Bad Taste (1987) | A Cinematic Masterpiece of Horror and Comedy

Dive into the terrifying world of aliens and human flesh in Peter Jackson's cult classic, Bad Taste (1987). Read our detailed overview and get ready for a cinematic thrill ride.

Bad Taste (1987) | A Cinematic Masterpiece of Horror and Comedy
Bad Taste (1987)

Bad Taste (1987)

Bad Taste is a 1987 science fiction horror-comedy film that marked the directorial debut of renowned filmmaker Peter Jackson. Known for its low-budget production and unique blend of horror and humour, the movie has developed a cult following over the years. Set in the quiet town of Kaihoro, New Zealand, it unfolds an unusual story of alien invasion where the extraterrestrials are after human flesh for their intergalactic fast-food chain.

Story

Barry from Bad Taste (1987)

The filmĀ kicks off with the arrival of four close-knit friends - Barry, Derek, Frank, and Ozzy - who, under the guise of an unofficial paramilitary group, embark on a mission to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the inhabitants of the quaint town of Kaihoro. Little do they know, their journey will take a sinister turn as they stumble upon a mind-boggling truth - the townsfolk have been devoured by cunning aliens, cunningly disguised as ordinary members of the local community.

Frank from Bad Taste (1987)

As the plot thickens, our group of heroes unravels the horrifying plan of these extraterrestrial beings. Hailing from a distant planet, these aliens have set out on a mission to convert humans into a delectable food source for their fellow alien compatriots. Led by the malicious and menacing Robert, the aliens meticulously collect samples, awaiting approval from their taste-testers for the ultimate goal - a full-scale harvest of planet Earth.

In a series of bizarre, comedic, and gory events, our protag onists engage in an epic battle against the invading alien forces, employing a creative arsenal of homemade weapons. During one intense skirmish, Derick out of Bad Taste (1987)Derek plummets off a cliff, seemingly meeting his tragic end. However, much to everyone's surprise, he miraculously returns with a piece of his brain exposed, held in place by a makeshift belt wrapped tightly around his head.

The tension builds to a nail-biting climax as the team manages to capture a live alien, hoping to expose their outrageous plans to the higher authorities. In a fit of rage and retribution, Derek, driven by his burning desire for justice, dives headfirst into the alien crowd, triggering an explosive device that causes extensive carnage.

Ozzy - Bad Taste (1987)While the film concludes on a victorious note for our brave heroes, it leaves the audience on the edge of their seats with a twist ending. A phone call from the director of operations reveals that the menace of fast-food monsters is far from over, setting the stage for a potential sequel that promises even more thrilling and chilling encounters.

Despite its humble origins and unconventional storyline, Bad Taste has managed to carve a special place in the hearts of its viewers, thanks to its raw originality, daring humor, and unforgettable characters. The now-legendary director, Peter Jackson, made an indelible mark with this debut film, showcasing his unparalleled talent for blending genres and creating truly immersive cinematic experiences.


Cast and Characters

  • Barry as Pete O'Herne: Barry is a dedicated member of the team, known for his unwavering courage in the face of danger. He is the first to suspect something amiss in Kaihoro and often finds himself in dire situations, only to come out with more determination.
  • Derek as Peter Jackson: Derek is the quirky and fiercely patriotic team member. Despite his somewhat clumsy nature, he exhibits great bravery, especially after surviving a potentially fatal fall. His character provides comic relief, whilst also driving the team's motivation to save their homeland.

  • Frank as Mike Minett: Frank is the level-headed member of the group who often strategises and makes tough decisions. He's not afraid to engage in combat with the aliens and plays an instrumental role in capturing a live alien to expose their plan.

  • Ozzy as Terry Potter: Ozzy is the wildcard of the group. Known for his impulse actions and chaotic approach, he adds an unpredictable element to the team's dynamics. Despite his erratic behaviour, Ozzy's loyalty and courage are undeniable.

  • Lord Crumb as Doug Wren: Robert is the primary antagonist and the leader of the alien group. He is deceptively polite and cunning, hiding his sinister intentions behind a veneer of friendliness. His character personifies the chilling horror that underpins the film's comedic exterior.


