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Peter Jackson Interested In Revisiting “The Naughty Years”

We’ve got some ideas if the Kiwi filmmaker really wants to return to his disgusting roots.
By  · Published on December 12th, 2018

If you found yourself in love with the rich textures of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or King Kong, then you may not know what to do with yourself when you finally get a glimpse of his sticky-icky early films.

Before being inundated with hordes of CG orcs and mo-cap suited Englishmen, Jackson was in New Zealand crafting DIY special effects of exploding alien heads for his first cinematic love affair: Splatter Movies.

And while Jackson’s illustrious career has taken him far away from his early horror days of Bad Taste and Dead Alive, longtime fans have held steadfast that we would eventually see the Kiwi, along with Fran Walsh, return to the subgenre. But these foundational, bizarre films haven’t been made widely available for years. Until now.

Thanks to the film restoration process that Weta Digital VFX perfected on Jackson’s documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, he finally has the technology and time to remaster his earliest works in the way he has always wanted.

“I’ve decided to go back and do this to my old films — the first four I made, which I own but never rereleased. I’ve done some tests on ‘Braindead,’ where we took the 16mm negative and put it through our World War I restoration pipeline — and shit, it looks fantastic! I’m pretty keen to actually just get them back out there again. That’s sort of my plan for now: to do a nice little box set — the early years! The naughty years!”

Along with the gross-out puppet comedy Meet The Feebles and arguably his best work, Heavenly Creatures, the re-release of his early Splatterpieces is amazing news. But we’re not here for that. We’re here for this:

“Oh, I’m very happy to be disgusting again if the right project comes along. It would be interesting to see how disgusting Fran and I could be in our older age compared to our younger years because we’ve learned a few things since then. We know a little bit more about the world than we did then, so maybe our levels of disgusting could go into whole new places!”

That’s about as definitive a promise we can get for a new splatter film from a director who does not make movies like he used to. This is as if Steven Spielberg said, “I want to revisit the spirit of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind!” The success of a new Peter Jackson horror film would be as resounding as Sam Raimi’s own genre return, Drag Me To Hell.

After making three The Hobbit films, we think Peter Jackson really deserves to cut loose. A step outside of the massive studio system and a reminder of that fiery spirit that made us fall in love with his goopy early career. All he needs is a good idea, right? Well, Mr. Jackson, let us try to stoke your creative fire with these pitches for your inevitable return to the Splatterpiece:

An EC Comics Adaptation

Little known fact, unless you’re a big ol’ nerd like me, The Frighteners was originally a sequel to Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight. But Jackson and Fran Walsh’s script impressed Robert Zemeckis so much that The Frighteners flew solo while the official follow-up, Bordello of Blood, left everyone with a, ahem, bad taste. But this means that Jackson had EC Comics on his mind, and if he leaned on the archetypal structure the original series provided, he could have a framework that’ll allow him to paint the screen in crimson red again. Hell, Creepshow is returning to television via Shudder, so why not have Jackson helm a followup film that could rival Stephen King and George Romero’s timeless classic!

The Spleriod Piece

Peter Jackson’s newest documentary has him immersed in the history of World War I. But even he has probably taken the time to watch the trailer for Godzilla: King of Monsters, especially after he made his own giant creature feature with 2005’s King Kong. But what if he tried to splice these interests together, contrasting the bloody violence of a world war with the fun spectacle of a monster flick? With the audience enthusiasm for Julius Avery’s Overlord, maybe the world is finally ready for the “Spleriod Piece,” a Splatter Period Piece.

An Ode To His Influences

It’s well known that Peter Jackson has an affinity for the work of stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen. The animator himself has a wealth of unproduced work that, perhaps paired with Jackson, could be a match made in blood red heaven. One of Harryhausen’s projects was to be an adaptation of Thorne Smith’s comedy-horror novel Skin and Bone. The novel is about a photographer whose skin disappears when drunk, only to find that people like him way more as a skeleton. While it didn’t have commercial viability in the 1960s, with Jackson’s indelibly disgusting touch and deft hand at emotional storytelling, it has the pedigree to be a horror-comedy classic.

A Splatter-Gangster Film

Goodfellas is one of Peter Jackson’s favorite films, and if movies tell us anything its that gangsters are super violent! While gangster-horror isn’t a thriving subgenre, with its prevalence of violence, marrying wiseguys with splatter makes sense. While I think its safe to say that the most extreme we’ve seen gangsters go is the bloody-pulp death in Casino, if Jackson ever took a crack at making a “Splat-ster Film,” I doubt we’ll think of Joe Pesci’s buried face again.

A Sequel to Bad Taste or Dead Alive

Like the Schrodinger’s Cat of Ideas, the most and least likely choice for Peter Jackson would be to simply return to the stomping ground he’s already squashed. After all, if you consider both of his Tolkien trilogies as two long films, he’s never made a genuine sequel. Especially not like Evil Dead II, the biggest influence over his cult smash Dead Alive. What about Bad Taste 2: The Aftertaste or give a nod to an international title and call it Dead Alive II: Braindead! While maybe not the most creatively inspired, Peter Jackson returning to the sandboxes he sharpened his talents in would be nothing short of a cinematic treat for longtime fans.

Collaborate With A Modern Splat-Master

While I’m sure he would have created something as uniquely inventive as Deathgasm if Peter Jackson never made his early Splatter films, fellow Kiwi Jason Lei Howden is much better because of Jackson’s influences on New Zealand cinema. By Jackson collaborating with someone like Howden, not only would it be a passing of the torch should he never dip his toes back into the splatter pool again, but also gives us a rare creative duo. A cinematic trailblazer working with an artist extremely influenced by his predecessor’s work. With their twisted minds combined, I can only begin to imagine the gory artistry they could create.

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Jacob Trussell is a writer based in New York City. His editorial work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Rue Morgue Magazine, Film School Rejects, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the author of 'The Binge Watcher's Guide to The Twilight Zone' (Riverdale Avenue Books). Available to host your next spooky public access show. Find him on Twitter here: @JE_TRUSSELL (He/Him)