Bad Channels (1992)
WRITER: Screenplay by Jackson Barr
DIRECTOR: Ted Nicolaou
STARRING: Paul Hipp as Dan O'Dare
Martha Quinn as Lisa Cummings
Aaron Lustig as Vernon Locknut
Michael Huddleston as Corky
Victor Rogers as Sheriff Earl Hickman
Charlie Spradling as Cookie
Melissa Behr as Nurse Ginger
Daryl Strauss as Bunny
Roumel Reaux as Flip Humble
QUICK CUT: A local radio station is upgrading to a nationwide broadcast over station 66, on the same night that it just so happens to be overtaken by an alien looking to abduct a couple girls. Hey, it happens!
Dan O'Dare - He SAYS he's a hardcore, shocking radio host. The movie tells us this fact repeatedly. But he's pretty harmless. I don't even think he would've been that shocking back in 1992. Gasp! He chains himself to the radio station and plays polka until he's released?? Yeah, whatever dude.
Lisa - An aspiring news reporter for a cable channel, that gets way less respect than she deserves. She's better at her job than most everyone else we meet at the channel. But she's stuck doing puff pieces like covering a radio station going national with a wacky host. But she's smart, and determined, and will probably go far, if she doesn't get sucked into a tiny glass tube by aliens.
Cosmo - The alien, who seems to have decided that Mars needs women, and the best way to get them is to take over a radio station, and hoover them up into his alien bongs. Seriously, this is his plan? Couldn't just scoop them off the back roads? And for using a nationwide radio station, he sure does only grab from near the source.
THE GUTS: I'm sure no one will believe me, but it is a TOTAL coincidence that one of the first big movies after I start having ads for Full Moon Streaming just so HAPPENS to *be* a Full Moon movie. Oh no, I've had this one on the books for ages, and scheduled solidly for today, for a good eight months or so. But I am gonna roll with this happy bit of timing.
See, I love Full Moon, obviously, and Bad Channels has something else I love; a score by Blue Oyster Cult. Oh yes, they somehow got roped into doing an entire soundtrack album for this movie, and it's wonderfully cheesy, but more on that later. I've wanted to do this one for awhile for those reasons alone. But let us also enjoy the happy synergistic coincidence
Anywho, cheesy movie makers with an amazing 80s rock band, this could go so wrong or so right, let's just dive right in.
We get things rolling with a power station having some sparky issues, which a worker decides to check on. What he finds can best be described as a cross between copper residue turned green, and a calcified mess. Yeah, that's not just because the new radio station is coming online, pal.
He sees the growth extends all the way up to the towers, and gets sucked through Doctor Who's time vortex, or whatever.
Once he's out of the picture, we cut to once-famed MTV VJ Martha Quinn, covering the new radio station, KDUL. Yes, K-Dull. Oh, that bodes ill. Somehow, this channel has been authorised to broadcast nationwide, on the 666 kilohertz frequency...
Hey! Have you guys thought of doing a 976 horoscope call in service?!
The station is also called Superstation 66, and they're kicking off their nationwide broadcast debut with a 66 hour marathon. WE GET IT. YOU ARE EVIL. Move on.
Oh, they also have one of the most controversial DJs working for them, Dangerous Dan O'Dare. And to be blunt, he is no Howard Stern. This chump isn't even a Don Imus.
He's got himself chained up in the studio, repeatedly playing the same polka album until someone calls in and guesses the right three number combination on the lock and chains that keep him bound to the chair.
We seriously spend over five minutes featuring various people calling in to try and free Dan and win a car. The best part about it is, it's an effective way to introduce characters. But other than that, where's the fast forward?
Since the winner of the car JUST so happened to be the news anchor back at the station, Quinn naturally assumes this is some sort of payola scam and storms out. Dan follows, making sure to play SIX songs on Station 66! EVIL.
They have their requisite confrontation, and fortunately, we cut to the chase when cheap special effects land in a field in the distance.
Our erstwhile news reporter is more than happy to latch on to the UFO landing, but the lights are gone by the time they travel the ten feet to look. Yeah, sorry, you got nothin'.
When even the sheriff doesn't believe you, and the guy who will literally DO ANYTHING for ratings won't back you up, you got NOTHING.
