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BAD TASTE (1987): Retro Review…Splatter Goodness For Your Appetites

Bad Taste – 1987

As we all know, certain titles bring certain reactions within our beloved Horror kingdom, and it can easily be declared that Peter Jackson’s directorial debut, Bad Taste, falls into that discussion.  What is strange to me are the bizarre interpretations that have come with it.  To my mind – and many other minds I’m sure – this is one of the most absurd films you could ever see, and even with all the disgusting imagery, it is meant to be a comedy.  The tongue-in-cheek title obviously suggests this, also.  However, there have been others, some of whom I have known personally, that take this thing damn seriously!  Yeah, I’ve known some genuine freaks over the years – people that enjoy gore to rather unhealthy levels, in my opinion.  I’ll avoid getting more detailed than that.  You can thank me later.  Let’s be realistic, this film is a comedy through and through, it just happens to have some grotesque “Horror” moments filled with temper paint, latex and some animal guts.  I must declare that I am amused by people that are so squeamish to seeing animal innards, when most humans eat that stuff, daily.  I’ve been a vegetarian for years, perhaps my years of watching horror films had a subconscious affect on that decision being made.  Besides, I tend to like animals more than people anyway.  Frankly, if you’re going to eat flesh, seeing it in its raw state, let alone on film, shouldn’t bother you!  Okay, enough of that – I’m here to write about aliens, invasions and their diets, not mine.

In a way, this film carries reflections of the 1955 classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, mixed with 1984’s comedy masterpiece, Ghostbusters.  You have a collected group of government-employed misfits known as ‘The Boys’ that are investigating the annihilation of the tiny village, Kaihoro. 

E.T. never had it so good…

They figure out quickly that aliens are responsible for the carnage and they move forward to protect the Earth from the alien invaders.  Their interactions are part of the goofy fun.  Since we wouldn’t have much of a story without the aliens actually invading; they are introduced almost immediately, though they are in disguise to look just like us.  Oddly enough, they have a dress-code, which is made up of blue-jeans and light-blue dress-shirts.  I suppose most franchises require uniforms, yes?  As the story moves towards an actual plot, we learn that the aliens are here to test the quality of humans for their own interstellar fast food franchise.  What, you think aliens don’t have their own fly-thrus?  Personally, I’d like to think they’d be better judges of what’s actually tasty, rather than munching on our diseased asses!  Maybe that’s why they start in the country, where processed foods aren’t as consumed.  Just a thought.  This is a film worthy of entry into the theater of the absurd, absolutely.  However, if one allows their mind to wander, it is an entirely possible scenario.  And who’s to say it isn’t happening already?  Since there are humans that are so disconnected from life that they can look at an animal, any animal, and only see cuts of meat, it is absolutely plausible that another life-form could look at our carcasses with the same set of eyes.  And, of course, you’d be correct to recall that numerous humans have looked at their own species in the same way, as well.  Disturbing?  Yes, but completely true.

A splitting alien headache…

The only element that keeps Bad Taste from feeling like it was shot over a drunken Saturday afternoon is the insanely ambitious production.  The acting is awful (in a charming way) and the effects are elementary at best (also in a charming way).  However, the camera work and editing are truly amazing!  From what I can tell, Peter Jackson is responsible for most of this action, so hails to the great Kiwi!  Seeing as how this was made with such a tiny crew, it’s no wonder it took so long to be finished.  It was made in 1987 and, from what I can gather, didn’t see the light of day until ’89.  I do find it positively hilarious that this is the same guy that whipped out those massive Tolkien translations!  I bet absolutely no one saw that coming!  Let’s give a bit of praise to the music, also.  This score, composed and presumably performed by Michelle Scullion, was primarily made with the trademark 1980’s synthesizer, but it is excellent to my ears.  Some of the movements are haunting, others are suspenseful and, yes, others are totally silly, but it all works.  At times, I’m even reminded of the violin playing of Jack Benny.  There are a couple of rock songs here, as well, including a theme song written by Mike Minett and Dave Hamilton, and performed by a band called The Remnants.  Everything here may be low-budget, but I love it!  In fact, I usually prefer it!

I’ll wrap this up with a point about the positively ridiculous double-standards people have.  If you are familiar with this film, then you have likely seen the poster / video packaging art that exists for it, showing an alien giving us the finger, which is classic.  Now, there is a sadly changed version of this, where the alien is actually holding up a second finger, creating a peace sign – or “V for victory” if you’re of the war-mongering mentality.  

Mmmm mmm GOOD!

Just whose idea was this and why did they think it was a good one?  Did they even watch the film?  I think a middle finger should be the lesser of concerns when you consider some of the gore in this thing.  Guts getting flung around, brains being held in by belt straps and slurping from a big, frothy bowl of bright-green alien vomit, all fine, but no “obscene” hand gestures?!  What mind calculates that way?!  I hereby give two, mighty middle fingers, to the pathetically misdirected and uptight PR loons that came up with that nonsense!

Now, go have a snack.



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Nathan Surface

Nathan Surface is an experimental musician, artist and writer. In 2006 he started Sephirotic Publishing and is the creator of Erotic Dismemberment Art-zine, Corrosive Altars Metal-zine and 24 Frames Cine-zine. He lives with his wife, two cats and thousands of books, films and albums.