November 9, 2003
In 1987, filmmaker Peter Jackson made an impressive feature film debut with Bad Taste, a 90-minute “splatstick” spoof of alien invasion movies that became New Zealand’s answer to Sam Raimi. Shot on weekends over three years for only $11,000, Jackson’s film utilized a small, but dedicated cast and crew. Bad Taste has all the rough-around-the-edges charm of a low budget horror movie. More than fifteen years later, the folks at Anchor Bay have come through again by creating a satisfying tribute to this wacky cult film in a wonderful two-DVD Limited Edition set that features the uncut version of Jackson’s movie.
A small-town has been overrun by a nasty bunch of “astro bastards,” alien beings bent on harvesting the Earth’s population for their own greedy consumption. Fearing that they’re being visited by, as one character puts it, “a planet full of Charlie Mansons,” it’s up to the brave men of the Astro Investigation and Defense Service (or AIDS for short – as one character says, “I wish we’d change that name.”) to stop these “intergalactic wankers” from taking over the world.
Bad Taste is one of those movies that has a goofy, irrepressible charm all its own. The amateurish acting and crude, yet effective special effects actually work in favour of the film much in the same way as Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies. What Jackson and company lack in budget and flashy special effects they more than make up for with hilariously memorable dialogue (“There’s no glowing fingers on these bastards!”) and endlessly creative camerawork and editing (at one point Jackson, playing two different roles, ends up fighting himself in an exciting battle atop a cliff). Bad Taste not only skewers staples of the science fiction and horror genre, like E.T. (1982) and The Shining (1980), but isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself (there are numerous in-jokes about New Zealand).
Despite the film’s low budget aesthetics, the DVD transfer of Bad Taste looks quite good. Not only has Anchor Bay presented the film in anamorphic widescreen (the box claims the aspect ratio is 1.66:1 but it looked like 1.85:1 to me) but they’ve also done a fantastic, THX approved digital transfer that really shows off the film’s vibrant colours. New Zealand’s beautiful blue skies and lush green vegetation looks incredible. There is no pixelation or artifacting to be seen – only a grainy quality to the image but that’s because Bad Taste was originally shot in 16mm and then blown up to 35mm. The graininess actually enhances the film’s low budget vibe.
Surprisingly, given the film’s low budget origins, Anchor Bay also offers a DTS ES soundtrack! The audio is crisp and clear, although sparse in the rear speakers (except for the occasional gunshot), but considering that this film was never meant to utilize surround sound in the first place it’s a minor quibble at best.
The first disc features a two minute trailer and a biography of Peter Jackson. The latter is a solidly written piece that is very informative and contains a lot of decent quotes from interviews.
The second disc features an excellent 25-minute featurette entitled, “Good Taste Made Bad Taste.” Shot around the same time Bad Taste was completed, this charming, low key look at the movie also gently pokes fun at featurettes. The inclusion of obviously staged footage of the day jobs that the cast and crew took while making the movie is reminiscent of Jackson’s mockumentary, Forgotten Silver (1995). There are interviews with the director, his cast and crew, and his parents as they recount the love and intense drive the director has for movies. Jackson is shown making all the camera gear (the tracks, dolly and cranes) himself and there is even footage of a Super 8 CinemaScope vampire film that he started but never completed. Bad Taste would only be the beginning for the director who went on to launch similar satirical attacks on the horror genre with Meet the Feebles (1989) and Braindead (1992) before achieving art-house respectability with Heavenly Creatures (1994).
Bad Taste is a wonderful introduction into Peter Jackson’s low budget roots for people who only know him as the director of The Lord of the Rings films. This cult film gleefully trashes many of the sacred cows of the horror and science fiction genre while celebrating the low budget, no-holds-barred aesthetic of classics like Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Evil Dead 2 (1987).