Originally a creator and purveyor of low-to-no budget movies in his homeland, New Zealand, Peter Jackson broke through with his 1988 Cannes hit: Bad Taste; a movie which in essence created its own genre – Comedy Splatter.
This was in turn inspired by another master of the B-movie, George Romero and his 1978 Dawn of the Dead (a follow up to the classic Night of the Living Dead, which is followed up with Land of the Dead). Jackson followed with Meet the Feebles and Braindead, further cementing his reputation as a master of “High Trash”.
The origins of High Trash, however, go back much further. One possible originator of this genre would be Edward Davis Wood, who has grown immeasurably more famous after his death than he was before it.
After supposedly going into battle wearing a red bra and panties during WWII, Ed Wood went on to a spectacularly unsuccessful career making movies. His first, Glen or Glenda dealt with transvestitism, and gave some interesting though unintentional insight into Wood’s character.
This film along with all of Woods later films were marked, however, by singularly bad acting, extraordinarily poor dialogue, incomprehensible scenes, lighting that seemed to come out of grammar school productions, and interesting innovations such as basing an entire movie around less than a minute of Bela Lugosi’s acting (if it could be called that) which was all they had before he died.
Wood’s signature film was Plan 9 from Outer Space, which combined all of the above with a zombie vampire. Surprisingly this creative masterpiece was overlooked by the Oscars.
Many other potential High Trash films have been produced in the time between Wood and Jackson, some achieving cult status and some not. Some are supposedly intentionally bad, such as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and others are obviously just plain terrible, like the bombs Battlefield Earth and Gigli.
But to really appreciate the genre, it’s necessary to sit through the good (Night of the Living Dead, any John Waters film, Amazon Women on the Moon), the bad (The Swarm, The Adventures of Pluto Nash), and the ugly (The Atomic Brain, The Postman, Robot Monster). Good luck.
For great reference material on this subject, check out The Golden Turkey Awards which is the book that put Plan 9 from Outer Space back on the map.