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Every Friday and Saturday night, Huia Apiata gets paid to frighten willing punters as a chainsaw-wielding clown at the infamous horror attraction Spookers.

Over the past five years he's terrified thousands.

Now the theatrics of this Te Wānanga o Aotearoa performing arts tauira have been captured in a new eponymous documentary about his special place of employment.

"When I first started working here, I was scared of clowns but now, I've become one," he laughs.

"I've always had a passion for entertainment, anything to do with being on stage really, from performing to technology, costumes and make up. I've always wanted to do performing arts."

Spookers, the documentary, takes a look behind the blood curdling scenes, only to discover Huia, as a psychopathic clown actually belongs to a charming close-knit whānau of ghastly ghouls and zombie brides.

"It's definitely my home away from home," the 22-year-old says. But with that comes some haunted history that none of them can ignore.

Located in the disused nurses' hostel of a former South Auckland psychiatric hospital, the complex is renowned for its existing paranormal activity.

By mixing actor interviews with character backstories and gory performance footage, the film touches on this history, connecting it with mental health and how it came to be the only theme park of its kind in the southern hemisphere, in 2005.

A highlight for Huia, as one of the dozen cast members featured in the movie directed by Florian Habicht, was being hosted by the Sydney Film Festival last month as a Spookers' representative, when it premiered in Australia during its international circuit.

"I'd never been to anything like that before, it was an amazing experience. I met some of the most talented people in the world," Huia says.

To see first-hand the passion and love for film making and story-telling has further encouraged him to continue pursuing an acting career.

Huia first heard about the Certificate in Māori Performing Arts Maori Theatre programme at TWoA through his mum, a Social Services tauira, and enrolled last year. 

"I liked the indigenous aspect of adding traditional Kapa Haka and Mau Rākau with modern-day theatre, that really appealed to me," he says.

Through the level 4 programme, the Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahunungu artist also got the chance to work on the TV series Ring Inz as well as take part in the Tāmaki Makaurau kapa haka regionals, as a pre-qualifier for Te Matatini.

Now he's in his second year of study at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, building on this foundation through a Kāwai Raupapa programme in kapa haka.

"This course has taken me to another level," he says.

"Yes I'm learning traditional methods but I'm also learning more about stage presence and getting your message across. It's been cool to be able to use the things that I've been taught here, at work.  I've seen myself develop and it's been a really cool experience."

Spookers screens during the New Zealand International Film Festival at the Civic Theatre in Auckland on July 22 and 26.



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Published On: July 18, 2017

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