When it was first announced that Kiwi director Peter Jackson would be directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, many were surprised. Quite understandably so. He had shown his directing and writing talent in Heavenly Creatures (for which he and Fran Walsh got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay) and his ability to handle a visual effects-heavy film with The Frighteners, but film buffs knew that he had his roots in less mainstream fare that had audiences cringing. His first feature-length film as a director, Bad Taste, shares qualities with his next two projects, Meet the Feebles and Braindead (aka Dead Alive): they are, yes, tasteless (this viewer finds it difficult to think of a more gratuitously gory film than Braindead), but the signs of a cinematic genius are already there. Jackson's narrative skill and attention to detail are evident (though the former takes a backseat to violence in Braindead), and of course his use of prosthetics and puppetry in all three films (particularly in Meet the Feebles, a sick, twisted yet diabolically brilliant film with its entire cast made of animal puppets or costumes) would have prepared him for the epic technical achievement that is LOTR. In fact, he goes a long way back with many of the trilogy's now-famous technical staff, including editor Jamie Selkirk, effects guru Richard Taylor, and of course partner Walsh. It was an extremely gratifying experience to sit through his first three, lesser known creations, bask in his creative genius, cringe with disgust and horror with his excesses, and simply understand a little bit more how the mind behind the best film trilogy of all time works.
Bad Taste (1987): B; Meet the Feebles (1989): B+; Braindead (1992): C+; Heavenly Creatures (1994): B; The Frighteners (1996): C+; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001): A; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002): A; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003): A; King Kong (2005): A