Bad Taste [DVD]
Screenplay : Peter Jackson
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1987
Stars : Terry Potter (Ozzy), Pete O'Herne (Barry), Craig Smith (Giles), Mike Minett (Frank), Peter Jackson (Derek / Robert), Doug Wren (Alien Leader)
Not since John Waters' Mondo Trasho (1970) has a movie's title been more appropriate to its subject matter than Peter Jackson's Bad Taste. Although he is now known as the man to whom New Line has entrusted $300 million to produce the much-anticipated The Lord of the Rings trilogy, just over a decade ago Jackson was a complete unknown New Zealander who wanted to get into the movie business doing special effects, but found that the only way he could control his FX work was to write and direct movies himself.
Bad Taste was Jackson's first movie, and what a debut it was. The movie was financed almost entirely by himself and shot on weekends with a bunch of his friends in his native New Zealand over a four-year period. The New Zealand Film Commission was so impressed with his initial work that it agreed to finish financing the project, which brought the final budget to some $400,000. Jackson was truly a one-man show here: He wrote, produced, directed, edited, and acted in the movie, as well as designed all of the splatter effects and various rubber masks and prosthetic limbs.
Bad Taste is really nothing more than a glamorized 16mm home movie, evidenced by the end credits, which list Jackson's "Mum and Dad" as his assistants. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable, if not particularly original, piece of trash cinema. Because Jackson was working with amateur actors and a pinched budget, he knew the only way he could stand out was to be as funny as possible by being as gross as possible. Therefore, he adopted a generic, alien-invasion story as the framework for staging giddy, nausea-inducing gag sights of squirting blood, vomiting, dismemberment, disembowelments, and more. None of it can be (or should be) taken seriously, and the movie comes off as appropriately silly and goofy.
The aliens in Bad Taste have come to Earth in search of human flesh, which is apparently their new choice for fast-food cuisine (the name of their chain is "Crumb's Crunchy Delights"). For space-travelling aliens, they are humorously unsophisticated when it comes to technology—they store the chopped up body parts in cardboard boxes and they have to use human machine guns to defend themselves. Not to mention, they're quite stupid. No, scratch that: They're very stupid. The aliens spend most of the movie in the guise of humans, but they act more like zombies from a George A. Romero film, wandering about aimlessly. The only one with any brains is the leader, played with zany relish by Doug Wren.
Most of the improvised plot involves the aliens battling a group of government paramilitary fighters who look like a group of average Joe's (which, of course, they are). Jackson casts himself as the geekiest of the bunch, a buck-toothed goofball named Derek who splits his head open early in the movie and spends the rest of the time trying to keep his brain matter from falling out. If that sounds disgusting, it is. If it sounds funny, it's that, too.
All of the humor in Bad Taste is, well, in bad taste. Of course, that's the point. And, although it's not nearly as incendiary or finely tuned as the humor in Jackson's later horror-comedies, Meet the Feebles (1989) and Braindead (aka Dead-Alive) (1992), it still bears his unique trademarks. Bad Taste shows Jackson in his earliest stages as an emerging filmmaker, where he is obviously just learning the ropes. His innate talent is readily apparent, though, as he pulls off some neat camera tricks and gets as much as he can out of a shoestring budget. The movie has a quick, jaunty rhythm, and Jackson gives it a kinetic punch that belies its cheapness.
I'm not necessarily saying that Bad Taste is a good movie, but considering its origins, I doubt anyone could do better. Although it has become a cult hit around the world, in the end I find it most interesting in the context of Jackson's later efforts, including the terrifically intense drama Heavenly Creatures (1994). It's rare that we get to view the work of a gifted filmmaker when he was still in his awkward stage, but that's exactly what we get here. Goofy, bloody, and raucous, Bad Taste is exactly what the title claims it to be and nothing more.
|Bad Taste DVD|
|Bad Taste is also available from Anchor Bay in a limited-edition tin (limited to 50,000) that includes a second disc with the 25-minute featurette Good Taste Made Bad Taste and a 16-page booklet (SRP: $39.98).|
|Audio|| Dolby Digital EX 6.1 surround|
DTS ES 6.1 surround
Dolby 2.0 surround
|Supplements|| Original theatrical trailer|
Peter Jackson biography
|Distributor||Anchor Bay Entertainment|
|Release Date||November 20, 2001|
|Presented in a new, THX-certified widescreen (1.66:1) anamorphic transfer, Bad Taste looks as good as it's ever going to look. As it was originally shot in 16mm, there is a significant amount of grain present in the image, especially in the darker portions of the frame. It is also apparent that different film stocks were used during the movie's four-year production, as some sequences are notably grainier than others. The work that has gone into this transfer is quite apparent, though, as the image is relatively sharp and clean, free of any dirt or artifacts. Colors are bright and well-saturated, which plays into the movie's goofy comic-book aesthetic.|
|This may be an example of joyous overkill, as Anchor Bay has remixed the original monaural soundtrack into both Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES 6.1-channel surround. This is a bit like souping up a go-cart and trying to pass it off as a Porsche, but you can't fault the final product for being as good as it possible can be. The effectiveness of the remix is as limited as any remixing of a one-channel soundtrack into multiple channels. Thankfully, the engineers didn't try to force it too much, so there isn't much that sounds overly gimmicky. The cheesy hard-rock musical score is nicely expanded, and Jackson's gooey, drippy, splattery sound effects never sounded quite so gross.|
|The single-disc edition of Bad Taste contains the movie's original theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen and a biography of Peter Jackson. For those interested in the packaging, Anchor Bay has gone to the added effort to print two versions of the cover art on the front and back of the reversible slip cover, one with the alien giving the two-fingered peace sign (for display in conservative-minded video stores) and one with him giving the more appropriate one-finger salute.|
Copyright © 1998, 2001 James Kendrick