A guide to Peter Jackson’s early work

Posted on 22 November 2020
By Dana Andersen
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Some directors have a very specific style that helps their movies stand out as theres, and Peter Jackson is not one of them.

Although he started out with very strong roots in the splatter film genre, he’s gone on to show that he has a unique range and diverse ability when it comes to directing.

Whether you’re a big fan of gore, or prefer the journey to Mordor, he’s sure to have something that can tickle your fancy.

From using his parents bathtub to mix fake blood, to having the resources and ability to direct multipart epics like Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson has always had a talent and drive that makes his early films just as engaging as those created later with much larger budgets.

Most Jackson fans start out with Brain Dead or Bad Taste, two of his earliest movies.

With Bad Taste focusing around aliens landing in New Zealand to turn the earth into an intergalactic fast food outlet, and Brain Dead playing with a plague of zombies caused by a monkey bite, both utilise more fake blood and youthful creativity than most people can stomach.

Neither are perfect movies, Bad Taste especially involves various actor changes and poorly dubbed lines, but half the charm of it is that thought they’re not perfectly made, the effects are always well done and its abundantly clear that Jackson cared deeply about making them.

Following up with Meet The Feebles is certainly a shock for the audience, but is a great example of Jackson’s dark sense of humour and brilliant sense of comedy.

Meet The Feebles is a film that can only be described as The Muppets on a lot of drugs.

The slightly terrifying main character is Heidi, a hippo actress on the last legs of her career, and the movie follows her and the other Feebles as they put on their shows, have many seedy going ons back stage, and perform songs with lyrics like ‘swimming down a sewer pipe, poo, poo, poo’.

If you think that’s weird, the kiwi’s next movie was a beautifully touching and respectful telling, of the true story of a woman who was murdered by her daughter and the girls young friend.

Of course it’s still a Peter Jackson movie, so the audience are treated to the girls clay sculptures, and the world they created together coming to life before our eyes, but it’s a very different story and tone to any of his other movies, and one we saw carried over much later when he directed The Lovely Bones.

The Frighteners is more of what fans expect from Jackson, although it did terribly at the box office, thanks to higher ups deciding to release what was clearly a halloween hit as a summer block buster.

Starring Michael J Fox as a ghost hunter, who isn’t technically a fake, because he can see ghosts, but he simply works with the ghosts to trick people into thinking they have a haunting for him to ‘fix’.

Horror comedys like this often receive negative reviews, largely because many audience members will be expecting either a horror or comedy, but The Frighteners weaves the two together beautifully, and it’s really unlucky it didn’t do well due to no fault of Peter Jackson.

Then came Lord of the Rings, and we all know what happened from there for the now well known director.

Jackson’s early work isn’t perfect or genius, but it was a strong beginning, and those early movies work thanks to the love and dedication that went into making them.