Peter Jackson – the Gory Years

Sometimes greatness springs from the oddest beginnings. Not that those beginnings aren’t great but, well, different.

Famed writer/director Peter Jackson creating horror and splatter films? Say it ain’t so! But yes, Jackson wasn’t always the go-to guy for big budget epic movies. Everyone has to start somewhere, even award-winning artists. And sometimes, those humble beginnings become career landmarks themselves.

Bad Taste, Peter Jackson’s moviemaking debut (1987), is a far cry from his later, more serious projects Heavenly Creatures, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit movies and the King Kong remake. An unabashed gore/sci-fi comedy, Bad Taste was made over a four year period by Jackson, members of his family and friends during the evenings and on the weekends.

Jackson wrote, directed, produced and played two roles in the cinematic gorefest. Low budget, yes, but the special effects, makeup and, of course, gouting blood and splattering viscera, are very creative and well done. And did I mention that it’s funny? It has to be for laughing out loud at the sight gags and jokes takes your mind off of the stomach-churning violence being committed onscreen.

Shapeshifting aliens have landed on earth in their starship (which looks like an English manor house) and are harvesting humans for their intergalactic fast food franchises. What some fresh brains? Just lop of the top of some poor Earthling’s head and scoop them out with a spoon!

The hero, Derek, and his buddies discover this cosmic culinary conspiracy and, of course, try to stop it. A lot of blood is spilled, bodies ripped and torn and organs devoured before the end. Be prepared for the absolutely hilarious “drinking of the grog” scene and the “exploding sheep.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll gag.

Dead Alive, Jackson’s revolting third film (1992, again directed and co-written by him), is a zombie splatter comedy with even more blood and guts than its predecessor. Lionel’s mother hasn’t been feeling well and Lionel doesn’t understand why until Mom becomes a full-blown zombie thanks to the bite of a Sumatran Rat-Monkey.

As an added result, anyone then bitten by Mom becomes a zombie and then anyone bitten by those zombies become one and so on and so on, literally ad nauseum.

So, as more people are bitten and the zombie hordes swell, the besieged characters, from Lionel and his girlfriend, to a priest who, while executing deadly martial arts moves on a group of attacking undead, declares, “I kick ass for the Lord!” attempt to fight off the shambling scourge.

One of the final scenes has more fake blood in it than any other twenty horror films combined with Lionel literally slipping, sliding and practically swimming in it.

Neither movie is for kids or the faint of heart but definitely worth watching to see how a now respected filmmaker got his disgusting, vomit-inducing start and just how creative (and absurdly funny) one can be when limited to a shoestring budget.

Hey, it can happen to anyone.


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2 responses to “Peter Jackson – the Gory Years

  1. Great article about a terrific filmmaker.

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