Unfriendly extraterrestrials have landed in NewZealand, and the entire population of a small coastaltown has disappeared. The only inhabitants are somecuriously zombie-like humanoids, all dressed identically in jeans and blue workshirts, and with a decided taste for eating people - with a spoon!
Derek (Peter Jackson), Barry (Pete O'Herne), Frank (Mike Minett), and Ozzy (Terry Potter) are promptly summoned to the scene. As the Astro Investigative and Defense Service ("I wish they'd change that name!" laments Ozzy) it's their duty to protect the earth "AND the moon" against alien forces. Arriving in a purple Ford Capri blasting heavy metal music, and armed with machine guns and a rocket launcher, they get to work without further ado.
The debut film of Peter Jackson (yes, the Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson) is both a labor of love and the world's longest gross-out joke. Filmed mostly on weekends over a four-year period with a budget of less than half a million dollars, Bad Taste often seems, like John Carpenter's 1974 Dark Star, like a glorified student film. The cast are clearly amateurs. The script, such as it is, was largely improvised and includes dialogue about "intergalactic wankers". The film's plot is not so much a story as an excuse for some outrageously gory - but often hilarious - set pieces.
Ah yes, the gore. It's clear that not only did much of the film's small budget go to special effects, but that Jackson knew how to make every penny count. He milks each effect for maximum splattery goodness, with guts spilling, heads rolling, and blood spurting in every conceivable direction.
What keeps this all from simply being a parade of distastefulness is the sheer absurdity of the situation. When aliens are shipping human bits to their intergalactic fast food chain, it makes perfect sense for one bullet to bisect an alien, and for the heroic forces of humanity to be a bunch of nerds and at least one lunatic (Jackson's Derek is clearly unhinged at the beginning of the film, and a tumble off a cliff resulting in a nasty head injury doesn't help his mental state). Bad Taste is, in many ways, a grown-up, gory version of a Warner Brothers cartoon.
The film drags a bit in its second half, which consists mostly of a big gun battle between our heroes and the aliens, but whenever the viewer's interest starts to flag, Jackson brings in a bizarre bit of humor - drop-kicking an alien head, Derek's car, the rocket-launcher-meets-sheep incident - to give us a laugh.
You'll look hard for signs that Jackson was the man to direct Lord of the Rings, but you won't find many. The clearest signs are Jackson's special effects wizardry, his ability to use his budget to its maximum, and his eye for interesting New Zealand locations. But ultimately Bad Taste is, like its follow-up, the even more insane and gross Meet the Feebles, a bit juvenile. It's a movie for beer, popcorn, and laughing with your friends - that is, friends who also find the idea of eating brains with a spoon to be hilarious.
Anchor Bay released Bad Taste back in 2001 in both a one-disc and two-disc edition (both now out of print). I watched the two-disc edition, and find it to be something of a rip-off. One disc contains the movie, a trailer, and a bio of Peter Jackson. The second disc contains a half-hour documentary about the making of the film, and that's it. This documentary is fun but I can hardly imagine someone watching it more than once or twice, and it could have easily fit onto the same disc as the movie. Still, have to love the DVD for the "From the director of Lord of the Rings" headline on the cover. I'd love to see what some unsuspecting Lord of the Rings fans think of Bad Taste's "born again" scene!