Monday, January 19, 2009

Bad Taste

For those that haven’t heard of this film, it’s a bit of important history up there with the original Evil Dead. Much like the Evil Dead was director Sam Raimi’s debut film, paving the way for him to inexplicably make the leap from cheap horror movies to helming the Spider-Man franchise, so here does first-time director Peter Jackson show the promise that would lead to him directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Watching this film, it’s easy to understand how that could come to pass.

Set in Jackson’s home of New Zealand, it follows the adventures of a small band of intrepid defenders of Earth known as “The Boys”, who are assigned to figure out what a group of aliens is doing here on Earth and, if necessary (and it so totally is), blast them all to hell. After all, what else are you going to do when aliens come around to turn your species into fast food?

One thing that I always enjoy about this film, perhaps more than I should, is the locations that are used. For the most part, this film actually looks like it’s set in an actual part of the planet. The locations seem to be real places, rather than constructions on some Hollywood sound stage (this is with the exception of the final house, which is at times so absurdly fake looking that Jackson almost seems to be daring you to say something about it). Director Werner Herzog likes to mention his theory of “the voodoo of location”, wherein going out and filming in an actual real location lends a mystical additional power to the film, making it that much easier for audiences to become absorbed in and entranced by the movie. It’s something I can’t really overstate: film at a real place, don’t just build sets or (for the more budget-minded filmmaker) hide the whole movie inside your house!

Now, my rant on film location aside, this movie is extremely over the top and blissfully stupid. It’s the kind of film where a man will dramatically load his assault rifle and storm off after a group of aliens with dramatic action music playing, and then slip in a pile of cow shit. It’s the kind of film where a character will fire a rocket launcher at an alien in a house, only to miss and blow up a sheep instead. It is a terribly brilliant film that absolutely lives down to its title.

Despite that, this isn’t really a very well-known film, except perhaps to die hard horror junkies, and even among them I’ve met quite a few that have never heard of it. The DVD, unlike, well, every other last one of Peter Jackson’s films, has long been out of print, which certainly doesn’t help matters. Seriously, I get that it’s a tad outside the mainstream, but is it really that much more obscure than Forgotten Silver or Meet the Feebles? Really?

Rating: *** ½

P.S. If you watch the trailer, be sure to take note of how filming went on for so long (shot over weekends for four years) that Jackson elected to play not one, but two different characters, one of which is noticeably fatter than the other. We can already witness his love of hobbits and second breakfast forming.

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