Connoisseur of Cheese Review: "Contamination" (1980)
I was giddy to discover that there was an Italian-made "Video Nasty" with a soundtrack by Goblin (!!) that I had yet to see. I was also mildly ashamed that I hadn't seen it already, but if you know me then you know that goes without saying. I take my love of Italian horror and Goblin very seriously.
Contamination delivers the goods in a way that will please the mutated palate of those who love films like Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie, Demons/Demons 2, & City of the Living Dead.
Contamination starts with an abandoned cargo ship that is discovered in NYC full of strange, green, alien eggs that burst when exposed to heat and spray those nearby with an acidic goo that causes them to immediately burst from the inside. The results are gory and hideous. Cheesy NYPD Lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Mase, Godfather: Part 3) is assigned to the case, paired with the arrogant Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau, Heartbreak). Together, they determine that the eggs came from an expedition to Mars two years previous and enlist the help of the remaining living astronaut from that mission, Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch, Zombie). Hubbard is now a drunkard haunted by "what happened in that cave on the Martian polar ice cap". Together, the three of them must unravel the mystery of where the eggs came from and stop them from destroying the world.
All of the earmarks of 80's era Italian horror are there on full display- abandoned ship for easy problem introduction, NYC setting, police/military team up, & alternating misogynistic/feminazi banter between the male and female leads done in a passive-aggressive style. Goddamn, that's a beautifully heady mix, like a swarthy and lecherous man who disgusts you with his pickup line while simultaneously seducing you over with his pheromones. Thank you, Italy.
The effects are pretty solid on this one. The chest bursting is an effective large squib, and the standard over-the-top gunfight squibs are prevalent as well. The eggs themselves are gooey and cheap and lovingly ripped off from the Alien series. I especially like the sound effect and internal glow whenever one of them is getting ready to blow. Extra sci-fi effort was put into the set design of the government lab; it's so unrealistic yet precisely what everyone else in the 80's thought that tech would look like. Style points!
As for beating my favorite horse (which I will beat as much as I do my own meat), there's nothing like authentic Goblin music for a soundtrack. It's the unifying piece of the puzzle that has defined a sub-genre. Their music is criminally underappreciated. They can set a scene and make you feel the tension/fear/goofiness/sleaze like no one else that isn't named John Williams. Never underestimate the power of a good score.
I told you I fucking love me some Goblin.
Finally, there's a nice little twist on the end. The villain reveal is everything it should be, complete with overdone master plan explanation. If you need further validation then look no further than the beautiful karate kick that starts off the fight between protagonist and antagonist. This leads us to the creature reveal, which is both glorious and frustrating. Had they not had the mechanical issues that kept "The Cyclops" from being fully mobile I honestly believe this movie would've made more of an impact than it did. The way it eats victims is both comical and horrifying. The hypnotizing eye is a thing of cheesy beauty. There's even a small message about symbiotic relationships and how the unknown can enamor and take you over.
Is it a bit of an Alien ripoff? Sure. Everyone was trying to imitate that one. Don't hold it against Contamination (original title: Alien Contamination). If you do hold that against them you will be missing a serious classic in horror's greatest sub-genre.