Film Friday : Mr Wrong

mr_wrong Poster, Mr Wrong (1985), directed by Gaylene Preston. Image: NZ Film Commission

Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated a new blogging project — Film Friday.

I love cinema, so how could I not join in?

Mr Wrong is the film that I’ve seen more times than any other — by quite a large margin.

The reason is that it’s one of two New Zealand films about which I wrote my Masters’ thesis. The other was Trial Run, and while I’ve clocked up the hours watching that as well, I confess I never enjoyed it as much.


It’s March 1986, and I’ve already wasted a year of my enrollment in a MA (not to mention a year’s worth of bursary) trying to find something (anything) interesting in the research topic I’ve somehow landed myself with.

To help pay the bills, I’ve managed to create a nice little gig writing and producing a training film for my department. I also enrol in a Film Studies paper taught by the pioneer of academic film study in New Zealand — Professor Roger Horrocks.

As it becomes increasingly clear that I won’t ever complete the planned research into The World’s Most Boring Thesis Topic Ever — friends rally to help me cobble together a new research proposal. We go back to the beginning. What am interested in? Duh: film!

Conveniently for me, two New Zealand made films offer up a perfect topic. Or as I wrote in my thesis introduction:

In 1984, the final year of the current New Zealand film boom, two unusual films were completed. MR WRONG, directed by Gaylene Preston … and TRIAL RUN, directed by Melanie Read have the triple distinction of being New Zealand films made by and about women, and of declaring themselves feminist films. Further, both operate within, and on, the thriller genre.

Mr Wrong was adapted from a short story by Elizabeth Jane Howard. It is about Meg, a young woman who buys a MK II Jaguar car only to discover it is haunted. Without resorting to depictions of violence and gore, the film contains several scenes that are truly terrifying. Indeed, over thirty years after I first saw it, I still get goose pimples remembering the scene where Meg thinks she’s escaped from the bad guy only to find …

I guess there’s no need to spell it out.

But what I do want to emphasize is that while Meg and another female character are victims of male aggression, the audience is never invited to revel in their fear. And in the end, the women triumph — which doesn’t happen in the original short story.

When I interviewed her for my thesis, director Gaylene Preston acknowledged the influence of Alfred Hitchcock in the way she shot several scenes to increase their dramatic tension — mentioning Hitchcock’s line that “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

In the process of writing the thesis, I watched Mr Wrong over 20 times. Afterwards, I did wonder if I’d ever be able to sit through it again.

I have. It’s that good.

You can watch the NZ Film Commission’s trailer here.

Or the trailer for the film’s American release (as Dark of the Night), on Gaylene Preston’s website here.

And you can find out more about #filmfriday by visiting Sarah‘s or Darren’s blog.




17 thoughts on “Film Friday : Mr Wrong

  1. I found Hitchcock’s statement to be interesting and, I think, true. I also think that if there weren’t spooky/scary music in many movies, the fright factor would be negligible. One of the scariest movies I remember is “Wait Until Dark”, with Audrey Hepburn. Near the end, something unexpected happens when you think you can relax. I saw male college students jump out of their seats and the girl next to me grab the guy in front of her and actually tore his shirt. Fortunately, it was someone we knew. 🙂


    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you are right about music.
      And I’ve had the same experience. The first time I saw Mr Wrong was with a couple of friends. At one particular scene we all grabbed each other in fright. Pretty much everyone else in the cinema did the same thing. It was first screening and the director was there to witness our reactions.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I admit I haven’t seen both of the movies yet but now that I’ve read about Mr Wrong here (and know that it’s your thesis subject 😉 ) I want to!! I’m a terrible jumper though – my best jump in a cinema was in Jurassic Park when that T-Rex snapped after her leg! 😉 I was probably up to one meter in the air! 😂 So wonderful that you’re joining Darren and me in this challenge and looking very much forward to your next entries!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m really conscious that some of the movies I love and want to write about will be unfamiliar to most people, but I’m really proud of the New Zealand film industry and hopefully at least the trailers will be available to watch if readers are interested.
      Gaylene Preston’s website does have a page where you can rent or buy her movies, but I’m not sure if that is only in New Zealand.
      I usually avoid films that are likely to scare me because I am such a jumper.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I tried watching the trailer but for unknown reasons to me it wouldn’t load up. 😯 I’m hoping our public libraries have a copy, they’re exceptionally good at this kind of thing. The NZ film industry is definitely something to be proud of, and not just because of Peter Jackson’s success with LOTR. I’ve watched a couple in recent years and always liked them a lot even if the subject was a sad one most of the time. Now that you’ve mentioned I’m realising that I don’t really feel the same about the German film industry although there a few good ones.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s a nuisance about the trailer 🙁
          It’s funny that I don’t really think of LOTR (or Peter Jackson these days) as being part of the NZ film industry. LOTR got a lot of NZ government money because it was meant to boost tourism, but it also led to a major change in labour laws — lobbied for by the Hollywood producers — which has been terrible for people who work in the film industry.
          And it’s interesting that you mention sad movies. I sometimes feel that we only tell the sad, tragic and dark stories. Something to explore in my Film Friday posts 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Not being a film buff, I hadn’t seen these movies, nor the others you mention. Might give the trailers a look, just to see how they’re handled. But you’re very right about the scary music. I was watching one tv show last weekend and kept thinking, this music is anticipating trouble. Wonder what it’ll be. (It wasn’t Hitchcock-thrilling!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had to click out of the excerpt during the rain scene when the man got in next her in the car. Felt myself getting nervous hehe. But I’m glad you wrote that the women triumph in the end. Happy to learn more about you and your background with film!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can understand that. It preys on our worst fears as women. The film is really powerful because it shows vulnerable women saving themselves — rather than waiting for the “white knight” to rescue us from the dark one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mr Wrong sounds like I would love it! Thank you so much for bringing your knowledge to this series Su – I love finding new movies and music to enjoy, so the more unfamiliar the better!
    When reading the synopsis it made me think of an old Aussie movie called ‘Patrick’, about a guy in a coma stalking his nurse telekinetically I think. Must look that up as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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