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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Jackson's captivating murder story with no villains
For those who wondered how the director of "Bad Taste" and "Brain Dead" got to direct "The Lord of the Rings," this 1994 film from director Peter Jackson supplies the answer. In 1954 two teenage girls brutally murdered one of the their mothers in what must be the most sensational murder in New Zealand history. "Heavenly Creatures" tells the strange story of these two...
Published on 11 Dec 2003 by Lawrance M. Bernabo

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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No Subtitles
Great film and very good acting . But caution for this blu-ray edition: IT HAS NO SUBTITLES. It's really a shame and a pity that they keep releasing blu-rays with no subtitles.
Published on 21 Dec 2011 by Luis Amaral


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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Jackson's captivating murder story with no villains, 11 Dec 2003
By 
Lawrance M. Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
For those who wondered how the director of "Bad Taste" and "Brain Dead" got to direct "The Lord of the Rings," this 1994 film from director Peter Jackson supplies the answer. In 1954 two teenage girls brutally murdered one of the their mothers in what must be the most sensational murder in New Zealand history. "Heavenly Creatures" tells the strange story of these two girls and their unique relationship. If you think this is just a reality based splatter flick, then you are going to be much more than surprised and impressed by what Jackson has accomplished.
Pauline Rieper (Melanie Lynskey) is a simple and rather dull young girl who is totally dazzled when Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) enters her life. Juliet is impressed as well, because Pauline has a scar on her leg from an operation. Juliet declares that: "All the best people have had chest and bone disease! It's all frightfully romantic!" Eventually both the romance and the frightfullness of it all reaches a tragic conclusion. In their all consuming friendship Juliet and Pauline create a "Fourth World," better than heaven (because it has no Christians), inhabited by the clay figures they have fashioned to represents their friends and where the music of Mario Lanza, the greatest tenor on earth, is always in the air.
Jackson brings this fantasy world alive, which allows him to explore the pivotal theme of juxtaposition throughout the film. This comes into play most notably at the beginning and ending of "Heavenly Clouds." Jackson begins with a 1950s newsreel about Christchurch, New Zealand, which is interrupted by the appearance of the two screaming and bloodied girls, thereby symbolizing the way this sensational case shocked the nation. Even more effective is the film's conclusion, where the murder is inter-cut with what the girls think will happen if they do not find this way of saving themselves.
With any film based on historical events there are omissions, alterations, substitutions, and the like, and "Heavenly Creatures" is no different. On the plus side of the ledger Jackson attempted an almost morbid verisimilitude. Almost all of the locations used for filming were the real locations where events occurred, including the tea shop where Honora Parker ate her last meal, which was torn down a few days after the shooting ended. However, the cast and crew found the actual murder scene uncomfortable and moved further down the path. All of the journal voice-overs come directly from Pauline's diary, as are the characters in the girls' make-believe world. However, since the two filled up fifteen notebooks and hundreds of letters devoted to their fantasies, the movie actually underplays these elements.
However, having familiarized myself somewhat with the actual "facts" of the case, and the recollections of the woman one of the girls grew up to be, the key point of dispute is the motive. But if Jackson is guilty of becoming fixated on the idea that these two young girl committed a murder because they could not bear to be separated and have their fantasy world unravel, then he can be hardly faulted for finding that a fascinating interpretation of the evidence (the girls never testified or were examined in court, but Pauline's diary was seen as providing all the answers). More importantly, Jackson does not seem guilty of taking liberties, merely with offering a valid interpretation of the evidence. For example, the murder sequence greatly reduces the number of blows, but the effect is still horrific, so it seems trivial to complain about any inaccuracy.
From an artistic standpoint his interpretation is more than justified, especially at the end. In addition to the information we receive between the final scene and the closing credits that tells what happened to Pauline and Juliet, Marzio Lanza sings "You'll Never Walk Alone," which is as perfect a choice of a song to play at the end of a film as you will ever hear, forcefully underscoring the film's thesis. Jackson says this is "a murder story about love, a murder story with no villains," and it is hard to argue with this idea after watching his film.
"Heavenly Creatures" received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Jackson and Frances Walsh. The film won every award for which it was nominated in the New Zealand Film and TV Awards, including Best Actress for Lynskey and Best Foreign Performer for Winslet (both of whom were perfectly suited for those roles), and earned film festival awards in Venice and Toronto. This is a striking and unforgettable film, both creative and thoughtful. Those who are drawn to it because it was directed by Peter Jackson might be shocked by the subject matter, but they will not be disappointed with the results.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Jackson's captivating murder story with no villains, 10 Mar 2005
By 
Lawrance M. Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