Production

Bad Taste truly stands as a testament to the creativity and perseverance of independent filmmaking. Shot over a period of four years, the production of the film was a labor of love by Peter Jackson and his friends.

Peter Jackson film director

The film's budget was incredibly meager, which necessitated a do-it-yourself approach to most aspects of production.

Jackson himself handled the direction, writing, and many of the special effects, using his own house as a workshop. The prosthetics were made using everyday materials, and the alien costumes were simple suits covered in blue paint. Jackson along with his friends also played multiple roles in the film, further keeping costs down.

The film was shot on a 16mm Bolex camera that only had enough film for 30 seconds of footage at a time. This required careful planning and precision in capturing the scenes. Due to the constrained budget, most of the filming took place during the weekends, with the crew working regular jobs during the weekdays. The film's final explosion scene was filmed on an actual abandoned building that was due for demolition.

Behind the scenes: Bad taste

Post-production was an equally gruelling process with the editing done entirely by Jackson on his kitchen table. The film was finally completed in 1987 and debuted at the Cannes Film Market where it quickly garnered attention and was sold to twelve countries, marking the beginning of Jackson's successful career.

The production of Bad Taste is a testament to the adage that 'necessity is the mother of invention'. Given the lack of resources, many of the film's most iconic moments were born out of improvisation and a raw passion for storytelling. Despite the challenging circumstances, the film's end product is a unique blend of horror and comedy that continues to enthral audiences to this day.


Cinematography

Still from Bad Taste 1987

The cinematography in Bad Taste greatly contributes to its cult status and unique appeal. Given the constraints of a limited budget, the film relies heavily on inventive camera work and clever framing to create the desired impact. Many scenes are shot from unusual angles, lending a sense of disorientation that mirrors the unsettling nature of the film's plot. The extensive use of wide shots not only captures the beautiful New Zealand landscape but also emphasizes the isolation of the characters, heightening the sense of impending doom. Close-up shots, on the other hand, are used effectively to convey the gruesomeness of the gory scenes and reveal the characters' emotions. The handheld camera work adds an element of raw authenticity, making the action sequences feel more real and intense. Despite the film's low-budget production, the cinematography successfully enhances the storytelling, proving that creativity can indeed triumph over financial constraints.


Music Score

Music composer Michelle Scullion

The music score of Bad Taste is as unique and unconventional as the film itself. The soundtrack, composed by Michelle Scullion, perfectly encapsulates the film's quirky and offbeat tone. Scullion's compositions range from eerie, suspenseful tracks that heighten the film's horror elements to comical, upbeat tunes that underscore the film's humorous moments. The strategic use of music in key scenes adds to the film's tension while also enhancing its comedic timing. The soundtrack, much like the film, is a testament to the creative potential of independent filmmaking when driven by passion and innovation. This eclectic mix of sounds and tones provides a fitting accompaniment to the on-screen chaos and comedy, further solidifying Bad Taste as a cult classic in the annals of horror-comedy cinema.


Reception at Film Festivals

Lord Crumb

Bad Taste made its mark in the international film circuit, debuting at the prestigious Cannes Film Market in 1987 where it was sold to twelve countries. The film's unique blend of horror and comedy, coupled with its innovative low-budget production methods, captured the attention of audiences and critics alike. In subsequent years, the film continued to be screened at various film festivals around the world, garnering a cult following and establishing Peter Jackson's reputation as a daring and inventive filmmaker. It also won several awards, including the coveted Saturn Award for Best International Film in 1989. Despite its modest beginnings, Bad Taste has endured as a cult classic, its success at film festivals testimony to the power of creativity and original storytelling.


Critics' Review

Critics review logoBad Taste received a mixed reception from critics, but most agreed on its inventive approach and the audacity in its presentation. It was lauded for its originality, its unabashed embrace of B-movie tropes, and the sheer joy it seemed to take in its own outrageousness.