Does anyone care at this point that Dan DID bribe the Bryant Gumbel wannabe just so he'd send over Lisa?
Anyways, the cameraman returns with dinner, and sees an alien standing off in the fields. An alien that promptly zaps him to wherever the electructional guy went, probably.
Meanwhile, Dan goes back on the radio, and after Lisa shot down his advances, publicly humiliates her on the radio about seeing the UFO. I'm sure she got worse treatment on MTV, to be honest...
Lisa ends up at the power station, where the sheriff has found the electrician, who's Not Really Dead after all, and talking about weird lights and being poked.
He tears open his shirt dramatically, and instead of revealing he's Superman, the guy has a giant green fungal mold growing on him. I'd call it Junior, but I doubt a single person reading these words would appreciate the reference to an old issue of X-Force.
The aliens are getting fed up with all of Dan's trash talk, so head over to the radio station, following their cameraman snack. Once they arrive, the systems start going all explodey, but somehow the radio broadcast stays on the air.
Right now, there have been more transmistters and transistors killed than actual people.
Apparently the aliens don't have doors where they come from, and they just blast on through with their robot pal, to make Dan and his engineer, Corky, scream.
Over in movie #2, Lisa is following Willis to the hospital to get his chest looked at, following her own UFO story. No matter how much her boss wants her to not bother.
She finds a nurse who just so happens to be listening to Dan, as he recounts the slow invasion of the alien visitor to the studio. And naturally, she assumes it's all a prank at her expense. War of the Worlds 2: The Plot to Shame Lisa!
And the nurse is laughing hysterically at 'what a maniac' Dan is. I...I do not think this movie understands shock jocks at all.
Speaking of the radio, back at the station, the alien has taken over the studio and redecorated the place with his own techno-organic pieces, and sprayed green goo everywhere, making it probably not far off from the radio station in Night Vale. But with less blood.
And to be honest? I bet the alien is a better DJ than Dipshit Dan O'Dare.
Our alien host continues setting things up, including his girl collecting device, that looks like a set of bongs. Or Coke bottles.
Things start to go down Weirdness Lane, as one of the monitors the alien is using has homed in on a waitress at the local diner, and she starts to see a rock performance crashing into the place.
And if this is where you thought there'd finally be some Blue Oyster Cult, nope! Wrong! No! Instead, the movie uses other random, little known bands for the music, and BOC only did the score. That may be the single most wasted opportunity in cinematic history.
So, um, the alien's plot is to beam visions of music videos into the minds of young girls and make them dance on countertops? Cosmo's favourite movie is Coyote Ugly, isn't it?
The musical number ends with the girl going poof, and reappearing in one of the alien's bongs, shrunken down to travel size for his convenience. Damnit, Charles Band. What is it with you, and doll-sized things?
It says something when the other plot, involving the guy with the fungal growth described as gigantic jock itch is the more normal side of your story. Although maybe I spoke too soon when that fungus starts dancing to the music on the radio.
Corky freaks out and tries to escape the station, but the alien zaps him with his all purpose Swiss Army Zapper. And then plays some tunes. Nice to see the alien wants to keep the show going, and not interrupt the marathon.
Dan starts to piece things together, and tries to shoot his career in the foot, by telling everyone, nationwide, to stop listening to the station. He's guessing that somehow, the aliens are tuning their equipment in on specific people.
In Soviet Russia, radio tunes into YOU!
Not content with one girl, the alien has tuned into another girl, a ditzy one who called in earlier, named Bunny. And like everyone else, she thinks Dan's just telling tall tales for ratings and whatnot, so doesn't want to turn off the radio.
And cue yet another musical number.
The truly criminal part in all this, is that the 'music videos' aren't even particularly GOOD videos. I could've endured the padding like this if we were spoofing specific videos or styles a bit more.
Lisa and the sheriff finally get tired of shooting the fungus at the hospital, and return to the radio station. Lisa tries to convince Flip back in his studio that Dan's broadcasts are real, or at least have SOME truth to them.
The sheriff interrupts and insists that it's just a hostage situation, and they're trying to get in and stop Dingleberry Dan.
Technically, hostage situations involve demands, but I digress and ignore the rationalisations and attempts at logic...
