“Bad Channels” (1992)

by A.J. Hakari

"Bad Channels" poster

 

I don’t know what makes less sense: Charles Band’s fascination with all things tiny, or the busy career he’s built upon it for three decades. It’s not even that the indie horror mogul’s output is in any way notorious; his best productions are tolerable, his worst are really dull, and none have really achieved “so stupid, it’s fun” status. But props to the Full Moon flick Bad Channels for trying something a little different and using a skimpy budget to its advantage. It’s ultimately still boring sci-fi slop, but if you’ve had your fill of stop-motion puppets, it’s not the worst breather to pop in.

Something wicked is about to hit the airwaves at radio station KDUL (har, har). As shock jock Dan O’Dare (Paul Hipp) assaults listeners with nonstop polka, a UFO lands and embarks on a mission to, what else, abduct Earth chicks. A goofy-ass alien and his annoying robot buddy invade the studio, using the controls to zero in on the town hotties and shrink them down for the trip back home. But it’s going to take more than one intergalactic creep and some nasty green fungus to stop Dan from taking back his booth — especially when the reporter (Martha Quinn) he’s crushing on becomes a target.

Bringing actors instead of animatronics down to size is about as innovative as Bad Channels gets. Its “War of the Worlds”-inspired story of broadcasting an alien takeover is explored weakly, lest you consider watching Diet Howard Stern whine about a big doofy monster playing around with buttons as slam-bang entertainment. The acting blows, outlandish violence is almost non-existent, and the inherent cheapness that’s indicative of anything with the Full Moon logo on it is just as obvious here (though this one doesn’t look as Europe-y as its brothers). The movie couldn’t even be bothered to drum up a badass villain, instead dropping a huge pile of purple popcorn on top of the Mandroid suit.

So how does it come to pass that Bad Channels is not only not that bad but even a teensy bit fun, too? To start, unlike most of Band’s fare, it’s a stand-alone flick, so there’s no feeling of forcing a franchise out of thin air (okay, so there’s the Dollman cameo, but that’s it). Plus, while Hipp tries too hard to pretend that he’s in a legitimately scary movie, the mood is surprisingly light and rowdy. Bad Channels was made to be a party flick, with intentionally broad, silly gags and a nicely ecelctic soundtrack. The film essentially stops for a music video break whenever a woman gets snatched up, but with the tunes ranging from metal ballads to grunge jams, it’s never the same padded plot diversion twice.

But when the last plasticine creature has been blown to smithereens, Bad Channels is still kind of a crummy movie. It’s unexciting more than it’s genuinely lively, and — though I hate harping on this again — there is no alternate dimension in which that monster would have worked without a complete overhaul. Still, it’s better that Bad Channels at least try for a good time instead of giving up and pressing on with a B-grade dirge.

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