For those who have a love for the video nasty films of the eighties, and for those who love the madness and silliness that eighties horror titles bring, comes Contamination, an Italian/ German title from Director Luigi Cozzi. This particular video nasty blends together gore, thriller and slasher aspects to make a title that seemed destined for censorship by the BBFC. There is plenty of nostalgia and eighties’ high jinks to satisfy any b-movie aficionado, from casual sexism, an electronic soundtrack, slightly bad dubbing and a tendency to rip-off the popular cinematic titles of the time, as Contamination was dragged to release hanging onto the coat tails of Ridley Scott’s original Alien film.
After a cargo ship is quarantined and the crew reported missing, Lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Mase), a laid back ladies man, is tasked with searching the ship. Finding the crew in a bloody mess, the Lieutenant’s search party finds a mysterious group of eggs that are being shipped in coffee boxes. After one explodes and kills all but Aris, the uptight Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) is called in to solve the possible terror attack. This mishmash team is completed with the addition of Mars astronaut Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) who has drunk himself into obscurity after Holmes dismissed him and his story that he saw a cave full of alien eggs on Mars.
Although Contamination falls short of fulfilling the appetite one would have for a gory video-nasty, it does promise some extreme body mutilation for which it earned its high certification at the time of release. It is a film that carves out a strange space between a gore-fest and thriller as, after the first twenty minutes that set up an interesting and appropriate gory premise, the film quickly changes into a slightly dull thriller. Contamination is strongest when it dips its toe into the genre of sci-fi and horror. However, the majority of the film fails to capitalize on this and becomes bogged down as a road movie with a bizarre love triangle between an ex-astronaut, a New York Cop and a Colonel that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
From a modern standpoint, Contamination seems to fit more comfortably next to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace than the original Alien film. This is not to say Contamination is without charm, as its shambolic and exploitive nature will surely attract a modern audience. Despite all its flaws, Contamination is a film that bypasses any cynicism and fills a very particular hole that only truly great b-movies can. For one, the standout soundtrack (provided by ‘Goblin’) is something that Director Luigi Cozzi’s is able to deploy with pinpoint accuracy to create not only tension and suspense but to let the viewer know that something oh-so-sweet is about to happen.
The unashamed references to Alien reach breaking point in the form of the alien eggs in Contamination, an image that is plastered across the film’s marketing and advertising artwork. As far as the plot is concerned, these eggs are a pivotal part of an alien plot to take over the world – or blow it up… it’s hard to follow the logic and motivation of a lot of the film’s characters.
Contamination is a film that owes a lot to Alien, and although it is not an exact carbon copy, the parallels are all too clear. Its induction into the video-nasty hall of fame seems to have helped cultivate an interest in the film that would otherwise be absent. My advice would be to sit back, dim the lights, or switch them off if you don’t have dimmers, put conventional logic to one side, and enjoy.
Contamination is out now in the UK in DVD/Blu-Ray dual format through Arrow Video.