are set on unsteady ground as we see first a shot of two lovely young girls running along the deck of a cruise ship. Without warning reality shifts, and we see the same two girls, now covered in blood running along a wooded path. The contrast between these two worlds is striking, even without knowing what exactly is going on. The use of color, camera movement and sound rip us back and forth between the realities, and then the screen goes black and for better or worse we are hooked. This technique serves Jackson well as we are jarred loose from ourselves, and thrust headlong into the narrative of the story.

Right from the first meeting, Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet (Kate Winslet) seem to be made for each other. They are bright, and imaginative and totally unconcerned with any but their own opinions. Pauline is the more quiet and plain of the two, she moves through her world just barely touching those around her. Juliet having the benefit of a more worldly life, stands a little straighter, seems a little more poised.

Forming almost instantly the kind of desperate friendship that only seems to happen to people in the most adverse situations, Paul and Juliet and are locked together in a relationship that gets more exclusive with every passing day. They begin to build themselves a world apart from the increasingly threatening day-to-day existence. This being the 1950’s, much is made of the girl’s increasing attachment to one another. All of which leads the girls, and their families down an ever-darkening road that will eventually take them to madness and to murder.

Even as they loose their grips on reality, the girls are consistent to the rules that they have made. Again the filmmakers deserve real credit here, as the main characters are building their secret world, we see it first as they would: a separate existence. However as they are driven further and further into their ‘fiction’, the two worlds begin to mix and blend visually as well. All of which leads us to the place where the girls strike out violently against the reality that threatens to separate them.

Which leads me to the point which I find most disturbing of all…at it’s core the story seems to be one of the romantic ideal taken to it’s furthest illogical extreme. So often in the shorthand of love the idea of dying for the ones that you love is present. (Christian iconography anyone?) Rarely if ever is the darker flipside of that same ideal represented, if one is willing to die for love, it only stands to reason that they would kill for it as well. While Juliet Hulme and Pauline Rieper were not lovers in any conventional sense of the word, their love and attachment to each other was very real. Love that was as real as the consequence and tragedy of the disillusionment of that love would eventually prove to be.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1190&reviewer=315
originally posted: 01/16/03 22:33:00
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User Comments

2/23/14 PAUL SHORTT CAPTIVATING, BRILLIANTLY MADE TRUE STORY WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES 4 stars
2/07/13 Langano Just o.k. 3 stars
12/11/11 Bob M Love the soundtrack; incredibly affective filmmaking 5 stars
11/11/09 R.W. Welch Okay as far as it goes, but ends prematurely. C+ 3 stars
4/24/09 Nicole Beautiful, extremely disturbing, took risks and pulled it off excellently. Ten out of ten. 5 stars
1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Awesome Film. 5 stars
11/20/06 omayra very disturbing 3 stars
9/25/06 David Pollastrini very psychedelic 4 stars
12/22/05 Indrid Cold It's hard to sympathize with the titular creatures, but still interesting. 4 stars
6/17/04 Daveman Contemplative and unsentimental, a bracing film that surprisingly easy to relate to. 4 stars
5/21/04 Gretchen Ross Pretty much a flawless film. See the extended version. 5 stars
1/24/04 Elena This is the only film that I can watch over, and over, and never ever get sick of. 5 stars
1/16/04 John brilliant performances in a manic and kinetic masterpiece 5 stars
6/15/03 Alice Great acting, great story. 5 stars
4/29/03 critter one of my favorite moves...there are no words. WATCH IT! 5 stars
4/01/03 Jack Sommersby A disturbing and bracing nightmare of a domestic drama. Flawlessly acted and directed. 4 stars
2/22/03 Blabity blah Brilliant movie, awesome acting. 5 stars
1/17/03 y2mckay Matricide, humping statues, and teen lesbianism - what's not to like? 4 stars
1/09/03 Christina Disturbing - but brilliant 5 stars
10/29/02 Sheridan Hypnotically brilliant 5 stars
10/17/02 vinod fuckingly beautiful 5 stars
5/23/02 The Bomb69 wildly imaginative and disturbing, hot sex scenes!!! 5 stars
4/04/02 Horace Sippog Diana Kent is FUCKING AWESOME 5 stars
4/01/02 bashir ahmad film 5 stars
3/22/02 Neo-D One of the best movies ever 5 stars
3/14/02 wattdog how about the lord of the rings 4 stars
3/14/02 richard not bad 4 stars
3/06/02 elliot stephens-hibbert good for horny bastards that want a frill 4 stars
2/03/02 Baldy A masterpiece. Simply brilliant. 5 stars
1/03/02 Olive Miller absorbing and haunting film 5 stars
8/15/01 Brian Wow, wow, wow! Peter Jackson now ascends in my book from fun filmmaker to serious director. 5 stars
6/20/01 Bada Bing Crosby Movie is worthy of all the praise/admiration its rec'd 5 stars
5/26/01 Basil One of my favorite movies. 5 stars
4/16/01 Tam Surreal and haunting. I felt so sorry for Lynskey's mother I cried at the end. Kate was gr8 4 stars
3/04/01 Rael Stunning and thought-proviking. One of the best films of the 1990s. 5 stars
12/23/00 The Graduate Beautiful and horrifying. Watch this if you want a glimpse of Jackson's Middle Earth. 5 stars
3/31/00 perverted pixie Brutal, Femme, Arthouse Picture- excellent acting & truely terrifing! 5 stars
11/08/99 Mickey More A masterpiece. Pulls you in, and then smacks you upside the head. Perfect. 5 stars
9/29/99 Tara Munro I Live in NZ, but i'm in brazil for 1 year. It's about the ultimate love, I LOVE IT! 5 stars
9/28/99 Thomas A great film! It was well written and acted fantasticly! A perfect role for Kate's first fi 5 stars
9/28/99 Rebecca Osinowo This was a classic role for Kate, she looked wonderful and most of all acted it out nicely. 4 stars
9/16/99 Greer Amazing, moving, confusing and brilliant. 5 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg Another odd Jackson miracle. Unlike any of his other films ("Bad Taste" , "Dead-Alive") 4 stars
6/02/99 mammyrammer This film gave me goosebumps. Now,that's a gut level response. It's haunting. 5 stars
3/17/99 Go Swans An extremely disturbing cinematic experience. Not a feel good movie. 4 stars
2/19/99 Piz crafty and artsy, got a bit sleepy at times but it's a critics delight. 4 stars
1/12/99 TNT THIS MOVIE SUX!!!! 1 stars
12/24/98 Lou Pine, Jr. Well-told, disturbing, moving, visually brilliant, and astoundingly excellent. 5 stars
12/20/98 Binky A good movie but not so great as I was led to believe. 4 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Extremely powerful study of adolescent extremity 5 stars
11/18/98 MinxxDaShorty Oh my god!!!! Kate Winslet can act !!! mabey there is hope for us all yet 5 stars
11/03/98 hum excilent. based on a true story from i believe the 1950s or 60s 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Feb-1995 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Jul-1995 (M)




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