Bad Channels (1992)
Feature and Analysis Document
The scope of a film analysis is to document and discuss the film’s history, plot, what about the film makes it notable in any way, and reactions to all these aspects as well. Sections 4.0 down may contain spoilers.
1.2 Document Premises
This document was created because of its selection on the Retrograde Media Podcast’s Alien Invasion series. The film was selected by Nathan Richardson (The Author).
2.1 Source Material
This film was based on an original idea by Charles Band.
2.2 Relevant & Related Works
Produced and partly written by Charles Band of Full Moon Entertainment fame, this film shares the forlorn cinematic universe with the rest of Full Moon Entertainment’s shlock. This so called shlock features Charles Band’s more well-known films: 1985’s Trancers (starring Helen Hunt), 1993’s Dollman vs. Demonic Toys (which actually follows an event from this film), and more recently, 2005’s The Gingerdead Man, and 2006’s Evil Bong; with all of their ‘sequels’… if you can call them that.
2.3 Genre Classification
This film is classified as a hodgepodge of Science Fiction, Comedy, Horror, and Music. The film has a story based on an alien invasion, but relies heavily on spoof comedy throughout. The horror aspects are mixed with the sci-fi pretty well, so it really isn’t horror in any specific kind of way other than it being a creepy alien. Music, well, the film has three full length music videos implanted within it. Needless to say, this film is ‘crazier than a tree full of owls’!
2.4 Audience & Critic Reception
The budget and box-office numbers are not known at the time of the current revision.
The film holds a 46% User Score on The Movie DB, a 27% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes with no Critics Score on record, nor a Metacritic score.
Critic reviews seem overwhelmingly negative. David Keyes of Cinemaphile ends his year 2000 review of the film by saying “I fear that the creators of this movie must have had brain tissue damaged sometime in their lifetimes” as he gave the film a 0/4. Because this film relies heavily on musical acts, Classic Rock Magazine chimed in on the soundtrack in 2006 calling it “a grotesque mistake.” On a more positive note, a 2007 review from The Film Fiend called it “hilariously cheesy”.
2.5 FYI & Trivia
The creature and robot designer in this film has also worked on props for TV’s Constantine, and Preacher. Most notably, he worked as a model maker for 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight and is still working as of the most recent revision of this document.
The band playing the polka music for the movie is titled as The Ukelaliens is actually Sykotic Synfoney (the band who plays Manic Depresso, the third music video of the film).
The soundtrack for this film was released as a two LP colored Record Store Day Exclusive vinyl release in 2015.
Stay after the credits and you get to see how Full Moon ties this film into their cinematic universe by giving Doll Man a cameo.
3.0 STORY OVERVIEW
3.1 Plot Description
1992’s Bad Channels is about a bad-boy radio DJ, a ‘puff piece’ reporter, and an alien (named Cosmo) from outer space with a robot with a brain in a jar (named Lump), has the power to grow all kinds of strange fungi-vegetation where it makes home base, and more importantly teleport young women from wherever they are as long as they are listening to a kick-ass radio song to a small glass jar. I think that covers it.
3.2 Key Ideas
This film is just a silly spoof. Yet, like all storytelling, even the spoof-kind have something to say underneath. For example one of the biggest (and only) story arcs of the film comes from our main DJ character. His change shows that if you’re living in your own little world, aliens may shake your view of your reality and show you how big the world actually is. The other big glaring one is of course, ‘don’t cry wolf’. Especially if you make your living on doing so over the radio.
A crisp clean and fun 88 minutes. If you’re expecting something other than a fun spoof then this film can feel very long. Some of the music videos feel overly long; but there are enough strange things going on in the background to keep you entertained.
4.0 FEATURE ELEMENTS
4.1 Worthwhile Characters
4.1.1 Dan O’Dare
Played by Paul Hipp: “Dangerous” Dan O’Dare is a DJ getting a second chance after previously being kicked off the air for being too risqué for radio. His second chance comes at a small radio station that is moving from playing nothing but polka music to ‘modern day’ 90’s alternative rock. Having been hinted at pulling some wild-and-crazy stunts on the radio in the past, Dan is still not above his same old radio charlatanism. Trying to live up to his reputation while at the same time making the best of his second chance, Dan gets a shock of the likes he will never forget when an alien takes over the radio studio with him reporting from inside.
