Fresh Meat's Maori cannibals cause stir
Both expectations and cultural conventions have been given a good ol' munching on by Briar Grace-Smith in her latest film work.
The Paekakariki writer penned upcoming Kiwi comedy-horror Fresh Meat, which stars Temuera Morrison as the patriarch of a Wellington family who provide a gang of criminals with more than they bargained for - most notably a taste for human flesh.
Fresh Meat is a thousand leagues away from Grace-Smith's plays and previous feature, The Strength of Water, tonally, thematically, and dietarily, but she admits to a love for genre films and finding ways to inject comedy into a story.
"In terms of writing a horror story, it's quite new to me. One of my favourite movies is Shaun of the Dead. That was a horror and funny."
The movie has caused a stir in some quarters for putting Maori and cannibalism together - in a broad comedy no less.
Grace-Smith says she knew it would be controversial when she wrote the script.
"I definitely knew it would in that it's challenging, turning a notion on its head. People don't like to talk about it [cannibalism in Maori culture], they find it offensive.
"In the movie, it's normalised, it's not presented as a big deal - there's so many other strange things going on . . . To quote a line from the movie, they're cannibals who happen to be Maori, not Maori cannibals. You can't afford to take it seriously."
Maori are often restricted to a handful of archetypes on screen; the stoic kaumatua, the larrikin, the thug. Grace-Smith says there is always pressure as a writer to adhere to what's expected and accepted, "but I don't think it's healthy to give in to that".
"It's a different representation of Maori. Totally irreverent . . . But it really is speaking to who we are [as Kiwis], it still belongs here. I hope it will travel [overseas] too and I think it will. It is funny, if you have a sense of humour you should like it."
Morrison plays Dr Hemi Crane, a university lecturer with a chip on his shoulder - he can't get published and his celebrity chef wife is more successful then he is. His family live in innocuous Churton Park, and the dark secrets within their beige McMansion are about to be revealed when a carload of criminals seek refuge from the law.
Grace-Smith says she worked hard to find places in the story for scares.
"Hopefully it will have the audience jump. We did quite a lot of finding interesting ways to kill people. The producers helped in this sense. They're boys, they know action."
When Kapi-Mana News spoke with Grace-Smith, a classification for Fresh Meat was still forthcoming. She said producers had been hoping for an R13 rating, as teenage boys were considered the prime audience.
Grace-Smith says she threw a lot of ideas at her teenage son to see if he found them funny.
"I think if you have a bent towards something, you hold on to it regardless of age.
"I hope it will appeal to adults too, but you possibly wouldn't take your grandmother to it."
It will need to appeal to adults - the picture has been classed R16 Restricted, meaning no movie- goer without ID showing they're 16 or over will gain entry.
Fresh Meat opens nationwide this Thursday.