Peter Jackson
Bad Taste
Medium: film
Year: 1987
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Peter Jackson, Peter Hamman, Tony Hiles
Keywords: horror, SF, comedy, low-budget
Country: New Zealand
Actor: Terry Potter, Pete O'Herne, Craig Smith, Mike Minett, Peter Jackson, Doug Wren, Peter Vere-Jones
Format: 91 minutes
Website category: Horror 1970/80s
Review date: 24 August 2002
Oh my God. There are low-budget movies, there are zero-budget movies and then there's Bad Taste. Peter Jackson shot this piece of nonsense on weekends over four years with his friends. He's credited with writing the script (with additional material by Peter Hamman and Tony Hiles) but in fact the whole thing was improvised. According to the imdb, this wasn't actually his first film... but that "first film" was something called The Valley (1967), produced when he was fifteen. And Bad Taste's credits thank "Mum and Dad" as special assistants to the producer.
This is deservedly a cult film, but its origins couldn't be more obvious. I've never seen anything that's so obviously some mates larking around with a camera. You couldn't describe them as bad actors, because that would imply an attempt to act. Instead they're just a bunch of laid-back Antipodeans who don't react to anything. ("Look, an alien space monster is machine-gunning my legs.") This makes them way cool as action heroes, not to mention incredibly funny. There's something about easy-going Australians that's perfect for comedy. Yes, yes, I know they're actually New Zealanders.
Of course this is no bloody good for tension, or anything else you'd normally expect to find in a movie. A few moments might almost have been scary had the film starred someone, anyone, other than our four heroes swaggering around and having a laugh.
The gun-toting stuff is pure nonsense, but at least it's not trying to take itself seriously. Thus you can laugh happily at scenes like our heroes running along unharmed as bullets tear up the grass around their feet. Incidentally, Bad Taste's baddies are dumb even by action movie standards. It's a wonder that they can get up in the morning without help or tie their own shoelaces. (Hell, perhaps they can't!)
But in a film like this, who cares? For every piece of cheerful silliness, there's a visual gag or an amusing piece of dialogue. "Shut up, codpiece face." "That was my car!" And I'd forgive almost anything from a movie that gave us The Sheep. (It's not on-screen long, but you'll remember it.)
And then there's the gore. Peter Jackson has his own gore style, basically doing it as slapstick comedy. Bad Taste goes for the gross-out in more ways than you'd think possible, though it's too childlike and innocent for this ever to become offensive. There's innards a-plenty, birdshit and an eye-popping approach to brain maintenance that will confirm all your darkest suspicions about the folks Down Under. Oh, and there's a dining scene that really and truly will threaten to make you revisit your lunch (but in a comedy way).
It's also kinda reassuring to see that it's not only Americans who like to see a British accent on their villains. Don't believe anyone who tries to pretend that this is a horror movie (though I'm looking forward eagerly to the same director's Braindead). It's a splatter comedy with random grab-bags of other genre elements (sci-fi, slasher, Arnie movie), topped off with Antipodean cool. Bad Taste should theoretically be unspeakable, but in fact it's unmissable.