Contamination (1980)

Contamination (1980)

They Invade Your Body … Control Your Mind … Blow You Apart!

A cargo ship pulls into New York Harbor with no one on board. The police find a cargo full of green pulsating eggs which burst when in contact with humans, spreading a green slime that seeps into the skin and causes their victims to explode with a hideous chest-bursting death. A research team is called in to trace where the eggs came from and the trail leads them to former astronaut Hubbard, who returned from a mission to Mars years earlier rambling about alien life forms.

 

Italians used to do rip-offs better than anyone so needless to say this exercise in splatter is simply a thinly-veiled clone of Alien, or at least a whole film based around the most infamous moment in that film, being John Hurt’s chest-bursting exercise. To create a film entirely around one cool moment (albeit such an iconic moment) is a bit of a tough ask and Contamination does it’s best to flesh it out.

The first thirty minutes are quite promising with a cool opening scene aboard the deserted boat, complete with lots of exploded bodies and gore. Unfortunately the film runs out of steam quite early when Ian McCulloch’s astronaut character comes on board and the investigation into what is happening picks up pace. It’s rather dull and talky and doesn’t lead anywhere in a hurry as the characters go from one clue to the next. You know most of the budget has already been blown on the copious amount of exploding people here so the rest of the film is constantly trying to better it.

However you’ll have to keep watching, as dull and monotonous as it may be, as the end third picks up pace again when it’s revealed that behind the exploding eggs is a hideous alien, trying to take over the planet.  Not since the 50s have you seen anything as ridiculous as this thing at the end. Criticism aside, it probably works in the film’s favour because it’s just pure cheese from the start and never pretends to be anything else.

As I’ve already stated, the film has been written around the idea of someone’s chest blowing up. The make-up effects for the chest-bursting moments are pretty gruesome, although it’s repeated once too often for my liking. They always happen in slow-motion for added impact and you can tell when they’re coming because one moment a character is a skinny as a rake and the next they have a huge padded chest ready to blow open. The effect looks great the first time, not so by the time the film has ended and pretty much everyone has blown up. There’s also a fantastically haunting synth-soundtrack from Goblin which gives the film that distinctive Italian feel. Say what you want about the actual films but there are some very gifted composers out there who really left their mark in these films. The soundtrack is arguably the best bit of the film and the signature theme is one of my favourites, giving the finale a powerful kick as the characters fight and try and to survive as the giant alien locks in its hypnotic gaze.

One final note goes to Ian McCulloch who puts in a great performance. I’ve seen some of his work in these Italian horror films and the guy never looks like he’s slumming it, despite clearly knowing what sort of trash he’s starring in. McCulloch has a strong presence on screen and gives the film a much needed seriousness.

 

Contamination is your typical Italian horror – gory set pieces are preferred over pretty much everything else including story and logic. But whereas with some of its brethren, this one actually manages to hold together a reasonable plot and doesn’t just go off on a tangent. Coupled with a solid lead performance and a rich soundtrack, this has been unfairly forgotten behind some of the more infamous films of it’s time.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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