Bad Channels (1992)


No matter how many Full Moon films I see, it feels like there’ll always be more. After reading about “Demonic Toys” earlier, I realise this film is billed as the connecting tissue between it and “Dollman”, so before I review “Dollman vs. Demonic Toys”, being the completist that I am, I really ought to review this too.

A tiny AM radio polka station in the US discovers that it has a national licence to broadcast, thanks to there being no other stations operating in the 66 band frequency (superstition, apparently), and installs a super-powered transmitter to take advantage of this – as well as hiring Dangerous Dan O’Dare, a shock-jock who’s coming off a 6-month ban by the FCC. There’s a cable news station there to cover it, and we get the rest of the cast sketched in quickly – field reporter Lisa Cummings (played by MTV VJ Martha Quinn, in what must have been stunt casting 20 years ago); the station manager and the tech guy; plus groups of radio-listening fans at the local truck stop and hospital.


Unfortunately, a couple of aliens decide to pop up and…their motivation is never made clear. They take over the radio station but let Dan carry on broadcasting as they transform the tiny building into a goo-covered mess – his calls for help, coming just after the end of his first on-air stunt, are seen as a joke by everyone listening.

There’s a decent sense of humour at work here, one of the common features in Full Moon’s early output. Peanut, the owner of the truck stop, made me laugh, and Dan’s antics are frequently laugh-with, rather than laugh-at-the-awfulness-of, funny. Lisa’s transformation into a one-woman band, as her cameraman is an early victim of the aliens, is a great visual too. They really go all-out, though, when the aliens start using the airwaves to capture and miniaturise women. My wife’s explanation was for repopulating their homeworld, but they really look very different and I’m not sure the parts would match (if you know what I mean).

Anyway, the aliens broadcast special signals to the women they want to capture, briefly turning their lives into a music video (apart from the real-life MTV VJ, who gets nothing, presumably a little joke on their part), while the people around them just see someone start to act crazy and then pop out of existence. The girl from the diner gets some truly hideous cock-rock, the high school band member gets a Nirvana clone (complete with a video so close to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I’m surprised no-one got sued) and the Nurse gets some sort of Primus-alikes. And boy, do they get them – at minute 3 of the last music video, I was unable to shake the idea that this was a little padding from the Full Moon boys, expert cannibalisers of their own work.


Yes, that’s a miniaturised hospital trolley

Dan and his engineer try to save the day, but the aliens smack them around…sometimes. Other times, they’re allowed to just wander around the studio, and they’re also allowed to say whatever they want on the air – including Dan’s increasingly hysterical request for everyone to turn their radios off. This is all a bit odd, to be honest.

Are relationships formed and will the aliens get away with their (presumably diabolical) plan? Was the link to “Dollman” planned beforehand or did someone go “hey, we have miniaturised people in this film, fancy a crossover?” All these questions I will leave to you to discover for yourselves. But, like so much of Full Moon’s output when they were still getting funding from Paramount, this is a decent little film. They can make a little go a long way, and my bad memories of those later Puppet Master films are already as a distant dream.

As an aside, Blue Oyster Cult did the soundtrack for this film, but not any of the songs performed by the bands inside the film (go figure). There’s a brilliant review of their soundtrack from Classic Rock magazine, a beauty of language I couldn’t hope to compare to, as they call it “a grotesque mistake”.

Rating: thumbs up