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June 11, 2013

Bad Taste

by Franz Patrick


Bad Taste (1987)
★ / ★★★★

A small town in New Zealand has been invaded by extraterrestrials. Four people are sent to investigate the extent of the takeover: Barry (Pete O’Herne) and Derek (Peter Jackson) are already there while Frank (Mike Minett) and Ozzy (Terry Potter) are on their way. To their surprise, not only is the place completely overrun by the aliens, they have the capability of disguising themselves as humans. These aliens are interested in human meat, a low-calorie exotic dish. Their plan is to leave the next day and present samples to their planet before collecting the livestock wholesale.

Written by Peter Jackson, Tony Hiles, and Ken Hammon, “Bad Taste” is cheaply made and it shows. And yet, the fact that it has a low budget is not its downfall. It is a part of its charm because its premise is driven by ideas. What makes it an experience to endure is that its latter half is made up of mostly uninspired shoot-outs. It turns into a bore.

Prior to the halfway point, I found the conflict between the humans and the invaders to be interesting. Barry and Derek find themselves in a pinch eventually when five aliens recognize their presence. The confrontation shot by the side of the cliff that overlooks the beach shows that the director, Peter Jackson, has an eye for location. In addition, there is contrast between the calming beauty of nature and the dire threat of being captured by the aliens, killed, and served as a delicacy.

At times it is shot sloppily, many times easy to tell that the camera is hand-held. Also, it is rife with continuity errors that prove distracting. For instance, in one shot a character’s face is covered in blood while the next shot shows the face completely free of red goo. Despite this, applicable only to the first half, there is energy in the chases. I liked that neither the aliens nor the humans are very smart. It is almost like a slapstick comedy, increasingly clear that the survivor, or survivors, is the one that will end up making the least mistakes.

The gun battles make the film look like a most egregious action film. Once the firearms are out, the ideas become stagnant and there is no longer inspiration or aspiration to rise above pointing and shooting. I was very disappointed that the aliens are easily killed by bullets. They, too, use guns. Is it too much to have them wield weapons that originate from their own planet? Two groups evading flying bullets is just tedious.

And then there is the rock soundtrack that is designed to get us excited about the goings-on. Loud happenings paired with hard rock is a mismatch. A few carefully placed piano keys, for example, would have killed two birds with one stone: creating a mood of desolation and amping up the tension.

“Bad Taste,” directed by Peter Jackson, offers some humor that work. My favorite involves a character with the posterior of his skull opening at random intervals which causes a part of his brain to fall out. He picks up the chunk of brain meat and shoves it in his noggin as if that solves everything. We know it doesn’t really work that way so the running gag is funny–or at least amusing. It is the only shining moment amidst the bullet brawl.

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