Bad Taste (1987)

Derek and his friends must investigate the missing people in a small village. Then they find out its human formed aliens that are really big headed monsters that used all the people in the small village into their snack burgers. Now, Derek must save the day and the world with his chainsaw before the meat eaters strikes the whole planet. Will Derek kill all the aliens?

Peter Jackson’s “Bad Taste” is a cult film on all levels. It features a unique plot (or, more accurately, lack thereof) with interesting characters, a large amount of low budget violence and gore, and a great director with vision and charm who has now broken into popular cinema.

Though aliens have visited earth many times in many low budget films throughout the history of the media, it’s not very often that they are here to collect humans to be ground up for interplanetary fast food. It’s also not very often that said aliens are foul-mouthed cretins with assault rifles. The “secret government agency” that fights these fiends is no slick, deadly task force (c’mon, this is New Zealand!) but a group of chummy metal heads with assault rifles of their own. The true uniqueness of the plot, however, is that it’s missing. Lines are largely improvised, and there’s little more to the movie than said metal heads stalking and/or gunning down a house full of aliens (think “Night of the Living Dead” only completely silly, with heavy artillery and the shoe on the other foot, so to speak).

Since the majority of the film consists of violence, the majority of the special effects in the film are towards the creation of gore. Though not every dead alien gushes (the majority of them fall after one shot, and just have a bloody bullet hole appear on their clothes), several of the aliens become literal fountains of blood, spraying the fluid all over the place. Given that there is so much of it, and that these are low-budget gore effects, overall the vast amounts of blood and guts are neither offensive nor distasteful, but comically absurd. The movie comes off as a live-action, ultra-violent cartoon (particularly in scenes dealing with the misadventures of the character Derek, played by none other than director Peter Jackson).

Though this was his first film, Jackson was already beginning to show his incredible talents as a director. There is nary a continuity error in the film, even though it wasn’t shot all at once (which is difficult enough for some films to keep continuous), but piece by piece on weekends over a four year period. Also, Jackson and his friends were not working from a proper script; as previously mentioned, the majority of the lines were ad-libbed on the spot. Neither is apparent from watching the film, although the spontaneity of its production has no doubt contributed to the humorous aspects, and made the film’s weirdest moments even more enjoyable. Jackson is also able to make the aliens interesting even though for the majority of the film they are “in human form”, and look nothing like the fat, angry alien with the lewd gesture on the box-art until the climax. Jackson also provides one beautifully shot, genuinely disturbing scene, one with a captured human roasting in a stew-pot as a group of aliens watch and goad him; strangely reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, it was a taste of Jackson’s competency not just as an entertaining director with gory, goofy source material, but as a superior overall director (this description would take almost 15 years to be fully realized by mainstream viewers and critics when Jackson would helm the “Lord of the Rings” film series).

Though Jackson’s most over-the-top work was yet to come with “Braindead” (known as “Dead/Alive” in America), there is a certain charm in this, perhaps because he was working so carefully with it over such a long period of time. A text-book “cult film” (and one that lives up to its title), it’s ultra-violent, with one-of-a-kind oddball characters and events, and a demented sense of humor. For fans of Jackson’s later work (“Lord of the Rings” fans will want to approach with caution though) and b-cinema in general, it would be in poor taste to miss “Bad Taste”.