It’s clear from Spookers that its creator, director Florian Habicht, has the instincts of a great documentarian. This is a film about the New Zealand institution that is ‘Spookers’, a family-owned haunted house business who operate out of a decommissioned psych hospital with a motley crew of part-time actors. Habicht nurtures the stories that blossom from the branches of this gnarled tree, whether it’s the history of the hospital, or the background stories of the actors who now stalk its corridors and the dark forest beyond.
Unfortunately, Habicht and his team don’t quite have the same instincts for storytelling. Making a great documentary is like writing a great essay. Disparate, individually-compelling threads must be woven into a coherent narrative of sorts. In this regard, Spookers is unsuccessful: each of its constituent parts are intriguing, but it fails to tie them together. Clumsily-staged dream-like interludes feel utterly contrived (The Act of Killing, this ain’t) and cross-cutting between the actors’ personal tragedies reduces real human hurt into the kind of grubby exploitation that defines modern reality television sob stories.
Editing issues aside, the where Spookers does unquestionably succeed is selling Spookers: I’m seriously contemplating a trip to New Zealand after watching this!