BAD TASTE, 1987
Directed by Peter Jackson
Cast: Terry Potter, Pete O’Herne, Craig Smith, Mike Minett, Doug Wren
Review by James Mansell
When an army of aliens arrive on a small New Zealand town and attempt to turn the entire population into the key ingredient for their intergalactic fast-food chain, a small group of men from the Astro-Investigation and Defense Service are sent to investigate. What ensues is a dangerous rescue mission, a full on assault on the alien’s head-quarters and a whole series of precarious situations.
When you hear the name Peter Jackson, one film, or three perhaps will spring to mind. The highest box-office grossing trilogy in the history of cinema, most number of Academy Awards won, equalled only by Ben-Hur and Titanic, and a faithful and unique adaptation rarely seen on the screen. Peter Jackson propelled himself into legendary director status with his version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘the Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, wowing cinema and fantasy goers alike for three Christmas’s in a row. A feat unimaginable until the New Zealander decided to tackle it.
But aside from his epic fantasy tale, you may also know him from his re-working of his childhood favourite ‘King Kong’, his Kate Winslet period piece ‘Heavenly Creatures’, his gore-drenched masterpiece ‘Braindead’ or even his story of depravity, debauchery and puppets in ‘Meet the Feebles’. But before all this, before any priests kicked ass for the lord, before any puppets played Russian roulette in Vietnam, a group of aliens landed on a small New Zealand town in what can only be described as timeless low-budget horror that Sam Raimi would be proud of.
When a distress call comes through from a small New Zealand town, ‘the boys’ are sent to the location to investigate the disturbance. Enter a gloriously graphic opening scene of an exploding head to the manic laughter of one of Peter Jackson’s two characters, Derek. Within 10 minutes, we’ve had a healthy dose of black humour, pseudo mysterious music and brains sprayed across the ground. The film is set up perfectly, aliens have landed, and Derek and his team are there to save the world from the extra-terrestrials wrong doing.
Things don’t begin to do totally as planned, as Derek, who has captured one of the aliens (interestingly enough, also played by Jackson) begins to torture it for information, the ‘inter-galactic wanker’ as Derek describes it. As its screams of pain emanate across the town, Derek is surrounded by them, resulting in dire consequences. Jackson’s directing comes through in waves in this scene, his timing is impeccable, and the effects (shooting through an alien’s stomach) are so inventive it only but makes you grin with excitement. How they shot a scene teetering on the edge of a cliff is beyond me, and a fight between two Peter Jackson’s is nothing short of breath-taking.
After a local town collector is kidnapped by the aliens, and there heinous scheme is revealed to ‘the boys’, an all out assault on the aliens ensues. Once the headquarters have been located, and a repulsive tasting session of sorts occurs for the one of the boys, Derek returns and an action-packed and blood-soaked gun fight follows that Sam Peckinpah would be proud of. Jackson’s home made prosthetics come to force during the finale of the film, as the aliens break out of their human bodies, and into their own form.
For cult, low-budget horror that has its tongue firmly in its cheek, this is one of the best ever made. And the climax is so hilarious and memorable; it makes you want to watch more of Peter Jackson before the world became aware of him. It is a pure and unadulterated rollercoaster through a young filmmaker’s love of horror, shot over 4 years and totally improvised; it is an achievement in low-budget filmmaking.
Bad Taste is an onslaught of do-it-yourself prosthetics made with enough ingenuity and precision to make it all work. Yes this is low-budget horror, and yes you can see the joins, but this is why we love it. This is low-budget greatness at its most simplistic and basic, but with a balls out attitude and no holds barred what more could you ask for?
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