4. Heavenly Creatures (1994)
“It’s the intensity of the friendship that concerns me,” warns a disturbed father in Heavenly Creatures. With hindsight, he has every right to be worried. The all-consuming relationship between his daughter Juliet (a pre-Titanic Kate Winslet) and Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) is, as he says, unwholesome, unhealthy and wayward. But not for the homophobic reason he implies. Before shooting to fame with The Lord of the Rings franchise, Peter Jackson directed this unsettling film based on the 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case, in which the two teenagers brutally bludgeoned Pauline’s mother to death. Heavenly Creatures begins with this killing and works back from there, unravelling the circumstances that led to it. Suffocated by their buttoned-up New Zealand girls’ school, Juliet and Pauline form a friendship that soon verges on obsessive. They spend every waking minute together, making shrines to their anointed saints and prancing around forests half-naked belting out Mario Lanza songs. The girls live in an invented fantasy kingdom – visually rendered through swashbuckling knights and three-foot butterflies – where actions have no consequence. Heavenly Creatures poses the uneasy question: what should you do if your kindred spirit brings out the worst in you?