*31 Nights of Horror (#11) | 2017*
On this episode of The Nightly Chill:
Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at Italian sci-fi horror flick, Contamination!
NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.
When a transport ship carrying otherworldly cargo arrives in New York–its crew somehow mysteriously dead–it’ll take a government agent and a local police officer to get to the heart of this deadly mystery in Contamination.
Contamination, from writer-director Luigi Cozzi, is a fairly odd bit of sci-fi horror. The movie itself is fairly innocuous. In fact, it’s largely forgettable.
It’s a sci-fi movie that isn’t all that interested in delivering a science-fiction narrative. It’s a horror movie that isn’t all that interested in delivering on scares or even a general sense of dread or uneasiness. And unlike many other Italian horror films of the era, it’s not very stylish outside a few key shots.
Though like many Italian horror movies, Contamination doesn’t have so much a story as it does a paper-thin plot that rationalizes a series of loosely connected scenes that play out in a longer, slower fashion than necessary.
That said, Cozzi’s slow-burn mystery that actually unfolds in its entirety is a much welcome change of pace from the non-mysteries that plague Italian horror films.
The mystery of the alien cargo–which is incredibly ridiculous in presentation, danger, and purpose–is at the heart of the movie. The movie opens with it, the main characters focus on it, and it keeps the movie trotting slowly but steadily forward until the main characters–and us, the audience–get the answers we’ve been searching and waiting for.
Now, stating that a movie has a respectable purpose and direction seems like faint praise–and in most cases, it would be. But in the style and genre that Contamination belongs to, such things are a rarity. And, as a result, such a clear, well-developed framework is much appreciated.
The movie does, unfortunately, steer into territory worn-out even by 1980, reducing even its few redeeming factors to token alterations to a tired formula.
There’s the one man, one woman pair of leads forced to solve a mysterious threat that sort of unfolds and solves itself. The rare use of special effects is highlighted with odd, questionable stylistic choices, such as extended slow-motion shots. And, of course, the barely there story abruptly concludes with little sense of closure.
But if Contamination‘s real issues can be boiled down to just one glaring fault, it’d be that the movie is simply not that interesting. The premise it sets up–this deadly alien threat that literally just appears seemingly out of nowhere and casually makes its way into one of the most densely populated cities in the world–is incredibly interesting. There’s a lot of dread and paranoia to cultivate. There’s plenty of mileage to get out of this–either in the small scale or the large.
But Cozzi didn’t seem to have much left in the tank after he got through with the premise and inciting incident. Because no one in this movie seems concerned or scared, even in the face of death. There’s no tension. There’s no real emotion to find in the movie whatsoever.
Bad acting, bad dialog, and suspect direction are a prolific aspect of Italian horror. It often provides a lot of the charm in such movies. But, in the case of Contamination, it’s simply flat across the board. It’s as if no one, Cozzi included, cared about the final results.
It really feels as if everyone involved with the movie were satisfied with phoning in a day’s work–all day, every day. And it’s a shame, because there’s a good core to be found at the heart of Contamination. But unless you’re running low on options, you’d be fine skipping this one.
Contamination is a NO CHILL