The police bring in a battering ram to try and bust the door once Chuck fails. Dan watches the alien head to the door at the sound, and warns people that the alien will kill anyone who tries to get inside.
Which the sheriff has an AH HA! moment, and says Dan is broadcasting death threats. I...no...listen to words.
While Flip decides to head to Pahoota and get his car before Dan goes to jail, Dan watches as the aliens home in on victim number three, the nurse from the hospital. Nice to know that while this is a national superstation, broadcast all over the US, everyone seems to be taken from nearby.
I guess the alien likes his produce locally grown.
...Hey wait, the sheriff SHOT her radio trying to stop the fungus!! Oh well. At least the song and dance routine from the nurse's abduction is trippy as hell.
With only 20 minutes left, the plotlines start to converge, as Bunny's boyfriend shows up at the station, as does the doctor to report his nurse went poof in a cloud of sparkles.
Dan also starts making an impassioned plea to essentially nuke the station from orbit, since the station owner won't cut the power because he's getting a ratings boner.
As if the movie needed one more plot complication, Dan reveals he's been infected with the alien fungus. Well, no great loss there.
But wait! Dan JUST so happens to find a can of disinfectant spray, and it WORKS on the fungus!! That's a sprayus ex machina if ever I saw one.
Dan tries it on his cocooned friend, and I *swear* if they undo one of the few deaths in this movie NOW...but before that happens, Dan takes charge and sprays the alien in his crusty head.
At least, until the can starts to run dry.
I, um, I can't believe I'm gonna say this... I like that this is a reversal of the classic War of the Worlds? Those aliens were taken down by germs, and now these invaders have a weakness to germ fighting sprays. That'scleverdamnit.
The alien's upset, but instead demands Dan keep talking. He watches as the equipment starts to home in on Lisa, and infodumps on us that when he speaks, he can see everyone clearly, and when he stops, the images fade, so the aliens are using his voice to aim the machinery.
HEY DAN. STOP TALKING!
Okay, sure, they might kill you, but your sacrifice will be the single best thing you've ever done with your life. So shut up!
Which is of course his cue to scream louder and try and warn Lisa to stop listening. ...Logic!
At the last second, she is only spared because the marching band dude that was lusting after Bunny runs up to get Lisa's autograph, bumping her out of the way and taking her place in the alien bong.
Umm. Why didn't he get a musical number? Why didn't we get to watch HIM squirm around shaking his ass to music? OH wait, I know.
The alien isn't happy at his little buddy's error, and makes him explode. And I am not counting robot deaths.
So the alien zaps the kid out of the tube, and we learn the process is reversable, which is good for the girls, I guess.
Cosmo tries to take Lisa, and succeeds this time, causing Dan and Rockface to fight over the controls, while Flip arrives outside to take over the broadcast.
And again, there was no musical number. I guess Blue Oyster Cult checked out by this point. Wisely enough.
They get a signal from Lisa's camera, but they don't know what to make of it, because it too is one third the size. ...Camera's don't work that way. The signal would still be the signal, and not looking like a multimedia presentation from 1993. Sigh.
Dan grabs a box cutter and stabs the alien's suit, venting atmosphere. Nooo, the dread balloon animaliens from Poppup XIII!
The suit explodes, and the evil love child of Audrey II and the Freakmaker's venus fly trap emerges. Or maybe its the creature from the Revenge of Doctor X. ...I have reviewed too many movies with evil plants.
Oh, and Corky crawls out of his coccoon. Damnit. No one's stayed dead except the cameraman.
So, as Plant Nine from Outer Space flails around, Dan grabs the controls and sends all the girls except for Bunny back to normal size.
And it was a good thing the nurse was taken with her cart, which JUST so happened to be carrying more cans of disinfectant! Too...much...coincidence...
Even though the true face of the alien leans too much towards a silly Kukla, Fran, and Ollie reject, I actually kinda like it, and I *love* the practical nature and SIZE of the thing. If for no other reason, that gigantic puppeted monster makes the movie.
They spray the crap out of Swamp Thing, and save the day, but not before the alien decides its had enough, and teleports the heck out of there.
So, they spray the door and make it explode, somehow, and everyone gets out. And all the people outside STILL think it's just a publicity stunt. The missing alien sure ain't going to help matters.
And so the cops aren't happy. And the boss isn't happy. And I'M not happy.