4.1.2 Lisa Cummings
Played by Martha Quinn: Lisa is a reporter for the local TV news who is very skeptical of “The Dangerman” Dan O’Dare. As she plans to cook up a story to expose his tricks, she witnesses an alien craft fall from the sky and spends most the movie trying to persuade her station manager, the police, and a doctor in a hospital to let her cover this new the alien sighting story.
4.2 Interesting & Infamous Scenes
4.2.1 Why is He Chained Up?
Dan O’Dare is taking over as DJ of a local radio station that just found out they have a clear channel across the entire united states because no one else has 66.6am (Get it? 666). So, has a stunt to get people to call in, he chained himself to the wall and will only play polka (apparently, what the station was known for before he was hired) until someone called in with the right combination to let him out. It so happens he says the winner will also get a convertible.
It becomes apparent he set this all up with the national news guy just to get the coverage. That’s when Lisa Cummings starts to suspect Dan, and confronts him. After telling her a story about how he didn’t do it for the ratings, but so he could meet her, (a story she doesn’t fall for, well kind of does?) an alien ship lands next to the studio and she abandons her coverage of him to go chasing it.
4.2.2 What is the Alien doing?
Before the alien takes the radio station he lands at the towns power supply, messing with the electricity. An employee goes to check on it and gets fungi’ed by the Alien’s magic wand. As Lisa and the sheriff discover this guy and take him to the hospital, (where by the way, the doctor on duty thinks this disgusting green stuff is jock itch) the Alien and his robot enter the radio station and make it their own.
After spreading fungi all over the radio station, converting the controls with alien knobs and switches, the Alien and his robot began their work. Dan is kept alive, still on the air and can only watch as the Alien uses his devices and the radio’s signal to zoom in on the first young women.
4.2.3 The First Music Video
The Alien’s first target is the waitress, Cookie. Who we see in the beginning of the film as an aside to the main plot. First, she is just waiting tables, listening to the radio, chatting with her boss Peanut, and then a crazy 80’s hair band takes over and everyone starts rocking out… Except it’s all in her head. As she dances away and enjoys the party, the diner workers and patrons are staring at her wondering if she went crazy. This music video in her head is one of three that this film gives you and this one features the music of Fair Game who plays a pretty good 80’s metal tune, trashes up the diner, and when they get everyone dancing, it’s over and Cookie disappears right in front of everyone’s eyes.
This little segment the film introduces really sets the tone for the rest of the film. At no point did anyone suspect a music video to break out in someone’s head and the full song be played on the screen for our amusement. It was great. The music felt familiar but different. Seeing the lead singer who made a cameo appearance earlier in the film as the chef that needed a haircut at the diner added to the fun. The three-female guitarist rounded out a pretty awesome group and appeared “in the real world” as workers and customers.
4.2.4 Chicks in Bottles from Over Radio Waves?
We find out that Cookie was transported via these new crazy Alien airwaves back to the radio studio and shrunk down into one of four little bottles. What the hell? So, it happened. It’s real in the movie, so let’s go with it. After Cookie gets shrunk down the Alien starts what appears to sound like making little baby noises and waving at her. It’s hilarious. Like she’s a puppy or something. The film never gives a reason why the Alien and his robot are doing this. It’s completely left up to the imagination of the views which is perfect because it really doesn’t matter, it’s just bonkers.
Dan sees this and starts to connect the dots that the radio is somehow allowing the Alien to this. He has tried to get people off his phone lines so he could call for help, but they are jammed. People love his new schtick and wont clear the phone lines. He starts to plead with people to stop listening to the radio, but people are glued to their sets as this modern War of the Worlds is having people cracking up instead of fleeing for their lives.
