Peter Jackson is virutally synonymous with cutting-edge filmmaking technology these days, from the motion capture revolution embodied by his Weta Digital visual effects studio, to the use of 3D and high-frame-rate photography used in The Hobbit. Whether or not that technology is always applied for the better, however, is another question. He didn’t always make movies like this, and many (including me) would claim his early horror films are a purer expression of cinema than anything he’s made post-Lord of the Rings.
Now, off the back of arguably the most impressive film restoration project in history - restoring, colorising, and retiming a hundred hours of World War 1 footage for his apparently-terrific documentary They Shall Not Grow Old - Jackson is bringing his older back catalogue to the 4K age. Speaking to the Empire Podcast in support of the documentary (and quoted on Bloody Disgusting), Jackson was asked whether he had considered turning his restoration energies towards his earlier work, and happily, the director answered in the affirmative:
“Anything from those films that is available is, like, 1990s Telecine things, which is the best that we had… compared now, they look bloody awful,” Jackson told the podcast. “I just haven’t re-released them because, if I do, I want them to look really good. We’ve actually done some experiments. They look bloody fantastic. They look like they’re shot on 35mm.”
“So yeah, what we’ll do now is.. get really nice 4K copies of these fully restored and back out into circulation again,” Jackson added.
This is, for horror fans and cinephiles interested in the charmingly lo-fi roots of Hollywood’s biggest VFX contractor, terrific news. Bad Taste is far from a perfect movie, but its homemade aesthetic and sheer energy is hard to fault - it’s a past that Jackson still holds a foot in even today, through his involvement in New Zealand’s immensely popular 48HOURS filmmaking competition (see a couple of my entries here and here). Braindead (alternatively titled Dead Alive in the United States), meanwhile, is a full-on splatter masterpiece, spilling hundreds of gallons of blood in the service of a hilarious, imaginative Kiwi zombie comedy. Seeing this stuff in 4K - or even HD! - will be a revelation.
Jackson’s lesser-known second film, Meet The Feebles, is also getting remastered, bringing its gross-out puppet antics to HD for the first time ever. It remains to be seen if that film’s (even more) puerile offend-everyone tone will fly in 2018. I recall it being pretty funny, but then again, the last time I watched it in full was in high school, so don’t take that as gospel.
Note that this isn’t a release announcement per se, just a statement that restorations are underway. We’ll have to wait for distributors to take up the mantle for something more concrete - but given the films’ history and pedigree, they’d be fools to refuse the opportunity. More as the story develops (or scans, as it were).