Once upon a time, Peter Jackson was a backyard horror filmmaker in New Zealand. Now one of the most commercially-successful filmmakers in the world, Jackson has decided to revisit the early splatter phase of his career.
Jackson is planning to use the prodigious resources of his VFX company, Weta Digitial, to restore and revitalize Jackson’s 1987 feature film debut, Bad Taste, along with 1989’s Meet the Feebles and 1992’s Braindead. Bad Taste, which was filmed over the course of four years, only cost $25,000 to make.
The announcement arrives in tandem with the release of Jackson’s latest film, They Shall Not Grow Old, a World War I documentary assembled from more than 600 hours of archival footage, which Jackson restored and upgraded. Through Jackson’s pioneering digital wizardry, long-dead soldiers appear to be telling the story of World War I in the film, in their own words.
Talking to the Hollywood Reporter, Jackson says that he’s applying the same digital and editing techniques to his early films. “I’ve decided to go back and do this to my old films,” says Jackson. “I’ve done some tests on Braindead, where we took the 16mm negative and put it through our World War I restoration pipeline. It looks fantastic!”
Of all of his early films, Jackson says that his first feature, Bad Taste, is the film that’s most in need of repair. During the film’s lengthy production process, Jackson stored the negative under his bed. “I didn’t have anywhere to put it, so I shoved it under my bed” says Jackson. “When I finally got the funding to do the finished Bad Taste film, there was damp mold and mildew all through the bloody negative, and you can sort of see it in some shots. I’m looking forward to tidying that up.”
Jackson also promises that these rereleases will include plentiful behind-the-scenes supplements. “I’ve always had video diaries being shot,” says Jackson. “I’ve got about an hour or two of us shooting Bad Taste, seven or eight hours of us shooting Feebles, and fifty to sixty hours of us filming Braindead.”
Jackson still carries a fond sense of nostalgia for his early films. “There was a degree of freedom that we used to have in those days that you lose to some degree,” says Jackson. “Our only philosophy was that we were going to be as disgusting as we possibly could.”
While Jackson has yet to strike a distribution deal for the rereleases, Jackson expects the restored versions of the films to be released via online streaming. “It’ll be online streaming, iTunes, all that sort of stuff,” says Jackson. “The good thing about owning a facility like Weta is that I can just restore my old films, and I don’t have to worry about it.”