Monday, December 19, 2005

Bad Taste (1987)


Ten years ago, if you had told me that Peter Jackson was going to direct The Lord of the Rings, I would probably bet you a quarter-ounce that it would feature a scene where Aragorn hacks through a horde of orcs that would require a tanker-truck worth of stage blood and latex limbs and that the Frodo would find out at the end that Sauron's Ring of Power was actually a cock-ring. If you told me he was doing a remake of King Kong, I would have bet that it would have Fay Wray doing something sexual to a huge mutant banana. If you told me he was going to win an Academy Award, I would have said, "Good, because he was cheated out of one for Dead Alive!"

The Peter Jackson of ten years ago was the director of supremely tasteless, grindhouse splattercore. When they were doing a midnight showing of Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, and Dead Alive downtown, you and your movie-geek friends scored a bale of marijuana and stayed up all night laughing like sadistic retards.

Now Peter Jackson is considered the new Spielberg. I don't begrudge him his success like some bitter hipster mumbling about how "he was so much better when he was UNDERGROUND." He did kick-ass job on Lord of the Rings, and though I have not yet seen it as of this writing, I'm sure King Kong will be extremely entertaining as well. I giggle at the notion that some parent will put Meet the Feebles into their Netflix queue for their children, thinking it will in anyway resemble Jackson's current output.

Compared to the Weta-ized digital slickness of his current works, Bad Taste feels and looks like student film. Shot over the course of four years worth of weekends, Bad Taste begins with the New Zealand town of Kaihoro having been wiped out by an extra-terrestrial invaders. The government sends in the mullet sporting, Camaro driving Astro-Investigation and Defense Service (AIDS...huh-huh...huh-huh...) to check the situation out and find the town's only inhabitants to be "aliens" who happen to look like humans, and act like slightly more dextrous cousins of zombies. Brain splattering action ensues, and the gore effects hold their own with the likes of Dawn of the Dead, despite the fact that the entire budget of Bad Taste probably wouldn't cover one day's worth of catering on King Kong. Bad Taste particularly has a obsession with brains; the best effect being when Derek (who is inexplicably still alive after a long fall off a cliff) stuffs his own gray matter back into his skull and ties the open flap shut with a belt.

Despite having no money, the editing in Bad Taste is extremely good. Just consider the scene in the beginning where insane scientist Derek (played by Peter Jackson) is torturing the captured alien Robert (also played by Peter Jackson.) There is no indication of a double being used in this sequence. For years I had no idea that it was Jackson playing both characters. Elsewhere similar tricks are used, like using the same four alien costumes (apparently they can shape-shift in and out of human form) for the shoot out in the end. Bad Taste always moves at a pretty good clip, so you don't have to dwell on any of the film's groaners for very long.

The aliens are part of an intergalactic fast-food company called Crumb's Crunchy Delights, who are looking to product test human flesh as the "new taste sensation" through the universe. Lord Crumb is particularly hilarious, that is if you get off on an old guy with a British patrician accent sneering "I am as eager as you to leave this *shitty* planet" (according to imdb.com, Lord Crumb is played by Doug Wren, but his voice is credited to a Peter Vere-Jones, so perhaps that is who I should be crediting for this.) Jackson also gives a good performance as the semi-retarded alien Robert, and even more so as the brain-damaged Derek. The director saves the best line in the movie for himself after Derek is squirted out of an alien's crotch, chainsaw first (insert deconstruction of Peter Jackson's obsession with matricide here.) The rest of the cast doesn't leave much of an impression, but are non-professional actors so that is to be forgiven.

Bad Taste is roughly an hour-and-a-half worth of blood-spurting, brain-splattering, vomit-drinking, sheep-exploding fun, yet it doesn't quite reach the manic heights of Dead Alive. Even though the gore effects are hilarious, the part that always cracks me up the most is the car with the cut-outs of the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles sitting in the front seat. Bad Taste is definetely a lo-fi production, but skillfully done with it's constraints, and worth showing to your mother if she asks "What else has Peter Jackson done?" if only for the look on her face afterward.

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