For those who wondered how the director of "Bad Taste" and "Brain Dead" got to direct "The Lord of the Rings," this 1994 film from director Peter Jackson supplies the answer. In 1954 two teenage girls brutally murdered one of the their mothers in what must be the most sensational murder in New Zealand history. "Heavenly Creatures" tells the strange story of these two girls and their unique relationship. If you think this is just a reality based splatter flick, then you are going to be much more than surprised and impressed by what Jackson has accomplished.
Pauline Rieper (Melanie Lynskey) is a simple and rather dull young girl who is totally dazzled when Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) enters her life. Juliet is impressed as well, because Pauline has a scar on her leg from an operation. Juliet declares that: "All the best people have had chest and bone disease! It's all frightfully romantic!" Eventually both the romance and the frightfullness of it all reaches a tragic conclusion. In their all consuming friendship Juliet and Pauline create a "Fourth World," better than heaven (because it has no Christians), inhabited by the clay figures they have fashioned to represents their friends and where the music of Mario Lanza, the greatest tenor on earth, is always in the air.
Jackson brings this fantasy world alive, which allows him to explore the pivotal theme of juxtaposition throughout the film. This comes into play most notably at the beginning and ending of "Heavenly Clouds." Jackson begins with a 1950s newsreel about Christchurch, New Zealand, which is interrupted by the appearance of the two screaming and bloodied girls, thereby symbolizing the way this sensational case shocked the nation. Even more effective is the film's conclusion, where the murder is inter-cut with what the girls think will happen if they do not find this way of saving themselves.
With any film based on historical events there are omissions, alterations, substitutions, and the like, and "Heavenly Creatures" is no different. On the plus side of the ledger Jackson attempted an almost morbid verisimilitude. Almost all of the locations used for filming were the real locations where events occurred, including the tea shop where Honora Parker ate her last meal, which was torn down a few days after the shooting ended. However, the cast and crew found the actual murder scene uncomfortable and moved further down the path. All of the journal voice-overs come directly from Pauline's diary, as are the characters in the girls' make-believe world. However, since the two filled up fifteen notebooks and hundreds of letters devoted to their fantasies, the movie actually underplays these elements.
However, having familiarized myself somewhat with the actual "facts" of the case, and the recollections of the woman one of the girls grew up to be, the key point of dispute is the motive. But if Jackson is guilty of becoming fixated on the idea that these two young girl committed a murder because they could not bear to be separated and have their fantasy world unravel, then he can be hardly faulted for finding that a fascinating interpretation of the evidence (the girls never testified or were examined in court, but Pauline's diary was seen as providing all the answers). More importantly, Jackson does not seem guilty of taking liberties, merely with offering a valid interpretation of the evidence. For example, the murder sequence greatly reduces the number of blows, but the effect is still horrific, so it seems trivial to complain about any inaccuracy.
From an artistic standpoint his interpretation is more than justified, especially at the end. In addition to the information we receive between the final scene and the closing credits that tells what happened to Pauline and Juliet, Marzio Lanza sings "You'll Never Walk Alone," which is as perfect a choice of a song to play at the end of a film as you will ever hear, forcefully underscoring the film's thesis. Jackson says this is "a murder story about love, a murder story with no villains," and it is hard to argue with this idea after watching his film.
"Heavenly Creatures" received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Jackson and Frances Walsh. The film won every award for which it was nominated in the New Zealand Film and TV Awards, including Best Actress for Lynskey and Best Foreign Performer for Winslet (both of whom were perfectly suited for those roles), and earned film festival awards in Venice and Toronto. This is a striking and unforgettable film, both creative and thoughtful. Those who are drawn to it because it was directed by Peter Jackson might be shocked by the subject matter, but they will not be disappointed with the results.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and brilliant, 15 May 2002
By A Customer
Director Peter Jackson, in time, may well become best known for his 'Lord Of The Rings' trilogy- a generic departure to say the least from 'Bad Taste' (1987), 'Braindead' (1992), and this- 'Heavenly Creatures' (1994)- his film based on the true story of two girls' intense friendship in 1950s New Zealand that culminates in murder. The two leads, (here) both new to the screen- particularly Melanie Lynskey as Pauline Parker- are remarkable as the two teenagers whose lives are so frequently merely blurred versions of reality. Visually arresting. Psychologically, very, very, frightening. Compelling and brilliant.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind twisting yet amazing, 10 April 2002
By A Customer
the only film to date that i have seen that is completly twisted and bizare to say the least, yet at the same time tells a deep story of love, friendship and commitment to each other,jam pack with emotions that will have you laughing,crying and absolutely cobsmacked all at the same time well worth watching just to see what i mean
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 2 July 2003
Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures" is a haunting cinematic masterpiece that will surely leave you shaken and wonderfully unsettled.
It follows, with riviting complexity, the deepening relationship between two young girls who find a passion in music and theatre, art and acting; bound together in how different they are from other girls.
