Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Bad Taste
Hehe… my friend, the astro-bastard, time for talkies
Jarv’s Rating: A very well earned 3.5 Changs out of 4. Superb.
I defy anyone not to love Peter Jackson’s debut feature. It may be a bit gross (the clue’s in the title) and it may be a bit rough around the edges, but it’s hard to think of a more amusing, more lovably ramshackle debut as this one.
I don’t, for the life of me, know how Jackson got this made. It was shot over 4 years by him and his mates, the cast kept changing (Craig Smith dropped out because his new wife wouldn’t allow him to film on a Sunday, but returned after the divorce), they had nothing in the way of cash, and very little to actually work with. That Bad Taste turned out as accomplished as it did says a lot about their dedication, and even more about their willful exuberance under what must have been hugely trying circumstances.
Anyway, in a nutshell, Bad Taste is the story of an alien invasion of a Kiwi town. They aliens turn up, slaughter the townsfolk (they’re samples of meat for the galaxy’s latest taste sensation) and are all set to escape when the New Zealand government calls in the crack commando outfit known as “The Boys” or the Astro Investigation and Defence Service (AIDS hehehehe) to give them their full title. In the meantime, the aliens are proposing a victory feast, the main course of which is a local charity collector who will be the dish of honour. Carnage and shenanigans ensue, before one of the boys, Derek, “goes apeshit” with a chainsaw.
This film is obscenely entertaining. From the opening scene with the minister and his claw hand, the whole movie is rammed full of comic touches that make me laugh. Some of them are sight gags, such as Derek’s awesomely stupid Beatles car, and others are provided by a script that contains such great lines as “I’m a Derek, and Derek’s don’t run”, but this is a film that manages to be consistently crassly funny.
It is, however, a film that really goes out of its way to live up to its name. There are multiple shots of Derek attempting to put his head back together, a huge level of splatter, an audacious amount of cursing, and most brilliantly, one of the characters has to drink from a bowl full of vomit. After the rest of the Aliens had (brilliantly started by the head alien with, just after swallowing some, “Aren’t I lucky, I got a chunky bit”). This is an extremely gross film, and as it is deliberate, it’s also downright hilarious.
As already noted, Bad Taste is probably the epitome of the amateur production, and as such it is incredibly rough. The acting in particular is a tad on the ropy side- with multiple parts being played by each cast member, but in this case I think it adds to the film’s rough and ready charm. The only cast member, aside from Jackson himself, to really come through with honours is Doug Wren as Lord Crumb, who sadly died during post production thereby forcing Jackson to dub the alien voices with another cast member.
The special effects, particularly the alien makeup, are surprisingly good. Jackson made the alien masks himself, baking them in his mother’s oven and as a result necessity became the mother of invention. The masks as originally designed were too big to fit, so Jackson had the genius idea of curving them back. This is a superb look for the Aliens, and one that is surprisingly effective. The gore effects are all equally good (even if a few of them do look suspiciously like meat from a butcher’s shop), with price clearly being a major consideration. I honestly find it hard to criticise the effects in a film with a budget as small as this that has the audacity to put in some large scale explosions, man-in-suit monsters and a flying house. So I’m not going to.
I’d like to talk about the score, but in all honesty I can’t remember it. Aside from that, though, the other sound work is excellent- there’s a cornucopia of revolting squelching noises, convincing explosions, twangings, motor noises, slapping sounds etc that all lend a madcap comic feel to a superficially extremely nasty film. That it is a comedy rather than a horror is down in large part to the effectiveness of the sound work.
It isn’t perfect, although I did toy with giving it a maximum, as the last act (again) lags a wee bit. The shootout in particular is not that interesting and seems to go on far too long, and in a film as short as this one it does feel a bit like makeweight. However, at the same time it also looks like they were having a riot filming it, and if they got a touch carried away, then it is completely understandable. A minor quibble really in an excellent and hugely enjoyable film.
Overall, would I recommend Bad Taste? Well, without even thinking about it, yes. This is an enjoyably raucous slice of low-brow entertainment and certainly much more enjoyable than anything Jackson made since he discovered the Slim Fast plan. I actually wish he’d go back to his roots, because this, Braindead, Meet The Feebles and The Frighteners are all vastly superior to everything he’s done since Fellowship of the Ring. The man isn’t a serious artist, he’s a schlockmeister that got astronomically lucky and I’d love to see him return to the subject matter he’s best at: quirky, offensive, odd-ball gross out material.
Bad Taste is a superb film, and one that I highly recommend.
Until next time,