Intergalactic Invaders!!!

Gory greetings! This latest edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features a terrible trio of cult clas-sick 80’s horror flicks that boldly go where Ridley Scott had already went in ’79. I’m talking OUTER SPACE baby! Well, not really outer space because that would cost too much money. In these flicks the ghastly alien horrors of outer space come to Earth and wreck havoc on humanity.

 

LET THE CHEST BURSTING BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

 

CONTAMINATION (1980)

In an opening scene eerily reminiscent of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi II,” this Italian horror/sci-fi hybrid begins with a large cargo boat drifting aimlessly in the New York harbor. The police are sent in to investigate when the crew doesn’t respond to radio communication. The cops board the vessel and find it to be completely deserted. At first all the police turn up is several cases of gourmet coffee marked with a mysterious X shaped logo. Then they discover the crew members’ horribly mutilated bodies. The detectives are baffled as to what the cause of death could be, especially because the bodies appear to have been torn apart from within.

But the real horror has only just begun. A detective opens one of the cases and instead of coffee, finds several large green eggs inside it. The eggs clearly didn’t come from a chicken as they resemble a cross between an oversized avocado and a mutant squash. One of the eggs is found nestled under a hot steam pipe and has grown in size. It also glows and appears to be pulsating. The dimwitted detective decides to pick the glowing green egg up and that’s when the fun starts. The egg immediately explodes and releases a thick green slime that splatters all over the detective and a few of his partners. The slime causes their abdomens to swell up until they burst and shower their internal organs all over the ship!

A tough minded Government official – Colonel Stella Holmes, is then sent to New York to investigate. Stella teams up with the sole survivor of the original investigation, Lieutenant Tony Arsis of the NYPD and tracks the shipment of deadly eggs to a secluded warehouse. When the authorities bust into the warehouse looking for answers they find a band of smugglers protecting the eggs that are willing to kill themselves to avoid being questioned. The criminals commit suicide by shooting a few of the eggs and allowing the green goo to work it’s magic on them.

After watching the men violently explode and conducting a series of experiments on the lethal contents of the eggs, Colonel Holmes begins to suspect that the origins of this nightmare may in fact not be Earthly. In an ironic twist of fate, she then turns to a disgraced former astronaut turned alcoholic that she had dismissed as an idiot several years before. The former Commander, Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch of “Zombi II” & “Zombi Holocaust” legend!) is none too pleased to find the smug and self serving Colonel at his doorstep, now looking for his help. At first Hubbard refuses, but when he realizes that the ghastly horror he witnessed years before on Mars is now on Earth he hesitatingly agrees to tag along.

Holmes, Arsis, and Hubbard than travel to South America to find the coffee plantation where the eggs had been shipped from. Their investigation is nearly stopped in its tracks as they battle hordes of seemingly possessed men in white haz-mat suits (shades of Romero’s “The Crazies”) and discover an over ripened egg waiting to explode in their hotel bathroom. When they finally reach the bowels of the coffee factory they get a much closer look at the source of the eggs then they ever wanted. The eggs are actually the hell spawn of a monstrous Martian cyclops that intends to take over the world! The Martian uses his powers of mind control to hypnotize Holmes and Arsis, which leaves Hubbard alone to face the ghastly alien monster. Humanity’s survival depends on his ability to overcome the fear that he can feel in his blood.

Director Luigi Cozzi was at the helm of this fantastic 1980 effort which he also co-wrote. Cozzi is a life long science fiction fan, and his love of the genre is unmistakable when watching “Contamination.” Luigi fully admits that he was forced by his producers to follow the “Alien” trend, but he did his best to make the most of the situation. The script avoids any blatant steals from “Alien” and is instead full of homages to classic sci-fi flicks like “Enemy From Space” and “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.”