4.2.5 The Second Music Video
Looking through the Alien’s viewfinder he sees the next girl it is targeting, Bunny. She is at a high school gymnasium practicing with the band and being eye fucked by a band geek who looks like a cross between Jim Halpert and Crispin Glover. She goes to the phone to call the radio station to say how much she loves it, and Dan answers her call. Dan can see her and tells her to turn off the radio, but it’s too late. The gymnasium is now occupied by a grunge band lead by a guy with a unibrow. Bunny starts dancing to the music and grinding on the Jim Halpert / Crispin Glover geek when in real life everyone is goggle-eyed staring at her.
The group this time is called D.M.T. and they are singing “Touching Myself Again”, a not so good grunge song about just having to masturbate when thinking of a girl – perfect for high school. In her head, Bunny doesn’t seem so opposed to the band geek as she was in real life, but before she realizes it the song ends and she is transported into another one of the Alien’s little jars.
4.2.6 The Third Music Video
By this time the whole down thinks Dan has kidnapped these girls and Lisa Cummings is back on scene to try to let people know that she’s seen this UFO and went to the hospital to and saw what these weird green fungi stuff can do. But she is interrupted by the non-believing sheriff and the news station cuts her feed. They attempt to ram open the studio, but the police(?) guys who do it end up splatting green goo all over their face. Dan is pretty much ready to accept that he will die with the women in the glass jars as he has been infected with the fungi. By this time the Alien is ready to take his third girl, this time Ginger, a nurse at the hospital that we meet earlier when Lisa showed up with the sheriff and the utility guy who got covered with green goo.
This music video is the one everyone who watches this film remembers. It’s outstanding and ahead of its time. The group that shows up in the hospital dressed as a collection of a clown with glasses, a guy in a cow costume wearing a skeleton mask of sorts, a guitarist dressed as a creepy nun just overtake all your senses. The group is called Skykotic Sinfoney and the song is Manic Depresso. As the lead singer (the one dressed as the cow) sings about how happy his life is, the rest of the band is either jumping off walls, pretending to float their own guitars, holding plastic babies, and more. This video deserves another watch and soon, the song will be stuck in your head and you’ll want to download the whole soundtrack.
Nonetheless, Ginger starts dancing by herself again and then gets transported into the third little jar. Her disappearance surprises both the doctor, and the utility guy he’s still peeling “jock itch” off, who has been doing nothing but laying on the surgery slab the whole time.
4.2.7 He Really Hates His Own Robot
With three out of the four jars full the Alien sets up to fill his last one. Now, throughout this whole kerfuffle the Alien argues with the robot and beats him with his magic wand many times. It’s kind of comical. During one of these distractions Dan looks back through the view finder and sees that the Alien’s next target is Lisa. He finally decides to confront the Alien to save herm but he is quickly put in his place and quiets down. The Alien demands he keeps speaking. It’s then that Dan realizes that the Alien is using the sound of his voice to target the women through the air waves. As the Alien gets ready to take Lisa she is interrupted by Crispin Halpert the band geek who is looking for Bunny. In that small moment, he steps into Lisa’s personal space and is transported into the final jar.
Now the Alien has dealt with a lot of the robot’s stupidity all night long, but apparently capturing a guy instead of a girl was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Unfortunately for Lump, his big brain just wasn’t big enough. The Alien zaps Lump and sends him exploding into a million pieces. The Alien cleans up after poor Lump’s mistake and reverses the process, sending band geek back to regular size and outside the radio studio.
During this kerfuffle, Dan looks for a weapon to go out fighting with, finds a box cutter and a can of “Germisol”. He uses it on his infected hand and the fungi melts off. This is when he confronts the robot and finds out that it’s his voice that they are using to target the women. The can runs out and he does what he’s told until the Alien, without the help of Lump, zooms in on Lisa and captures her and her camera in the final jar. Since Lisa has her camera with her she records the rest of the confrontation which when shown on a regular size TV looks like a tiny box in the screen (get it because it’s such a tiny camera?).
Dan has had enough and decides to fight the Alien over the switch that apparently controls the transportation device. He wins by using that pocket knife to cut a hole in the Alien’s suite and frees three of the four women.