Together, they create a fantasy world based on the clay models that they both love to build, a world that only they may enter together. A world that shields them, that eventually severs them from their families - and their sanity - causing them to eventually murder one of their mothers who threatens that they shall be separated.
Set in the 50's, this beautifully crafted film (including absolutely stunning performances from Kate Winslett and Melanie Lynskey, typically quirky early filmogrophy from Peter Jackson, plus a great script, beautiful soundtrack and New Zealand scenery) is closely based on the true story that made the headlines so long ago.
As a viewer, it is infinitely difficult to describe the intense emotions that take place during and after watching this great film; the end of childlike innocence, obsession with beauty, and homosexuality (which, in the 50's was still controversial and very much taboo) all play as major themes of the film.
In short, this film is be one of those that will leave you shocked at some scenes, nervously laughing at others, yet disturbed and brought to tears by the very moving finish.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No Subtitles, 21 Dec 2011
By 
Luis Amaral (Portugal) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Great film and very good acting . But caution for this blu-ray edition: IT HAS NO SUBTITLES. It's really a shame and a pity that they keep releasing blu-rays with no subtitles.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... A fabulously written, directed and acted movie ..., 15 Jan 2003
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A fabulously written, directed and acted movie, to say nothing of production values. A film that sucks you into the dreamy, compelling world of the girls, without judging the main protagonists and without falling into over-simplifying traps (e.g by showing bad parents, which would then explain how the girls couldn't help acting the way they did). Both sets of parents are portrayed lucidly and sympathetically (even Juliet's tender but neglectful parents), as is the friendship between Pauline and Juliet. That makes the murder at the end all the more disturbing, as though we, the viewer, were in some way accomplices after the fact - much in the same way as Peter Jackson tempts us with the Ring of Power in the ongoing Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Perhaps what does get a rough ride (rightly so) is stifling 1950s Christchurch, with its repressed sexuality and shame-based culture, but the filmmakers haven't over-egged the pudding.
Different from all other Peter Jackson movies, yet it bears his stamp (and that of Fran Walsh, Richard Taylor - who gets a good run at creating the girls' invented world - Grant Major, et al.) in terms of quality, love of film and guts at showing its subject-matter to the very edge. The overlaying of the murder scene with the imagined parting of the girls was especially effective, as were all the girls' interactions with the models ("the Saints") out of their fantasyland, cutting seamlessly to interaction between the two girls, or between them and the real world. The film shows, delicately, often wittily, but without concessions, the increasing level of violence and eroticism in their created life spilling over into their "real" lives.
Of the actors, I would single out Kate Winslet (in a first starring role) and Melanie Linskey, who bring spirit and sexual tension to the roles of Juliet and Pauline. Sarah Pierse as Pauline's tired, hard-working, loving mother, who is trapped in her own shame and does not understand her daughter's enthrallment with another girl, breaks your heart.
I can't say enough about Heavenly Creatures, and I look forward to seeing it many times...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing beautifully acted masterpiece, 6 Feb 2002
By A Customer
I rememeber seeing the last half hour of this film when I was very young . . . too young to watch it actually, and it shook me for years. I found it awful how anyone could commit such a crime. I had seen many good films by then, but something made me seem so interested in this. Watching it now, it's one of the few films that leaves me totally speechless and I feel completely gobsmakced at the end and I don't think theres anyone who wouuldn't have a tear in their eye on the very last scene, one of the most compelling and pyschologically haunting scenes I've seen. I don't think it's everyones type of film, to be honest. I can't see anyone else in my family liking it, but the good thing about the film is that, you can't label it as "thriller" or "teen drama" or "fantasy" anything else, because it's got a bit of everything. It starts off a light hearted story about two young girls and develops into something much more. I love it. It will remain one of my favourite films forever. The acting was amazing and the screams at the end really are something no one could ever forget.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this film!!., 12 July 2011
By 
Ms. C. A. Dawson "carrie" (england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Heavenly Creatures is a sinister, romantic and heart-warming film (I do not know if i am odd to finding this film romantic).It is one of my top 5 films I do generally like Peter Jackson films from Brain Dead to lord of the rings (possibly not King Kong) but Heavenly Creatures is one on its own, with a good story line, well executed characters and a generally well thought out film that could have been a bit of a channel 5 movie if not done in such a beautiful way. You also see Cameo appearances from familiar actors from brain dead. Will not describe the film as it has been described to death. The music in it is enchanting, gripping and unlike many films appropriate in context and I have to say Mario Lanza is now on my playlist. Brilliant film and music!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How can these heavenly creatures be real?, 29 April 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
"How can these heavenly creatures be real?" asks one of the characters in of "Heavenly Creatures," the exquisite and horrifying docudrama of a shocking, real-life murder. Famed director Peter Jackson uses spectacular special effects and great actors to show us how these heavenly creatures became monsters.

In 1952, Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) is a loner at her proper New Zealand school, until the day Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) arrives -- an intelligent, witty, daring girl who appeals to Pauline. Soon the two of them are nearly inseparable; even Juliet's four month stint in the hospital doesn't separate the girls through their letters and shared fantasies.

But soon their parents becomes concerned that their close friendship is "unhealthy." It is, just not in the way he thinks. The two girls' emotional attachment has turned incredibly intense: they barely think of anyone but each other, and the fantasy stories begin to seep into reality. Now Juliet is being sent to South Africa, and there is no telling when she will see Pauline again. Unless they do something about their parents so that they can stay together... such as murder.

Peter Jackson starts the movie by emphasizing what a beautiful, peaceful country (via a cheesy 1950s documentary) New Zealand is. But beauty is not everything -- fairy tales can become nightmares. Jackson doesn't just show the audience what the two girls did, but showed why they did it. Even then, he doesn't make excuses.

At first the movie seems almost whimsical, with fairy tale figures coming to life, beautiful woodlands, and hillsides transforming into blooming gardens. Nobody except Peter Jackson could have pulled off the idea of including living clay figurines or four-foot-wide butterflies. Somehow it not only works, but adds to the surreality of the story.

But as the girls go deeper into infatuated madness, Jackson warps the whimsical world around them. Settings get darker and more distorted, and the line between fantasy and reality is completely wiped out. The scripting keeps that creepiness going ("Our main idea for the day was to murder Mother"), as do Richard Taylor's handling of CGI and prosthetics. (How DID they do the zoom through a sand castle?)

But the movie really centers around Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet, and these two carry the movie beautifully. Lynskey can switch in an instant from sullenness to smiles, naive girl to murderous woman. And the luminous Kate Winslet plays the devil-may-care Juliet, whose vivacity and charm overrule any of Pauline's reservations. "It's everyone else who's bonkers!" she says gleefully when Pauline casts doubt on her own sanity.

The most terrifying horror is the real kind -- the kind that is in the human heart. With its brilliant direction and equally good acting, "Heavenly Creatures" is destined to be a modern classic.
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