Meet Peter Jackson

Ransom Riggs

It looks like New Zealand is my (somewhat unintentional) theme for the week, which inevitably leads me 'round to my favorite thing about New Zealand -- director Peter Jackson. Most folks know the affable, formerly rotund Jackson for his monumental Lord of the Rings trilogy -- the amazing locations of which have driven New Zealand tourism of late as much as anything -- and for his recent, remarkable King Kong remake. But I discovered Jackson's work back in early high school, wandering through a local video store with a friend. He picked up what looked like an average low-brow horror flick called Dead-Alive, and showed me the box. It stood out for one reason only: on the back, a critic credited it as being "perhaps the bloodiest movie in cinematic history." Needless to say, watched it post-haste.

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Pictured above: two shots from the film's infamous penultimate scene, in which Lionel mows down a roomful of zombies -- quite literally -- with a lawnmower. There are more fluids, more blood, more flying limbs, in those three minutes that in the entire running length of most other zombie flicks, and though I wish I could embed that scene here, it's so extreme that I think you'll have to settle for a link instead. Here's a clever trailer for the film, though:

Bad Taste

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Here's a trailer for Bad Taste -- vaguely NSFW, by the way -- which makes the film look a bit what it was: semi-amateurish, made on weekends and written on the fly. That is except for the jib shots, stunts and, considering their budget, the impressive alien costumes, which give a hint at the FX/costume work yet to come in Jackson's career. Also, easter egg alert! The guy chasing after the other guy with a machete about 15 seconds in? That's Peter!

Even Hobbits Started Small

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"Heidi, the star of the "Meet The Feebles Variety Hour" discovers her lover Bletch, The Walrus, is cheating on her, and with all the world waiting for the show the assorted co-stars must contend with their own problems. These include drug addiction, extortion, robbery, AIDS, and even murder. While this is happening the love between two of the stars is threatened by the devious Trevor the Rat, who wishes to exploit the young starlet for use in his porno movie business."

Sound distasteful? It is -- but cult film fans continue to worship it, and Jackson even name-dropped it in his 2004 Best Director Academy Award acceptance speech (noting the the academy had "wisely overlooked it" back in 1989). Despite its nasty bits, however, Jackson makes the film downright playful, peppering it with puns and inside jokes. (For instance, the "porno" in question, being made in the basement by the rat and the cow, is called They Bone People, a sly reference to New Zealand author Keri Hulme's Booker Prize-winning novel, The Bone People. And I have to inset this little anecdote: I found Jackson on a web forum one day back in high school, and asked him about the reference; he told me that I was "the first person ever to recognize it." Definitely the proudest moment of my young life!)

Now, I simply cannot discuss Feebles without showing you a clip, but please be forewarned: though it stars puppets, it is not for the faint of heart, and it is most definitely NOT safe for work! It's the climax of the film, in which one of the troupe finally comes out of the closet by singing a delicate little number called "Sodomy," while backstage Heidi the hippo finally loses it, going postal on the rest of the cast with a Rambo-sized machine gun. So don't say I didn't warn you!