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“CONTAMINATION” (Blu-ray Review)

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As any hardcore horror fan can tell you, old school Italian horror has a very fascinating dynamic. On one hand, it’s provided some of the most elegant, transgressive and flat-out gorgeous cinema in the history of the genre. On the other hand, it has also provided some of the most hilariously inane and obvious rip-offs of all time, often times approached with a go-for-broke attitude. One-time video nasty CONTAMINATION definitely finds itself in the latter category, but once seeing the film, there’s little question as to why the fright flick managed to get the Arrow Blu-ray treatment: it’s next level bonkers, and it offer neither explanation or apologies for its insanity.

So what is CONTAMINATION about? That’s a great question, and I wish I had a comprehensible answer for you. But in lieu of that, the best way to describe CONTAMINATION is as a bizarre variation on ALIEN, with a body-ridden ghost ship appearing on the Hudson River leading various government members into an extraterrestrial conspiracy that leaves even more mutilated corpses in its wake. In between slow motion explosions, exaggerated reaction shots and dialogue that sounds like a pulp novelist wrote a science textbook, CONTAMINATION is a narrative mess with more loose ends than a broom, but is nevertheless gloriously weird and, at times, genuinely thrilling.

Of course, the film wouldn’t nearly be as entrancing and fun if it weren’t for the unique chemistry between those involved and their unquestioning lack of self-awareness. Luigi Cozzi’s work is rather fantastic, offering a bravado-laden determination to offer the most visually stunning and technically amazing film even in the wake of an utterly nonsensical script. Cozzi’s vision also benefits greatly from the inherent charm of Goblin’s hypnotic and incredible score, bumping into your brain and heart effortlessly. And the performances on display, including those from Italian horror vets Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau and Marino Mase, are nothing short of 100% committed, despite the material given.

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Yet where CONTAMINATION fans will really relish this release comes in Arrow’s royal Blu-ray treatment, offering a stunning 2K restoration which really showcases the amazing practical SFX on display. Aside from a crystal clear picture quality, CONTAMINATION also comes with an uncompressed PCM track that places Goblin’s astounding score front and center, and it’s never sounded better. And for those indulging in the Italian soundtrack, the disc also comes with brand spankin’ new subtitles for a more accurate (and somehow crazier) translation.

But beyond this incredible presentation, Arrow also offers a treasure troves of great extras, which really makes this set worthwhile for fans of this cult classic. This writer would be remiss if he didn’t address the audio commentary from FANGORIA’s own Chris Alexander, a brand new and worthwhile fan track that shows off Alexander’s love and passion for the film (and, respectively, the genre in which it resides) while also offering Alexander’s penchant for absurd revelations (especially once he dubs a particular character “The Kramer of CONTAMINATION”). Other highlights include brand new (and fairly recent) chats with Cozzi, McCulloch and GOBLIN keyboardist Mauirizio Guarini. However, genre fans will really get to sink their teeth into the two documentaries featured on the disc, including an archived BTS doc and an incredibly captivating look at the aforementioned Italian rip-offs.

While this Region A disc will undeniably be the holy grail for CONTAMINATION fans, Arrow’s Blu-ray also works as a brilliant entry point for unfamiliar genre fans as well. Not only will newcomers get to experience this batshit insane movie for the first time through a gorgeous lens and an amazing soundtrack, but there is more than enough to keep them interested even after the feature has ended. Arrow has another winner on their hands with this package, and one might hope this won’t be the last of the weird Italian “cash-ins” that will find their way to Arrow’s high-def canon.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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