I’m back with round 2 of the column dedicated to Charles Band and the wonderfully ridiculous movies he’s put out under both the Empire Pictures and Full Moon banners. Today, I’ll be taking a look at an early 90s direct to video movie, Bad Channels. It’s a really strange film (with an even stranger premise) that seems to be stuck in between the 80s and 90s with a foot on each side. I’ve never seen such a 80s film that looks so much like a 90s movie, if that makes any sense. The film also can’t decide whether it wants to be a feature length film or cobbled together pile of music videos. I’m not saying any of this is a bad thing, but it does make for an outrageously confusing and rather entertaining watch.
Bad Channels is about a fungus alien and its little robot companion taking over a small radio station in Pahoota, California in order to transport and miniaturize beautiful women and place them in jars to keep as pets…I think. The film is also about controversial rock DJ Dan O’Dare (Paul Hipp), a Howard Stern type without the humor or edginess. O’Dare takes on hosting duties at a formerly all Polka station owned by Vernon Locknut (Aaron Lustig) after a 6 month FCC ban for “accidentally” broadcasting himself having sex with a woman on air. Don’t worry, there are plenty of awful innuendo jokes about it. Apparently, O’Dare hosting a show at KDUL 66.6 is big enough news in this small town for local news reporter Lisa Cummings (Martha Quinn, one of the original MTV VJs) to get stuck doing an interview with him on the first night of his broadcast. Oh yeah, and then the alien stuff happens.
The alien (dressed in a black space suit and giant rocky helmet) and its little robot buddy (looking like a mix between R2-D2 and Johnny 5 with a brain jar fixed atop its head) take control of the station and cover everything with a green fungus. They use the radio signal to kidnap attractive women listening to O’Dare’s broadcast, because that works somehow. Before being teleported into little jars, the women each experience a fantasy that plays out like a music video featuring some band you’ve probably never heard of (Fair Game, D.M.T., and Sykotik Sinfoney respectively), because it wins their trust with Rock-N-Roll or something. Now the self centered rock jock is trapped in the studio with the alien menace and is the only one who can save the day and kill the alien, using disinfectant.
Bad Channels is directed by Ted Nicolaou who also did the fantastic 1986 film TerrorVision (as well as some other Full Moon stuff like the Supspecies films). A lot of the same unique visual style shows up in Bad Channels, just not as much of the charm or originality that made TerrorVision work so well. I will say that the sets and effects are really fun to look at, although the time and budget constraints are pretty obvious. The fungus effects on individual people are pretty cheap looking, but the sets covered with fungus actually look really cool and add a nice green tint to the studio scenes. The final reveal of the alien is hilarious and very reminiscent of a certain alien with a lovely baritone voice. It seems like Nicolaou could have had a great career as a music video director because the three rock fantasy scenes are some of the most inspired of the movie. Not only did they cover and kind of parody three styles of music, but the random cuts to how the women looked to everyone else outside of the fantasy were the funniest parts of the movie for me.
The first music fantasy scene features the Hair Metal band Fair Game playing a song called “Blind Faith” in a cafe. The four ladies in the band mock play their instruments (including the drummer air drumming with only her sticks) on tables and counters, while singer Ron Keel tries to pull off an Alice Cooper meets Dio vibe that just doesn’t work. The second sequence features a Grunge-y band called D.M.T. playing a song called “Touching Myself Again” (I know, right?) in a high school gym with a bunch of cheerleaders around them. It’s seriously like if Alice in Chains decided to make a parody video of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which is to say that it’s really fucking funny. The third and final music sequence is my absolute favorite and features a weird Punk/Metal-ish band called Sykotik Sinfoney playing a song called “Manic Depresso” in a hospital. Not only is this sequence really creepy but this band blows my mind. They are like the bastard child resulting from an all-night fuckfest attended by Primus, Slipknot, and Green Jello…and I think I mean that as a compliment.
Bad Channels isn’t a very good film. The acting is pretty awful across the board with high points hitting a little above acceptable. The story makes little to no sense beyond, “It happens, so there can be a movie!” The thing doesn’t even run for its printed 88 minute running time! I clocked it in at about 81 minutes including the credits and a post-credits sequence featuring Dollman’s Tim Thomerson in a cameo/promo for the chopped up, recycled footage, continuity be damned film that is Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys. Still, I really enjoyed watching Bad Channels. You might get by now that I’m a fan of schlocky B-Movies and independent low budget cinema, which is true, but it still takes a certain kind of heart and ingenuity to make a good film like that. This film definitely has it. Everyone involved from the director, to the actors, to the crew, to fucking Blue Öyster Cult (who did the film’s score) really seem to care, try their best, and put a lot of love into the film. As long as that’s the case and the film winds up being entertaining (which this one definitely was), I’m on board.
This film came during a kind of Renaissance period for Full Moon. After putting out a couple of films (including their original trademark Puppet Master film) under the banner of Full Moon Productions, they changed over to Full Moon Entertainment (under which Bad Channels was made) and had a great 7 year run where they made a wide variety of films dipping into the action, fantasy, and sci-fi genres in addition to making some sequels for their more popular films. They then changed the name to Full Moon Pictures for a few years before finally settling on Full Moon Features and during that time, started leaning almost completely on franchise sequels and silly horror-comedies. There’s nothing wrong with that and it seems to be working really well for them, but I kind of miss the time period where films like Bad Channels (or others from that era like Arcade, Doctor Mordrid, or Oblivion) were part of their output as well.
Despite my personal wants and opinions, Full Moon is a force to be reckoned with, and I don’t see them going away any time soon. I have a lot of respect for them and for Charles Band, so I will continue to hunt through their catalogue like a junkie looking for his fix and see what other gems I can find in the mix (ha, that rhymed). I’ll be back next time with another recommendation from the Full Moon Empire vaults and another movie for you to sink your brain into.