Despite having a low budget to work with, Cozzi was able to create some very memorable special effects. The centerpiece of the film are the splashy scenes where bodies explode. Simplicity was the key to success; the effect was created using foam rubber, animal entrails, and compressed air. The alien on the other hand is a little bit less convincing. The monster was made entirely of paper mache! It took over 96 cuts and countless shifts in camera position to make the cyclops appear to move. Another big key to the film’s success is the fantastic score from Goblin. The pulsing techno beats add a sense of morbid mechanical dread to the film.

Blue Underground released CONTAMINATION on dvd a few years ago. The bonus features include an informative interview with Luigi Cozzi, a brief on the set documentary from 1980, the theatrical trailer, a still gallery, and a nifty graphic novel based on Cozzi’s original storyboards that you can access on your PC. Fans of over the top Italian horror should greatly appreciate this.

 

 

THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983)

This cult clas-sick begins with a shot of a fiery meteorite crashing to Earth. A group of unfortunate campers decide to investigate and quickly get turned into a hot lunch for their efforts. The meteorite contains a nasty looking flesh chomping alien monster with razor sharp fangs and a ravenous appetite for destruction. After devouring the campers, the alien slithers its way into the basement of a small secluded home in the New Jersey suburbs.

A rash of rain showers then floods the basement and provides the perfect breeding environment for the monstrous carnivore. After a few hours spent in the dark, dank basement the monster swells in size and begins to asexually reproduce, unleashing a small army of pint sized predators. The mother of the household (I don’t believe the family’s last name is ever mentioned) eventually wanders into the basement looking for her missing-in-action husband and finds what’s left of him falling out of the mother alien’s bloodstained jaws.

Mom is promptly devoured as well, with the exception of her head which is left on the floor of the basement for the alien’s offspring to tear apart and feast upon – much to the shock and disgust of her son Charles. Charlie had snuck into the basement to pull a prank on his Uncle Herb who was in town for a visit. Instead of finding the fusebox, Charles finds his mother’s savaged remains and gets up close and personal with the virulent visitors.

Meanwhile upstairs, Charlie’s older brother Pete and a group of Pete’s friends also discover the alien’s deadly spawn when they stumble upon Uncle Herb’s corpse, which has been turned into an alien incubator. The mother alien gives chase and the teens are forced to run for their lives and take shelter in Charlie’s bedroom. Downstairs, Charles discovers that the aliens are essentially blind and that they hunt after their prey using super sensitive hearing. Armed with this knowledge, the lad vows revenge on the intergalactic invaders and heads upstairs to try to stop the voracious villains once and for all. It’s mankind vs. the ultimate eating machines!

“The Deadly Spawn” is one of my favorite flicks, and one of the very best homemade horror efforts of the early 80’s. This was a true labor of love, a very low budget affair that took about three years of painstaking weekend shoots to finally complete. Despite the micro-budget, there’s no shortage of jaw droppingly gory special effects. The creature designs and special effects by John Dods (“The X-Files”) are nothing less then spectacular. This flick is chock full of scenes with outrageous gore and can be considered nothing less than a 10/10 splatterpiece. There are many highlights along the way, but my favorite scene has to be the hilarious sequence where the deadly spawn chow down on a group of little old ladies attempting to enjoy a vegetarian luncheon!

When searching for clips on youtube I was disappointed to see several comments along the lines of “OMG! What a cheap and crappy looking Alien rip off.” Obviously these idiots have never seen the film, and can’t appreciate what a loving tribute this film is to the monster flicks of the 50’s. The greedy distributors were the ones responsible for the film’s alternate title – “Return Of The Alien’s Deadly Spawn,” not the filmmakers. This flick clearly owes a lot more to classic sci-fi flicks like “The Blob” than it does to “Alien.” Watching 30 second clips on the net won’t give you an appreciation of the film’s superior pacing, the quality of the performances, or the creepy sounding score. I think this flick is terminally misunderstood and criminally underrated. I could attempt to get more in depth with my defense of the film but I’d rather keep it simple (and stupid!) and sum up my review as follows – if you don’t like this flick you fucking suck.

