From Brian Kelley–“Far too often dismissed as an ALIEN knockoff, CONTAMINATION is (from what I remember) a silly but gore filled Italian production. It’s closer to an INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS clone with spore aliens and pod people and all that jazz. I remember really liking it as a kid and I keep forgetting about it for a few years then, for whatever reason, I start thinking about it again. I’m interested to see what someone else I know and trust thinks of it.”
When sitting down to an Italian horror film from the 70s or 80s you never really know what you’re going to get. Sometimes they can be a bit of a chore to get through and others are gore soaked hyper-stylized masterpieces designed to blow your eyeballs out of your skull. Directors that aren’t the big names – like Bava, Fulci, or Argento – are also a bit of a gamble, but Luigi Cozzi (director of the fascinating table-turning giallo The Killer Must Kill Again) makes a fun, violent, and engaging sci-fi/horror film with 1980’s Contamination. If you are in the mood for green eggs, children smoking cigars, drunken former astronauts, a Cyclops, or exploding rats then my friend – you are in luck!
A mysterious ship arrives at a New York City harbor with no one at the helm. As people go aboard to search they find the badly mutilated remains of the crew. Along with the corpses there are boxes filled with strange looking green egg shaped pods. These pods pulse and pound until they explode leaving their pus all over anyone nearby, which burns and leads to their ultimate explosion. Guts flying every which way! The government, in an attempt to stop the spread, enlists the help of Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch), a former astronaut who was on a mission to Mars and recalls seeing similar pods. They are traced to a South American coffee plantation operated by an old outer space colleague of Hubbard’s.
Right off the bat I was wondering if this was some sort of rip-off of Fulci’s Zombie. The film starts with a strange boat entering NYC and then Ian McCulloch is called in to help solve the mystery. This investigation takes him and new female acquaintance to a strange, more tropical, foreign land – not to mention that it’s another Italian production. Of course, I quickly learned that despite these similarities the two are very different movies. They might have a few things in common, but there are no walking dead here, and I don’t recall seeing any green puss-filled pods in Fulci’s picture.
This film isn’t the fastest paced of Italian horror cinema, but it certainly isn’t the slowest either. There are many moments that could be trimmed down with a ton of unnecessarily long establishing shots, while others could be cut out all together, but the moments of dialog and action keep you entertained and intrigued throughout. The moment you see they are about to test this mysterious pod juice on a lab rat you know what’s going to happen, but the anticipation of its explosion builds quite well. As sad as it is, you want to see that rat reduced to a bunch of red splatter. It’s the same way with any human who comes in contact with the volatile substance. The first time you see a couple of men have their torsos blow their innards everywhere you are shocked, but each subsequent time you just can’t wait to watch another gut-busting death.
Not only do we get some cool exploding bodies but the FX on the greens eggs themselves are pretty cool, but nothing compared to momma. As the credits say the “Alien Cyclops” is behind the birthing of all of these poisonous pods. When we finally see this at the South American plantation it is quite a spectacle. A vase shaped Martian out for the destruction and devouring of the human race. The character is a very well made monster puppet with multiple mouths and a giant eye. Kind of like a Henson creation from hell. A definite highlight.
Another biggie this film has on its side comes when you see text during the opening credits that reveals the score is by none other than Goblin. Yep, the one and only infamous prog-rockers who have elevated many a film with their amazing music and became one of the staples of the Italian horror experience. This score is not their best effort but still has that great twisted charm all of their work entails. One bit that’s odd is the sound associated with the eggs. When we see them pulsating there is a two note whining ditty that plays. Not really sure what Goblin and the filmmakers were going for with this one but it’s laughable. Sort of sounds like it should be associated with the cries of a depressed and drunken clown.
Overall this is a very interesting offering from Cozzi with some decent performances, FX, and musical score. My only real complaint, aside from some slow pacing in the middle, is I wish there was more variety when it comes to the kills. Don’t get me wrong – watching people explode is still tons of fun! Definitely worth a watch or a revisit. I will check it out again in the future for sure.