For instance, Vincent Canby from The New York Times praised Peter Jackson for his limitless imagination and for injecting his own brand of humour into the horror genre. He noted that while Bad Taste may not be a movie for everyone, it certainly had the ability to leave a lasting impression on its viewers.

On the other hand, Roger Ebert was less forgiving in his review. While he admired the passion and energy that went into the making of the film, he felt that the excessive gore and violence often overshadowed the comedic elements. However, he did concede that Bad Taste had a unique charm and that the film's cult status was well-deserved.

Giles from Bad TasteOverall, the critical consensus leaned towards appreciation for this low-budget film's ambitious vision and its successful blending of comedy and horror. Critics acknowledged its status as a cult classic, noting that its appeal lay in its daring divergence from mainstream cinema. They praised Jackson's innovative filmmaking techniques, despite the film's meager budget, and celebrated Bad Taste as a testament to the power of independent cinema.

Critics also noted the film's influence on Peter Jackson's later works, which continue to demonstrate his knack for blending different genres and his ability to create memorable cinematic experiences. The film's reviews ultimately reflect its standing as an important piece of New Zealand cinema and as an iconic debut from a director who would come to redefine the boundaries of film.


Trivia

  • Peter Jackson's mother, Joan, helped with creating the "alien" food in the infamous dinner scene. The food was actually muesli and yogurt dyed green.

  • Jackson used his own car, a yellow Morris Minor, in the film which later became a recurring fixture in his subsequent movies.

  • Peter Jackson made most of the special effects himself at home, using common household items. For instance, the brains eaten by the aliens were made from watermelon.

  • The film has no professional actors. Most of the cast were Peter Jackson's friends and acquaintances who worked on the film during their free time.

  • The film was originally intended to be a short 10-minute film for fun. However, it evolved into a full-length feature over its four-year production period.

  • Peter Jackson was only 22 when he started shooting Bad Taste. He had no formal training in filmmaking and learned on the job.

  • The film's final scene was shot in an actual house that was scheduled for demolition. The crew got permission to blow it up for the movie.

  • In the final scene, when the alien flips off the camera, the bird-flipping finger was actually Peter Jackson's. The actor in the suit could not do it with his costume on, so Jackson stepped in to do the honours.


Impact and Legacy

Derick with alien creature on his shoulder: Bad Taste

Bad Taste has left an indelible mark on the landscape of independent cinema. Despite its small budget and unconventional storyline, it has garnered a cult following and paved the way for future filmmakers to explore the blending of horror and comedy genres. The film's success also solidified Peter Jackson's standing in the film industry, setting the stage for his subsequent acclaimed ventures such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "King Kong". The film's innovative use of practical effects and improvisation under budget constraints has served as an inspiration for many independent filmmakers, demonstrating the power of creativity and determination in overcoming obstacles. Moreover, Bad Taste has also shaped pop culture references, with its unique blend of gore, humour, and sci-fi elements, leaving a lasting impact on the viewer's psyche. As such, the film's legacy continues to live on, influencing the works of numerous filmmakers and captivating generations of cinema enthusiasts worldwide.


Review by 80s Stuff: 6/10

All the cast together: Bad Taste 1987

Despite the accolades Bad Taste has received, 80s Stuff awarded the film a modest score of 6 out of 10. This rating reflects the film's status as a cult classic, acknowledging its innovative blend of horror and comedy, and the unique ways in which it challenged the conventions of mainstream cinema. However, the score also takes into account the aspects of the film that were less favourably received.

For instance, the gratuitous gore and violence that punctuate the film were viewed by some as excessive, overshadowing the comedic elements and making the film a difficult watch for those with a more sensitive disposition. Furthermore, the lack of professional actors and a coherent plotline left some viewers feeling disoriented and disconnected from the narrative. These factors, coupled with the film's unapologetic deviation from traditional filmmaking norms, ultimately led to its slightly above average rating by 80s Stuff. Despite these criticisms, it's important to remember that Bad Taste remains a significant piece of cinema history, and its influence on the world of independent filmmaking cannot be understated.