Year: 1990 Company: Filmirage Runtime: 91′
Director: Joe D’Amato, Fabrizio Laurenti Writers: Daniele Stoppa, Fabrizio Laurenti, Albert Lawrence, Rosella Drudi Cinematography: Francisco J. Madurga Music: Carlo Maria Cordio Cast: Mary Sellers, Jason Saucier, Bubba Reeves, Chelsi Stahr, Vince O’Neil, Billy Buttler, Lord Chester, Patrick Collins, Edy Eby
Available on OOP VHS from Epic Home Video, or as streaming video vis Netflix Instant Viewing.
It’s never a good sign when a film is most popularly known for being a member of the dubious Troll franchise, particularly when the film in question has nothing to do with tiny mythical monsters or their wily ways. Such is the case with Contamination .7, a cheapo Filmirage sci-fi horror whose only connection to the Troll empire are a few crew members and a penchant for being immeasurably dreadful. Never mind that I could find no corroborating evidence for Contamination .7 ever actually being released as Troll III (a title also bestowed upon D’Amato’s confoundedly inept Ator sequel Quest for the Mighty Sword) - the name has stuck with the online community and, for this film, that’s good enough.
A tasteless mix of inert drama, The China Syndrom-style conspiracy claptrap, and limp mutant monster mayhem, Contamination .7 (or whatever you want to call it) concerns an ill-defined and unnamed small town in the American West whose very existence is threatened when illegal toxic waste dumping by a nuclear plant causes local trees to sprout evil carnivorous roots. That’s right. Evil… carnivorous… roots.
The plot, attributed to such classy writers as Rosella Drudi (of Troll 2 and Zombi 3 fame) and Daniele Stoppa (Killing Birds), is little more than a contrived distraction to keep audiences from noticing how little is actually going on. In that pursuit, as in most others, it fails. The formulaic story follows a couple of small-town kids and an alcoholic nuclear scientist named Taylor who realize that all is not well with wherever-they-are and set about investigating a series of mysterious deaths and disappearances. It’s a standard monster mystery setup of substandard conception and hellish execution that’s sure to test the patience of even the most ardent genre devotees. Diversions are plentiful, including a few sexless scenes with the town hooker and an attempted rape, none of which are any more interesting than the rest of the material.
For dreck connoisseurs the monster payoff may well be worth waiting for, but the rest of us aren’t so lucky Contamination .7‘s menacing tree roots are basically just bits of rubber hose, vaguely decorated to look like brush and dragged about the ground or flung onto unsuspecting passersby. Their inefficacy as a screen threat defies words – nothing about them works, from the lazy perspective monster-vision photography to the canned whip-crack! effect that loops whenever they’re on screen. They’re silly, they’re stupid and, worst of all, they’re boring. A final us versus them showdown strives for whole new degrees of ineptitude in filmmaking, as unprotected citizens dig up toxic waste barrels with their bare hands and Tonka toy bulldozers roll across a minuscule set with rubbery little root-lets sticking out of it. There’s even a lame attempt at a surprise ending, just one more useless step between viewers and the end credits scrawl.
Contamination .7 reminds of the bland video store filler companies like Full Moon and New World were pumping out in the early ’90s, only much much worse. Full Moon and New World at least had the courtesy to hire actors for their productions, but Joe D’Amato’s Filmirage can’t be bothered. Only Jason Saucier (Hitcher in the Dark) and Mary Sellers (Eleven Days Eleven Nights) are in any way recognizable, and then only from past Filmirage efforts – their co-stars would thankfully go on to star in little, if anything, else. Bad film performances are a dime a dozen, but rarely does an entire cast conspire to be so unforgivable as they do here.
And thusly I am led to Vince O’Neil. Even among the bad their must be a worst, and O’Neil – here cast as a shady sheriff – earns that title with room to spare. His performance defies classification, operating on a hitherto unseen cosmic scale of badness to which our Earthly adjectives simply fail to apply. Each expression, gesture, and word of his performance is the purest essence of awfulness, distilled, and collectively a monument to the horrors that are possible in the absence of talent, training, and technique. There’s really no way to appropriately describe it in words, and O’Neil’s unwavering thespian incompetencies may be the only things about Contamination .7 that make it worth seeing. O’Neil is also the beneficiary of the film’s requisite gore centerpiece (actually the only gore scene of the film, and likely what earned it an R-rating from the MPAA), in which one of the man-hungry roots finds its way into (and out of) his face.
Otherwise the attacks here are all of the Bride of the Monster variety, with actors wallowing around while draped in purportedly dangerous creepers. Color me unimpressed. It’s toothlessness may well be Contamination .7‘s greatest failing, though I’ll admit, there’s plenty here fighting for that title. Tripe like Burial Ground gets away with its own dreadfulness the good old fashioned way, with lots of blood and exposed flesh, little of the former and none of the latter of which you’ll find here. This is an exploitation film in name only, a monster movie with no bite. As is too often the case, the poster is far saucier than that which it is advertising, featuring a buxom young blonde in distressed clothing who doesn’t look all too troubled to be entwined in the film’s unimpressive menace. The art style is likewise amusing, leaving Contamination .7 to look more like an unconventional bodice ripper than a horror flick.
Produced by D’Amato’s Italian production company Filmirage and filmed on the cheap in what looks to be the United States (the IMDB mentions Canada), Contamination .7 never made it to theatres in most of the world. Instead it was peddled to video distributors, like most low-budget horror of its time, leading to a domestic VHS release through Columbia / Tristar and Epic Home Video in 1993 and a handful of premium cable screenings through the mid-’90s. More recently it’s been made available again, this time as part of Netflix’s streaming video service. Yay? There’s really not much else to say about Contamination .7, except to reiterate how dreadful it is. Recommended for fans of the noxiously terrible only.
Final Thoughts: An exploitation film in name only and a monster movie with no bite, Contamination .7 is good for a few derisive laughs, but nothing more.