Flip grabs Dan and Lisa for an exit interview, and Lisa tells him that she got it all on tape, but the camera is revealed to still be shrunk, so they can't see it! Ha HA! Again, we know it broadcast, that feed SHOULD be good, because a signal is a signal... Not to mention that whycome the camera stayed small, when the cart didn't, and oh look, I'm trying to logic again.
Also, Dan tells Flip to fuck off, which is the *single most* 'radio rebel' thing he has done the ENTIRE MOVIE. Which is of course a moment NOT on radio.
The alien ship takes off, for many people to see, so at least everyone's a believer now. Oh, and I guess the alien is the only one flying off into the sunset.
OH yeah, that's when they finally notice that no one saved Bunny for no particular reason other than setting up a future plot point.
Video: In all honesty, considering this is a quickie one off disc, from the early 90s, direct to video, it actually looks really good. Everything's easy to see, the blacks don't swallow up anything, there's nothing seriously blown out...
Audio: The audio would largely be okay, but since the main selling point of this is supposed to be the music, it could've been better. And as a special side note, the music is actually pretty decent, if very much of the time. Or ahead of its time. Still, it's a shame that the Blue Oyster Cult stuff itself was mainly for the score.
Sound Bite: "The aliens have you in their sights, Bunny! They're about to snatch you through the air and shrink you into a glass bubble, Bunny!" Nothing sums the movie up more than this quote from Dan.
Body Count: This is the single most disappointing Body Count I have seen in quite some time.
1 - Cameraman Moon gets zapped by Cosmo and his cosmic tuning fork 18 minutes into the movie. AND THAT IS IT.
Best Corpse: WHO ELSE?
Blood Type - D-: Pretty much bloodless. This Full Moon movie comes from the era when they were just starting to slide more family friendly. The only reason I don't fail the movie entirely, is the amaaazing puppetry on the inner Cosmo.
Sex Appeal: Just the occasional curvy babe dancing to music.
Drink Up! Every time the plot grinds to a halt to share a badly executed music video.
Sighs and Sounds: Well, dangit. I tried a few different clips, but they all got stomped on by copyright notices. But that's okay. I'm pretty anti-piracy, and if there's problems with rights, I ain't gonna fight them!
But as a bonus, and since Trisk is now affiliated with Full Moon Streaming, I've gotta send y'all straight to watch this movie over there. This is easily one worth watching along, and the videos are trippy as hell.
Movie Review: As long time readers may recognise, Ted Nicoloau directed a few other Trisks. Most notably, and particularly relevant to this movie, TerrorVision. Both movies have that same sort of media and aliens mashup. I think TerrorVision was probably the more successful movie, but this one takes the subject matter more, uh, seriously. Such as it is. It's less uber bizarre 80s overkill, with a bit more serious and normal setting. There's some okay acting here, Quinn does a decent job, although sometimes she flows from one line to the next without really a break or pause or proper emotional shift. It's weird. Dan's actually not bad either, if just horribly miscast and misused. The downside comes from the music videos. The movie becomes horribly padded because of them, and they're just not that interesting. It could have been better either without them, or with better videos. I like the actual *music*. And using lesser known bands in a showcase like this is fun, but it never quite worked. And worst of all, the plot logic absolutely Does. Not. Work. Come down to a planet, take over a radio station, and home in on and kidnap four girls? There has GOT to be easier ways to do that. Two out of five exploding robots.
Entertainment Value: This movie isn't quite *great* fun, but it's surprisingly entertaining, if you take it with absolutely zero seriousness. How can you, with a plot like this? Like I've said, the music is fun, and Sykotik Sinfoney is the best of the lot. Still, Blue Oyster Cult was the big selling point here, and it is a horrible cheat to *not use them* beyond score. A few actual songs ended up on the soundtrack album, but that's just more false advertising, yes? But man, that Cosmo puppet remains worth the price of admission, and the movie IS fun and campy. Three out of five captured girls.
BUT WAIT it's not over! I am not done yet!! This movie has an after credits sequence! Featuring another Full Moon character! That had not appeared yet, and teeing up his own franchise! Back in 1992! How amazing is that? They beat the Marvel Cinematic Universe to trying to create a shared universe almost 15 whole years before they did it.