Synapse Films gave THE DEADLY SPAWN exactly the type of special edition dvd release that it deserves. The film was digitally remastered with a new pristine looking windowboxed transfer. Incredibly, the process of remastering the print cost more than the total budget of the film! The bonus features are quite extensive and include two different audio commentary tracks, extensive still galleries, a comic style prequel, an alternate opening sequence, the theatrical trailer, and much more! This is a dvd that no respectable horror collection should be missing.

 

 

XTRO (1983)

A young lad named Tony is playing with his father Sam outside of their country cottage one day when the skies unexpectedly turn black and Daddy gets abducted by a large alien spaceship! Three years later Sam returns, but much different than before. He shows up at home one day, much to the shock of his former wife Rachel (played by the odd looking Bernice Stegers of “Macabre” infamy) who has shacked up with a guy named Joe. Joe is immediately distrustful of Sam, Rachel is torn between two lovers, and Tony is delighted to have his daddy back. Then Sam’s true motives are revealed and a tense custody battle ensues. This flick could be described as a nightmarish combination of “Kramer Vs. Kramer” and “Alien.”

This incredibly fucked up 1983 sci-fi/horror hybrid, which is often dismissed as a mere “Alien” clone by people who have never seen it, defies all logic. It was largely written by director Harry Bromley Davenport during an admitted drug binge! The working title “Judas Goat” gives you a hint at his mind state at the time. Then a trio of other writers and even New Line producer Robert Shaye got involved and began contributing off the wall ideas. The end result is a brutal and bizarre horror film full of surreal scenes that are completely unrelated to each other.

The numerous highlights which I purposefully avoided in my opening synopsis include a killer dwarf clown with a lethal yo-yo, killer toy tanks, a toy soldier that grows to human size and turns murderous, a woman raped orally by an alien, rapid fire pregnancy capped off with giving birth to a full grown adult male, said altered male breathing deadly gas and eating snake eggs, an extraterrestrial shriek which melts telephones and makes ears bleed, death by black panther (the animal, not the militant Negro), gobs of green goo, and last but certainly not least some beautiful gratuitous nudity provided by the stunning Maryam D’Abo, who is turned into an alien egg incubator!

The special effects are rather hit and miss in my opinion, but two scenes in particular really stand out. First is the introduction of the alien, which is a nasty looking crab like creature that walks on all fours. It’s only briefly seen in this form, but it’s creepy as hell. This memorable effect was achieved by hiring a contortionist mime that could crawl on his back! The other scene that deserves special mention is the incredibly disgusting sequence where an unlucky woman gives birth to a full grown man! This gruesome birth scene is shown in sickening flesh ripping detail and never fails to make me retch. I’m guessing it was this scene that helped the film win an International Fantasy Film Award for Best Special Effects.

XTRO has been a personal favorite of mine for years, and is currently available on dvd thanks to Image Entertainment. I highly recommend purchasing the double feature dvd which also includes the vastly inferior yet oddly entertaining Jan Michael Vincent epic “Xtro 2.” The best part of the dvd has to be the tell-all interview with director Harry Bromley Davenport, where Harry shares a lot of great stories about the making of the films and offers his very honest opinions on them! It’s hilarious stuff that will make you appreciate the film even more. Fans of twisted sci-fi and horror should definitely seek this one out! A gory good time is guaranteed!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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One Response to “Intergalactic Invaders!!!”

  1. I own all of them except the shit-fest XTRO 2. Oddly, though, I DO adore XTRO 3: WATCH THE SKIES. The first XTRO is creepy and weird, and perfect. Another flick from my youth. THE DEADLY SPAWN freaked me out when I first saw it, and STILL gives me them ‘fear pangs’ when I watch it. That Synapse DVD is loaded and also perfect. CONTAMINATION is another solid alien shocker. Saw it as a kid under one of it’s alternate titles on Elvira, ALIEN CONTAMINATION. It reminds me of ALIEN 2: ON EARTH, which I also saw on Elvira, and which I sadly don’t own yet. Excellent reviews.

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