Contamination (1980)

4 out of 5

Directed by: Luigi Cozzi

Attempted Alien cash-in this may have been, Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination is not alien, and stands out as a solid creature feature entry with some wonderful splashes of garishness to bump it into the realm of horror.

Dubbing, limited effects, and some sketchy scripting elements mark this as a B-flick, but it’s committed to: Cozzi and editor Nino Baragli know how to stitch their plot and scenes together to keep it both campily entertaining – cue the slo-mo for bloody body explodings – and contextually immersive. The mix of vague science mumbo-jumbo and completely madeup government bodies is never convincing from a real world perspective, but within the Goblin-scored extremism of the movie, yeah – Marino Masé is totally an NYC cop, and Louise Marleau surely leads some CIA-type secret projects spook show that projects the president. And when the former discovers some glowing, acid-spewing egg things on a seemingly abandoned ship pulling into a harbor, the latter is called in to keep it all hush-hush – for 72 hours, the need for the ticking clock of which is never really made clear, but no matter, look at this exploding rat! – leading to an overseas exploration and reveals that tie the eggs into extra-worldly sources…

The exact details don’t quite connect, but at the same time, the plausibility within the context of the movie absolutely works, inserting pseudo-science explanations at each “yeah, but…” juncture. And while there are some flubs in the script-to-screen work (“the eggs were green, just like in the photograph,” a character says, looking at a black and white photo), and what feels like a lot of placeholder terminology that someone just shrugged at and kept it in, instead of subbing it something more convincing, I was moreso surprised at how much personality the characters were given in their dialogue, well beyond cookie-cutter cut-and-paste work. This is helped along by charming performances from Masé and Marleau, and especially Ian McCulloch as the disgraced astronaut called back into service.

While the effects are ultimately limited – some glowing eggs, a big puppet – they’re employed effectively, and Cozzi makes sure to get the most mileage out of those gruesome explosion gags.

Much more entertaining and consistent than I’d had any expectations for it to be.