Welcome back to another Friday Nightmare Reviews, wherein I tell you what you could be watching instead of scrolling the internet, looking for cheap thrills and bad jokes. Trust me, tonight’s film has scores of at least one of those things. I’ll let you guess which one. You know, every week I come on here and wax about the virtues of leaving behind the trappings of the internet (you know, that thing that you’re using to read this) to join me down the rabbit hole of something you could watch on either your computer or television. While sometimes I dig up lost gems that really should be talked about more often or things that are far too much fun to be ignored, a lot of times the films that I’m bringing to your attention are weird as fuck and I have to wonder exactly why it was made in the first place. And on the topic of this evening’s film, have you ever thought to yourself what Terrorvision would be like if it was somehow less dignified and somehow even more cartoonish but without the bright and colorful world that it was set in? No? Well there was indeed at least one person who thought such things and that man was the director of Terrorvision. No joke.
I feel like it’s almost unfair to cover Full Moon films because these movies are the kinds that are meant to be like the unplanned children of Plan 9 From Outer Space. It’s where weird ideas go to become not particularly well executed film versions of themselves to mixed results. None of this is to say that they aren’t entertaining. There’s a reason that Full Moon has its rather large following and some of these films are great just for how much fun they are and the world of horror movies would be lesser without them. And it’s not like they haven’t produced some kind of well intentioned and even somewhat good(ish) results too. In fact, among the more successful series of films that they have produced was directed by the same man who directed this film that we’re covering tonight, that being Ted Nicolaou. I will give him this, he’s a director with a wide variety to his name and it’s not like he’s out there making a million carbon copies of his own work. I mean, this is the same guy who gave us the visually stunning Vampire Journals with a pretty decent stab at a fairly lush story of loss and revenge. He also gave us the colorful crazy world of Terrorvision with a story so strange that it’s impossible to really hate that film. And then he gave us Bad Channels in 1992.
Where do we start with this one? It’s not really an unfair question to be honest because the film doesn’t really give us much to work with. That’s saying something when talking about Full Moon films because they’re literally built to be part of ongoing narratives that can be squeezed for cash until they squeak. As far as Bad Channels goes, however, we start off with no idea where we are, what’s going on, what’s wrong or who’s even in the film. There’s starting in medias res and then there’s dropping your sorry ass in the middle of something you didn’t plan to explain or justify. The more astute reader probably already knows which one we’re dealing with here. It’s not even like this is a deal breaker. After all, there’s a ton of films that give you almost nothing to work with right off the bat but most of them still give you the minimal amount of bread crumbs to follow the plot. I mean, even Terrorvision had something that hinted at a preamble before it got into the meat of its nonsense. Once the nonsense dust clears from this one, our collective sorry asses land in the middle of nowhere at a radio station that just happens to have the dial numbers 66.6 as its ID. Oh right, it’s about a radio station. You might have understandably thought that this was another film about watching TV because of that whole channel business but rest assured, it’s never brought up at all. Nope, our action revolves around this station that sports the number of the beast. You might think you know where this plot is going from here but I assure you that this acid trip is only beginning and the ride is about to get bumpy.
But let’s take a second to figure out who is on this journey with us. Most films would like you to get to know our main protagonists from a place where either we are going to really empathize with their struggle or they’re such a train wreck that we can’t help watching, unsure if we’re in it for the fascination or the schadenfreude. In horror films, most try for the first group because it makes for better final girl scenes if we give a shit about the main character and whether they live or die. It’s not unheard of for a film to be populated with a bunch of people that you’re not that crazy about but it’s less common, especially in horror. Still, usually there’s a reason and it’s a technique that has been used to some interesting ends of various degrees of seriousness by a range of writers and directors. From the very start of this film, we’re thrown in with a bunch of cartoon characters that just happen to be live actors. And I’m not sure what the appeal of asking them to act like hyperbolic extras on PeeWee’s Playhouse was but that’s the kind of logic we start with and it goes down from here. While this isn’t necessarily that out of the ordinary for Full Moon or for Nicolaou himself, it’s weirdly excessive in this film in a way that puts others I’ve seen by him to shame. Legit, the cast seems like they have been instructed to act as though they’re all on a sugar high and whoever isn’t in the process of pulling a face is going to be docked a day’s pay. And all this starts before the alien appears. Or what passes for an alien anyway.
You wouldn’t think that it would be possible for bad movies to become a vortex of absurdity or weirdness but it somehow manages this feat in ways that are kind of impossible to talk about without delving into spoilers. If you’re wanting to go into this film blind, that’s understandable and you should probably skip the next paragraph. That said, just so you know, knowing any of what I’m about to tell you isn’t necessarily going to ruin the experience as it’s so bat shit that it really does have to be seen to be believed. It would be one thing if it was just odd but it crosses into fever dream territory and occasionally into weirdly offensive and then back into the where the hell are we meadows before too long. All this said, if you are wanting to traverse that meadow without knowing anything, maybe just skip the next few paragraphs and wander on to the end of the review instead.
