The Jackson Four

The films of Kiwi director Peter Jackson all share a distinctive and joyful enthusiasm for the perverse. Here are a few of his best, arranged in order of increasing availability.

Meet the Feebles (1989)--Visit the Muppet Show backstage in a very deep circle of hell. Copius amounts of every bodily fluid known to man irrigate this fecal wonderland. Surrounded by a drug dealing, cat-fucking walrus, a shit-eating, muck-raking fly, a decrepit, junkie alligator, a poodle-raping rat, and a mass- murdering hippo, a mild-mannered hedgehog with a severe speech impediment gallantly courts a tarted-up lap dog. Ah, splendid love!

Dead Alive (1992)--The gangrenous bite of the Sumatran Rat Monkey first kills, then reanimates the mother of wallflower Lionel. As zombies are wont to do, she in turn creates more living dead, which a frantic Stanley must keep sedated in front of the basement TV. Suffice to say Lionel's struggle to keep his sanity, manage the unruly cadavers, and defend his home from greedy relatives is not entirely successful. Tragically, an upturned lawn mower is needed in the final, over-the-top gory showdown. Lawn gnomes are also present.

Heavenly Creatures (1994)--A beautiful and rather chilling story based on a sensationalized, real event in New Zealand's contemporary history. Two teenage girls (one a young Kate Winslet) form an intense emotional and quasi-sexual bond, constructing an increasingly elaborate, vivid fantasy world as a refuge from their home and school life. When their uneasy parents announce their plan to divide the pair, it spurs the girls towards a panicked, lethal attempt to prevent their separation.

Frighteners (1996)--The angel of death haunts a small coastal town, and shyster/ ghostbuster Michael J. Fox is the only one who knows it. Visually impressive throughout, the film takes an especially stunning turn in a sequence where a mass-murdering duo stalks a hospital both in flashback and present day. Dee Wallace Stone plays a world-class psycho, but Reanimator's Jeffrey Combs steals the show as an FBI agent hilariously damaged by his involvement with the occult. My formerly low opinion of Mr. Fox was vastly improved by his performance here.