Horror Bites - Don't Say The Z Word

Last month's marathon was a fairly satisfying length, but there are always a few that manage to slip past due to time or other factors. Besides, a quick jaunt into the vaults of Italian horror is hardly something I need an excuse for these days. We've got some zombies lined up, but first off we have a story about alien visitors with Luigi Cozzi's 1980 Alien rip-off Contamination.

A ship floats into the New York harbour mysteriously, the crew are missing and soon its cargo is discovered - a bunch of suspicious coffee crates from South America full of avocados. But wait! Of course these are alive, and prone to releasing translucent slime over unsuspecting people who get too close. Whether they are outfitted with hazmat suits or not, the victims find the substance is rather nasty, causing burns and quickly exploding their bodies from inside. Did I mention the exploding bodies? Now then... it's unclear why this happens as you'd think eggs that release cosmic spores might need live hosts or time to incubate. But what the hell, if you're going to steal from Alien you might as well get straight to the effects and try outdo Ridley Scott's chestburster scene in the first few scenes. This isn't a film with a lot of internal logic despite the overall plot in which these cases of green pods are being shipped into the USA.

Besides the staple splatter scenes this also stars Ian McCullock from Zombi 2 and you get a groovy but fairly simplistic score from Goblin. There's a backstory involving astronauts, a lot of mind control and a reasonable amount of atmosphere in some of the investigation scenes. The cause of all this is slightly spoiled by the opening credits if you pay attention, but it's not that important. McCullock teams up with a government agent and a NYC cop they race to discover a plot. The end isn't really a satisfying conclusion but does the job, more or less. Some of the usual horror movie decision making is done by the characters but I found it to be mostly entertaining. There are some fun sci-fi sets and models, and overall I could probably chalk it up as a guilty pleasure.

I can't say the same for Nightmare City unfortunately, which as far as the zombie genre goes isn't something I found that entertaining or moody. Sorry, they're not zombies... they're radiation victims. The director of this would like to think so at least. They attack by biting and multiply by the same method, they have a drop in rational thought power. In a way they are probably more like vampires, since their bodies cannot produce red cells they must take blood from others. I think Umberto Lenzi misunderstood how leukaemia works. What they look like ... is people with manure smeared over their faces. Some more generously than others. A lot of them didn't both to put in the effort and have far less makeup (if any) which is a shame; but the effect is still pretty funny in any case. Nevertheless they run about glaring wildly and trying to look threatening.

As a film taken on it's own terms there's a lot of random moments like an aerobics show being filmed. The attack scenes are all repetitive as the radioactive goons burst into TV stations and hospitals, and run around hitting or stabbing people with weapons. There's a lot of gratuitous bare cleavage during some of this, which just detracts from any sense of panic or tension. The story follows a reporter after he sees how this begins when an unmarked plane full of irate blood drinkers arrives, and soon he's on the run with his girlfriend. Occasionally she'll pause to reminisce or think about how all of this is humanity's fault because of nuclear power or the state of the environment. Most of the time they just arrive somewhere that looks like a nice place to hide, before being attacked and moving on. The next place though, that will probably fine. There are subplots about military personnel and random housewives who don't understand how to secure the entrances to their homes, the typical horror movie decision making is prevalent again here. Add a silly ending onto this and you get a less than exemplary pseudo zombie movie, with more unintended laughs than chills.