So here’s the plot, if you can call it that: Starting off at the aforementioned radio station, we have a television station covering a stunt that is being performed live on air by a new shock jock to mark the station changing from a boring old polka station to a rock and roll station that broadcasts nationwide. Our “Dangerous” DJ Dan O’Dare has chained himself up and is playing the same polka record until someone correctly guesses the right combination to the lock. The correct guess is going to win a car and it will signal the end of the polka music on that station for good. Normally this would be the kind of thing that would be easy to pick apart to death but the movie doesn’t dwell on this and neither should we because this is just to establish two things. First, Dan O’Dare is an asshole. He’s a shock jock in the tradition of a toothless, watered down version of Howard Stern back in his wild beginning days. Second, Dan O’Dare is known for being the crazy out there personality that will say anything so it makes it almost credible when shit really gets going. And don’t worry because shit starts about five minutes in when he admits that he rigs the car contest to get to talk to our incredibly annoying protagonist female lead, Lisa, played by Martha Quinn. The pair don’t really have any chemistry and don’t seem to even like each other as O’Dare comes off as creepy and she comes off as annoying. And these are our two leads meant to carry this film.
Where they carry it to next is down alien lane as Lisa becomes convinced that she’s seen a UFO and it’s her big break to an amazing story. And Quinn rides this reporter looking for a scoop for the rest of the film. O’Dare finds out the hard way that his antics aren’t really that attractive to women and responds in the super mature way by making fun of Lisa on air. This backfires immediately when the UFO happens to be real and ends up with an alien that looks like it’s made of leftover shit from your garage and its robot minion storm the station and take it over. From here things really go to oddball hell as the trash heap alien covers everything in a kind of fungus and begins to take over the transmission while O’Dare narrates the entire thing. Of course, everyone around doesn’t take him seriously and thinks it’s just another elaborate hoax. It helps immensely that everyone around is also dumber than a sack of particularly dull hammers and thus, O’Dare’s cries for help fall on ignorantly deaf ears. Those cries get harder to ignore when the alien’s devious plan starts to take shape. A plan that the movie never really gets around to explaining.
The garbage alien uses the radio station to target women who are listening to it and somehow hypnotizes them. Sorta. They start to see the world around them transforming into a bizarre 90s video as a band performs for them. These ladies, all of whom have the kinds of names that one might expect in particular professions that usually have the word adult attached to it, get so into the music they are witnessing that they start dancing around and grinding sexily to it. Much to the confusion of those around them who are not hearing the music or seeing the band. Upon the song ending, the girl is then abducted and disappears only to materialize in a tiny glass bottle. The trash monster then waves at them and we’re supposed to infer, I guess, that this thing is planning to keep these women as pets. I think. They never go into it. After seeing the glorified music videos that are the means of abduction for these girls, I kind of ignored everything else. The most memorable one is the hospital scene when the slightly naughty nurse is captured to the dulcet tones of a band called Sykotix Sinfoney, mostly because this scene looks like it should be taking place in the psych ward. Seriously, these guys look like a precursor to ICP and they sound a bit like very early Faith No More meets a very weird discount version of Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s as 90s as you can get and possibly the most disturbingly weird moment in the film. For real, no amount of describing this moment will actually properly convey how utterly bat shit it really is. It must be seen.
And O’Dare narrates all of this, leaving the finding of a solution until the last fifteen minutes. Meanwhile we have a typical cop character who is insisting that he’s gonna arrest that naughty Dan O’Dare for all the trouble that kid is causing. Sure there’s been reports of missing women from the local area and that single person of color that’s gone for no reason and no one mourns him, but let’s focus on that rascal at the radio station. But yes, Danny boy figures out that disinfectant spray works on fungus and has a “fight” with the garbage heap for control of the station. The ladies are all set free, except for one, and they aerosol the sucker to death before walking off into the sun rise. At this point, Dan and Lisa decide maybe they actually don’t hate each other based on a whole lot of nothing and we’re left with a final shot of a single girl meant to be a high school student screaming for help.
By now, it’s kind of a given that Full Moon is going to produce bad movies. It’s basically the thing they do and pointing it out is like letting people know it’s raining in the middle of a hurricane. But then there’s this film. Bad Channels is just as weird as Terrorvision in a lot of ways and it reminded me a lot of that film but it didn’t have the same level of coherence which didn’t make it easier to watch. Saying that feels like saying that I’m unhappy about a Chucky movie testing my suspension of disbelief but in this case, it’s like they wanted to give this almost an ounce of the gravitas that Nicolaou brought to the Subspecies series. Terrorvision was never supposed to be serious or realistic and it was all the better for it. Bad Channels just feels like three music videos stuck together with a plot that’s barely developed trying to be the post it note glue between them. I think part of this is also because there’s little to like about the characters that you’re forced to piggyback onto during the whole thing. They aren’t the worst characters that you’ll come across in a horror film but mostly they are annoying and without any real motivation for what they’re doing.
So should you bother to watch it? Well, I can’t say no because I really do think this is an experience that one has to see to really get the true understanding of what it is. That said, I can tell you that this isn’t Full Moon’s best offering, nor is it really in their top ten. It’s campy as hell and there are moments of truly mind boggling oddness that could only happen in one of these films. That said, it’s not always a joy to watch and occasionally it’s actually downright annoying. Suffice it to say that if you enjoyed Ash and his over the top performance in Vampire Journals, this might not be your bag. The acting might have been a little much for that film but it still had a level of respect for its audience that you just won’t find here. If, on the other hand, you loved Terrorvision and wanted something just a little weirder, you need to see this film. Everyone in between, flip a coin! You may be in for a weird ride ahead.
As always, thank you all for joining me on Friday Nightmare Reviews! If you’re still craving your horror fix, check out the newest instalments of my story Young Bucks, a part of the Hello Dolly series running on this site. You too can join my horror hostess as she and her misfit friends attempt to put on an online show every week amid trolls, deadlines, day jobs and real monsters. And with that, I hope all your stations come in clear, your garage stays spotless and may you pick up nothing but the spookiest of tunes, no matter where you are!