What's that? It's Monday? Hmmm? You're looking forward to another Monster Monday, you say? Well, I'm aware it's Monday, silly, and I've got your Monster Monday right here. Today I'll be looking at the radical Peter Jackson directed alien extravaganza from 1987 known as BAD TASTE!
A team from the intergalactic fast food chain Crumb's Crunchy Delights descends on Earth, planning to make human flesh the newest taste sensation. After they wipe out the New Zealand town Kaihoro, the country's Astro-Investigation and Defense Service is called in to deal with the problem. Things are complicated due to Giles, an aid worker who comes to Kaihoro the same day to collect change from the residents. He is captured by the aliens, and AIaDS stages a rescue mission that quickly becomes an all-out assault on the aliens' headquarters. - IMDb
Peter Jackson. What is now a household name was once known only by a select group of (mostly) horror aficionados. Hearing the name often resulted in a spontaneous burst of joy, as images from splatter masterpieces like Dead Alive as well as our film today, Bad Taste, merged into our consciousness. Jackson had a special kind of talent for bringing extremely creative ideas to the screen in impressively hilarious ways for little money. And, although Dead Alive is probably his best film (and the most personal for me), Bad Taste was the necessary learning experience that cultivated the kind of talent and know how required for 90s era Jackson. I'll always hold firmly that Jackson's best years were his horror years.
I had some reservations about picking Bad Taste this week, as it's sort of difficult to determine whether the aliens actually constitute monsters or not. I had similar reservations in my discussion of Critters; however, I came to realize that if we make the assertion that aliens can't constitute monsters, then we're going to be ostracizing a whole lot of "monsters": The Thing, The Blob... Clearly aliens, but also clearly monsters. Yet, if we look at something like the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it seems clear that they're probably not monsters. Thus, I essentially concluded that not all aliens are monsters, but some are. Some monsters aren't aliens, of course, but there's something that both alien and non-alien monsters have that make them monsters which are distinct from their origins. What that is, I'm not entirely sure... But anyway, I'm babbling. Bad Taste's aliens are monsters, at least for the purpose of this discussion. There.
So anyway, I watched Bad Taste for the first time when I was 17 or 18. It was the second Jackson movie I'd seen, the first being Dead Alive. I've always been really fascinated by cannibalism, in one way or another, and the whole idea of humans being eaten in general has always been intriguing by itself. Thus, after my first viewing, I was quite pleased with what I saw. Humans being targeted as a potential source of fast food on a cosmic level? Yes, please! The concept was extremely appealing and the execution was wonderful. I continued to think so after numerous re-viewings over the years, too.
In particular, I enjoyed the way in which the cult aspect of the aliens on Earth was handled, as well as the trope of a small town being the hidden headquarters for a global takedown. I can appreciate large scale attacks in the vein of something like Independence Day; however, there's something much more satisfying to me about a hidden agenda beneath the seemingly normal landscape of a small town setting. In this way, Bad Taste succeeded wonderfully. In scenes like the alien initiation (featuring the consumption of vomit), it leaves you with feelings of disgust while simultaneously making you laugh. And it's not just this scene which elicits this kind of reaction - the movie is full of them.
The aliens/monsters themselves are pretty superb, too. It's true that the head pieces may look a bit over the top and absurd; however, we recognize the legitimacy of such aesthetic choices due to the overarching atmosphere of the movie. Strictly in terms of monster effects, I would have liked to see a bit more variety. For instance, if there was some kind of sexual differentiation or some type of alternative alien which would have been aesthetically distinct from the others, I would have been happy... Such an inclusion would have added an interesting and creative dynamic to the movie (at least in terms of it being a monster movie). This, however, is a relatively small gripe given the seemingly endless other positive aspects of the movie.
And the movie, although low-brow, is quite clever, too. It manages to fit a lot of interesting ideas in a short time span, and does a really fine job of satirizing things the over-the-top action movies (think Rambo) of the era were constantly doing. Further, the plot over all can, to some extent, perhaps be interpreted as a pro-vegetarian satire critiquing the ways in which humans treat animals as automata, serving no purpose outside of filling their own meat-craving appetites. In this case, of course, humans take a step down on the food chain and become the means to filling a fast food niche for the insatiable alien species! It is, of course, only one interpretation, and may be a stretch, but I couldn't help think about the dynamic in my more recent viewings. Nonetheless, the movie has a lot to offer fans of 80s horror broadly. While not the most satisfying monster movie, it works wonderfully as a low budget splatter horror comedy and is certainly highly recommended on those grounds!