Peter Jackson’s premiere film was this rude, crude and hilariously gross no-budget splatfest. It’s puerile, exploitive, stupid as shit, and (in my eyes at least) irresistible. BAD TASTE was made following several hundred shorts for a reported $11,000. Filmed on weekends with Jackson’s friends and family as cast and crewmembers, it went on to become a cult hit worldwide.
Jackson followed this triumph with the similarly-themed Muppet freak-out MEET THE FEEBLES and the “gore-omedy” BRAINDEAD/DEAD-ALIVE. Since then, as I’m sure you’re aware, he’s gone on to become one of the world’s top filmmakers with the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, the mega-budgeted KING KONG remake, and the Steven Spielberg produced LOVELY BONES. Obviously Peter Jackson has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a cash-strapped gorehound, but I still feel his most memorable work was accomplished back then.
The population of an entire New Zealand community has disappeared, apparently at the hands of invading space aliens in human form. A quartet of intrepid assassins is dispatched by the government to hunt down and exterminate the aliens. Among the assassins is the supremely dorky Derek, who captures an alien on a Cliff overlooking the town but gets a little overzealous in eliciting a confession…and ends up with his head smashed on the rocks below!
His colleagues’ luck isn’t much better. One of them is knocked out by an alien chef and put in a large pot with an apple stuck in his mouth. Apparently he and his friends are to be the main course in an interstellar fast food joint, as human flesh is the new taste craze sweeping the universe.
Derek, for his part, isn’t dead. He’s alive and kicking, even though his brains keep falling out of his head. He soldiers on, however—being a complete moron, Derek’s lack of brain matter is but a minor concern.
In his absence the other assassins storm the alien stronghold, a gaudy mansion wherein the aliens belch and drink puke. A large-scale splatter-thon ensues, with plenty of shooting, slicing and miscellaneous bloodletting—until the aliens finally decide to blast off into space, and Derek turns up with a chainsaw…
In many ways the youthful Peter Jackson of this film isn’t that far removed from the Hollywood veteran who directed THE LOVELY BONES. What both films have in their favor is an overwhelming sense of exuberance and invention. BAD TASTE, however, contains qualities the latter (and allegedly “better”) film doesn’t: it’s unpretentious and fun. Yes, it could certainly have done with a bit more in the way of a coherent narrative, but the film still manages to hold one’s interest to the end, and elicit plenty of yucks in the process.
From the ever-roving handheld camerawork to the noisy squishing sound made whenever someone bleeds, BAD TASTE is quite endearing in its comedic vileness. The gore effects aren’t even bad, considering they were accomplished with the most primitive means imaginable. Nor are the performances unmemorable, despite being delivered by Jackson’s pals rather than real actors (usually a strict non-no). Jackson also cast himself in the role of the Derek the Dweeb, and it must be said that he’s one of the film’s more memorable elements; as a performer Jackson is genuinely goofy and uninhibited, garnering plenty of laughs from his facial expressions alone.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS, KING KONG and THE LOVELY BONES may be the most imposing films of Jackson’s career, but for those desiring a taste of the early, unfettered Peter Jackson, BAD TASTE is definitely the film to see.
Director/Producer/Cinematographer: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Peter Jackson, Ken Hammon, Tony Hiles
Editing: Peter Jackson, Jamie Selkirk
Cast: Peter Jackson, Peter O’Herne, Mike Minett, Terry Potter, Craig Smith, Doug Wren