A Sci-Fi Honey Retro Review by Katie

Bad Taste (1989)

Here’s a fun experiment: take a look at any critically lauded director’s debut feature film and consider the disparity between where they started and where they are now. Some may be surprised to learn that certain well-respected filmmakers who have earned fame and prestige – including Francis Ford Coppola, Oliver Stone, James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg – began their careers helming micro-budget horror and sci-fi. This week’s #ItCameFromThe80s review shines a spotlight on one of the most savagely imaginative cinematic minds, known primarily to modern moviegoers as the man behind Middle Earth: Academy Award-winning director Peter Jackson. Appropriately titled Bad Taste, Jackson’s first film capped off a decade notorious for excess with a deluge of homemade pus, vomit, and brain matter. The resulting film is a classic piece of schlock cinema worthy of Jackson’s early reputation as a master of “splatter,” leaving an indelible mark on gorehounds for decades to follow.  

Jackson himself appears in the film as one of the “boys:" a ragtag group of young sleuths commissioned by the Astro Investigation and Defense Service (yes, their acronym is A.I.D.S.). An entire town’s populace has gone missing, and the boys discover that they’ve all been replaced by a race of extraterrestrials with an affinity for collared blue Oxford shirts. An earthly battle of man versus spaceman ensues – turbo-charged with chainsaws and rocket launchers – before the nefarious creatures can turn all of humankind into fast-food fodder for their alien planet. You’d be hard-pressed to explain a stranger story in the history of science fiction than the one depicted in Bad Taste – and for a genre that’s by nature “out there,” that’s saying a lot.

They probably also have a copy of ‘To Serve Man’ lying around. 
The film’s plot may be certifiably insane, but it allows Jackson to exercise his particular penchant for practical gore effects that he would hone to perfection a few years later in his horror/comedy magnum opus, Braindead (aka Dead Alive, 1992). Bad Taste showcases a veritable buffet of carnage that’ll satisfy any viewer hungry for fluid after bodily fluid being consumed, extracted, sprayed and/or squirted with ebullient vigor across the screen. In one scene, a man loops a belt around his head to keep his brains from seeping out the back of his skull; in another, aliens greedily chow down on a bowl of fresh puke. Not a single person in the film is spared from Jackson’s propensity for dousing their faces in a vigorous gush of blood and gore. If you take a job in a Peter Jackson movie, especially in his early days, things are bound to get more than a little sticky.

Just be grateful this isn’t a porno and some other fluids weren’t involved.
While the bloodshed effects in Bad Taste are undeniably copious and crude, they’re also especially impressive considering the budget Jackson began this project with. For a mere $25,000, Jackson worked on the film over the course of a few years before being granted a stipend from the New Zealand Film Commission that allowed him to see it through to completion. In another money-saving gambit, each actor involved takes on a dual role as both a man and an alien, essentially doubling the number of characters without increasing the size of the cast. The resulting film has an underdog charm akin to other indie passion projects in which the filmmaker’s unique vision and determination propel the film to greatness. Bad Taste is clearly a labor of love, not just for cinema in general but for a specific brand of sci-fi/horror that is rarely embraced by mainstream audiences.

Gee, I wonder why? 
Hardcore fans have known for some time about the imaginative force of nature that is Peter Jackson; from zombie babies to matricidal teenagers and soul-collectors, his first five films in particular have been elevated to cult classic status within the horror community. But before he became renowned on a global scale for bringing Tolkien to the big screen, Jackson was running around a one-sheep town in rural New Zealand to give life to the ultimate in sci-fi splatter comedy. Though he has since graduated to decidedly more esteemed work endowed with bigger budgets and loftier subject matter, no horror fan will forget the first time one of Jackson’s early films induced their gag reflex. And that, my friends, is a gross-out achievement worth celebrating.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three-and-a-half buckets of vomit out of five

Bad Taste is available via YouTube and DVD

Do you miss Splatter Jackson?
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