Bad Channels DVD Review
Directed by Ted Nicolaou
Written by Charles Band and Jackson Barr
1992, Region 2 (PAL), 88 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 17th March 2014
Robert Factor as Willis
Martha Quinn as Lisa Cummings
Aaron Lustig as Vernon Locknut
Michael Huddleston as Corky
Roumel Reaux as Flip Humble
Paul Hipp as Dan O'Dare
An alien (plus robot sidekick) lands in small town America and takes over the local radio station for his own nefarious purposes; the kidnapping of innocent women. Taking the late-night jock there hostage, the creature sets about abducting his female audience... with an actual shrinking ray, no less.
A comedic B-Movie pastiche (with a synopsis like that, it would have to be), Bad Channels is your typical early nineties Full Moon release (brought to the UK courtesy of 88 Films). Co-written and produced by Full Moon head honcho and cult icon Charles Band himself, it's packed full of the silly humour, unconvincing special effects and dated animatronics one might expect. When the film's alien antagonist first appears (in a manner not dissimilar to Chop Top and Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2), you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd tuned in to an old Tom Baker or Peter Davison episode of Doctor Who instead. The story isn't far off that level either.
Band's fingerprints extend to the story and characterisation, which is atmospheric but leaden, lacking any sense of energy or urgency. Too long is spent with the opening, during which annoying DJ Dan O' Dare tries to offload a free car onto his audience, playing a marathon stint at his station. Cast as O' Dare, Paul Hipp doesn't help, never really convincing as the film's hero. Its female lead is wasted too – Martha Quinn being the first to point out in the special features that her character only smiles once in the whole 88 minutes.
The more turgid elements are, however, offset by the insertion of musical pieces throughout the action. Admittedly, two out of three of these are unmemorable American rock songs by bands no-one has ever heard of before or since, but one gives Bad Channels its very best scene – essentially a punk (in a 'Misfits' kind of way) music video, with SyKotic Sinfoney giving their performance of Manic Depresso in the middle of the film. It's fine – no-one's really that invested in the plight of Dan O' Dare anyway.
Likewise, the dodgy special effects and the antics of the bizarre aliens (Cosmo and Lump, to you and I) go some way to improving the film's fortunes. Particularly entertaining is its shrunken women, trapped in jars, screaming for help, like Bride of Frankenstein by way of Thumbelina. Like much of Full Moon's output, Bad Channels can only be enjoyed ironically, but that's still enjoyment, all the same. Be sure to stick around for the post-credits sequence, which gives the film its final bizarre giggle, and ties in (somewhat) to Dollman, Demonic Toys and Dollman vs Demonic Toys. Post-credits sequences and crossovers? That's right - Charles Band and Full Moon had their own shared universe, long before the Marvel movies. Charles Band: visionary.
Admirably daft yet oddly dull at the same time, Bad Channels is one of the lesser Charles Band productions. Still, it's fitfully entertaining enough that, should you happen across it on television late at night, it'll be worth your time should you not decide to change channels.
Video and Audio:
As with previous Full Moon re-releases, 88 Films have done no work on upgrading or improving the picture, leaving it looking like exactly what it is – cheap, disposable sci-fi silliness from the early 90s. It sounds fine, although your opinion may vary depending on your tolerance for daft American rock music.
The DVD comes with the usual behind the scenes featurette and set of trailers. As with so many Full Moon features, the making-of is more fun to watch than the film itself, with everyone involved in an effusive, friendly mood. That's the thing – these films may be shoddy and slightly decrepit; thanks to the enthusiasm of those behind and in front of the camera, they're impossible to actually dislike.