4.2.8 Wait, He’s Really a What?!
As the Alien writhes around in confusion or pain, Dan hands out more Germisol that has showed up because when she was captured she was touching the utility guy’s hospital cart, and apparently to cure “jock itch” you need a lot of Germisol. So, in the logic of this film if you were touching something when you were captured (ala Lisa and her camera), it shrinks down with you and visa versa.
Having leaked so much air (or whatever was in his suit), the Alien explodes out of his suit and is revealed to be a cute Venus flu trap looking plant on robot legs (which break). So there you have it, a Venus fly trap looking things with two strange appendages making cute dragon sounds flaying away. That’s our enemy… That’s Cosmo.
4.2.9 ...And THAT’S How You Kill It?!
Our heroes double fist cans of Germisol and start spraying Cosmo until he is nothing but a sad slumped over puppet. With his list bit of strength Cosmo uses his giant mouth and flips a leaver that beams him back to his ship and flies away.
4.2.10 It’s Over!
The film ends after Dan and the women spry the door which for some reason blows it up. Lisa walks over to the news guy who came out from the studio to get this story and hands him her small camcorder that never returned to regular size. They get ready to drive off into the sun set when that Crispin Glover Jim Halpert looking band geek enters the scene again and asks where Bunny is… Oops, she’s still tiny and stuck in the jar.
5.1 General (Objective) Thoughts
As the Audience Reaction in Section 1.4 shows, this film is just silly stupid. It contains three full length music videos and other music recorded by Blue Oyster Cult. It’s overly wacky on purpose (like most of the Full Moon franchise). The plot is stupid, the alien looks awful, the acting is subpar compared to a real science fiction movie, and if you don’t like 90’s alternative then the music sucks.
The film itself can’t even be put in the so-bad-it’s-good category. The filmmaking is competent and what little story there is, is coherent. The so-bad-it’s-good films don’t have those two factors which makes them very hard (and the most fun) to follow or understand. So it’s trapped somewhere on the border for most people, and the side of the fence they’re leaning toward is the ‘bad’ one for them.
5.2 Personal (Subjective) Thoughts
I love this goddamn movie. It has the perfect blend of 90’s nostalgia, and cheesy practical effects (way better than cheap digital effects), that make this film really fun to watch- especially with someone else. The most memorable part for me was the music video for Sykotic Sinfony’s Manic Depresso. Although the other musicians in this film where good (yes, even the emo unibrow guy that plays in a high school gymnasium) and very nostalgic (ala the hair metal group at the diner – totally-totally!), Sykotic Sinfony blew my fucking mind. Perhaps if it wasn’t for the addition of their music to the film that perfectly fit together with the crazy theme of it all I wouldn’t like it as much.
If I want to throw on what many people call ‘popcorn films’, or ‘turn off your brain kind of movies’; sure, I could put in one of Michael Bay’s Transformers… But why do that when there are films like this waiting to be discovered.
Sometimes there’s a film. And I’m talking about Bad Channels here. Sometimes there’s a film, well, it’s the film for its time and place. It fits right in there. And that’s Bad Channels, in 1992.
I am pretty grateful that one of my friends knew me enough to know I would enjoy this, and enjoy it I did. I am even more grateful to be able to show this to others in my life who also enjoy it. But that’s only because I know them pretty well. Recommending this film is difficult because you really need to know your audience.
In turn, I would recommend this film but only to a few unique groups of people:
• People who enjoy the charm of late 80’s, early 90’s Troma like films.
• People who have watched 1989’s Puppet Master or 1991’s Dollman (also by Full Moon) and enjoyed them.
• People who love to discover strange, wild, or films that have the word ‘comedy’ after the name of another genre they adore (i.e. Horror comedy, sci-fi comedy).
If none of these apply to you, I would say it wouldn’t be the worst thing to skip this one. Just because my twisted mind somewhat enjoyed this film doesn’t mean you will.
6.0 SUPPLEMENTAL INFOAMTION
6.1 Internal References
Not applicable as of the latest revision of this document.
6.2 External References
The Movie DB, along with Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and Meta Critic are always sources used for this type of document. Other sources are listed below: