- Oct 31, 1961
- Pukerua Bay, New Zealand
Originally a master of gross-out splatter films, New Zealand director Peter Jackson is the man behind some of the goriest footage ever captured on celluloid. He is also one of the few horror directors to have earned widespread mainstream critical respect, thanks to his direction of the ambitious Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the acclaimed Heavenly… More Bio:
Originally a master of gross-out splatter films, New Zealand director Peter Jackson is the man behind some of the goriest footage ever captured on celluloid. He is also one of the few horror directors to have earned widespread mainstream critical respect, thanks to his direction of the ambitious Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the acclaimed Heavenly Creatures (1995), a terrifying, exuberant account of a real-life murder that scandalized 1950s New Zealand society.
Born in Wellington on October 31, 1961, Jackson was raised in Pukerua Bay, a small town just west of Wellington. An only child, he grew up nurturing a vivid imagination, something that was aided immeasurably when his parents received an 8 mm camera on Christmas Day, 1969. Jackson duly got his hands on the camera, and, with the complicity of a few school friends, he soon began making his own movies. He continued making movies after getting a job with a local newspaper, the salary of which allowed him to buy his own 16 mm camera.
In 1983, the fledgling director filmed a ten-minute short called Roast of the Day, which was eventually expanded into his feature-length debut, Bad Taste (1987). Made over the course of four years with a minimal budget and the collaboration of a group of willing friends, the film -- which eventually secured some degree of funding from a sympathetic member of the New Zealand Film Commission -- was a delightfully repulsive romp that truly lived up to its title. An alien horror comedy that offered up almost unprecedented servings of blood, gore, dismembered anatomy, and a degree of cannibalism not seen since the Donner Party's last family outing, Bad Taste became, surprisingly enough, an instant cult classic.
Jackson's next endeavor, 1989's Meet the Feebles, encountered roughly the same fate as his directorial debut. Best described as "The Muppet Show on crack," the film was the steadfastly disgusting, bodily fluid-soaked tale of a group of puppets who perform on a television variety show called "The Fabulous Feebles Variety Hour." Featuring all sorts of graphic debauchery and twisted violence, Meet the Feebles was undeniably a love-it-or-hate-it experience, and it went on to develop a devoted cult following. It didn't actually gain a theatrical release in the United States until 1995; in the meantime, Jackson continued on his trajectory of tastelessness with Dead Alive (1992). Dubbed as "the goriest fright film of all time" by the New York Daily News, the film easily outdid all of Jackson's previous efforts in terms of the sheer volume of blood and the number of severed limbs, and it summarily earned a place in the hearts of gore aficionados everywhere.
With his gore credibility then established beyond the shadow of a doubt, Jackson next went in a completely different direction, writing (with longtime collaborator and companion Frances Walsh) and directing Heavenly Creatures (1994). Based upon the real-life case of Juliet Hulme (played by Kate Winslet) and Pauline Parker (played by Melanie Lynskey), schoolgirl friends who murdered Pauline's mother, the film employed many of Jackson's signature flourishes, such as frenetic camerawork and dark, violent humor. Unlike the director's previous work, however, it was surprisingly humane, managing to make the two girls real, sympathetic characters without condemning or apologizing for their actions. Heavenly Creatures won a number of international honors, including the Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion and a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for Jackson and Walsh. The film also launched the career of Kate Winslet, who in a few years time would become known as one of the leading actresses of her generation.
Jackson followed up Heavenly Creatures with a return to his native territory of the horror comedy. Unfortunately, The Frighteners (1996), which starred Michael J. Fox as an investigator of the supernatural, was as big a disapp
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