Monday, March 22, 2021

“I’ve Lived Among the Woods All My Life” - Contamination .7 (1993) - Film #200

The oddly named Contamination .7 (1993) aka The Crawlers is the next cinematic gem we must discuss on Senseless Cinema. Perhaps a sequel or prequel to Luigi Cozzi's Contamination (1980) aka Alien Contamination, Contamination .7 was directed by Fabrizio Laurenti and Joe D'Amato aka Aristide Massaccesi. Filmed in Utah, the movie is possibly one of the finest examples of Eurohorror in the 1990s.

Not all of your universe's critics agree with my assessment, however. Reviewer Melaugh writes, "The pain felt while watching this movie is almost life changing. From the acting, writing direction, and god awful special effects, this movie failed on every conceivable level." Reviewer capkronos writes, "Though thoroughly inept, it's also boring, clichéd, slow-moving and far too tame to really be enjoyable." And reviewer tmccull52 writes, "This movie wasn't just bad, it was stupefyingly, mind-numbingly bad."

Read on for the truth about Contamination .7...

A flatbed truck carries unknown materials from the high desert into the mountains in the American West. On another highway, a bus carries unknown characters into the mountains. One attractive young woman on the bus, Susan, asks another attractive young woman on the bus, Josie, if she is “from around here,” perhaps meaning the highway into the mountains. Josie is in fact “from around here.” Susan says she is heading to Seattle to meet her boyfriend, though the bus’s destination is Anchorage.

The bus pulls into the traditional run-down gas station, where the driver runs to the rest rooms. Susan is the only other passenger to depart the bus. She walks to the convenience store. Seconds later, the driver returns to the bus and drives away, leaving Susan stranded. She asks the gas station attendant, “When’s the next bus?”

“Thursday,” he replies.

The bus pulls into a little town nearby and Josie gets off, taking her suitcases. She walks through the woods to her family home, where she is met by her mother and younger brother Davy. Somewhat ominously, she gives her brother a coin bank in the shape of a Venus flytrap that swallows the coins.

Josie’s former boyfriend Matt drives to her house and helpfully explains their relationship. “God, last time I saw you, you were sixteen.”


“And we were engaged.”


He also makes fun of one of her teeth before they go for a walk in the woods.

Elsewhere, Matt’s father Bob joins a crew of men in the woods examining the trees, which appear to be dying because of acid rain. A camera POV shot indicates something is creeping through the woods nearby.

Still elsewhere, at a power plant, an employee named Dr. Taylor reveals he has found high levels of radioactivity produced by the power plant, but his discovery is ignored by the administrators, who threaten him with termination because they found a bottle of whisky in his desk. The discovery of radiation levels should not be a massive surprise, however, because the trucks leaving the power plant are full of barrels of nuclear waste. 

 Back at the gas station, Susan finds a ride with a creepy man (sporting an incongruous Scottish accent) who almost immediately tries to rape her in his pickup truck. “I’m gonna stick it to you!” he says repeatedly. She runs away into the woods and he chases her, eventually giving up and driving away to leave Susan in the woods. She is soon chased through the woods by the camera’s POV. She screams, and we see her dragged through the vegetation.

Back at Josie’s house, Josie sits in Davy’s bed looking at an album of leaves he’s collected, oblivious to the creepy Howdy Doody puppet sitting between them (the puppet is never mentioned, nor is it seen or heard from again).

Dr. Taylor, after spending a long day taking Geiger counter readings of the trees, gets drunk in a bar, where he is picked up by a prostitute named Paula. The town’s sheriff passes them on the way out of the bar, quipping, “The only customers Paula’s been taking around back lately are the ones that have been too drunk to see what they’re getting into.”

Instead of having sex with Paula, who wears a feather boa in bed, Dr. Taylor looks at a map of the area and deduces that the source of radiation is not actually the power plant.

The next day, Josie and her old boyfriend Matt drive in his fifties DeSoto to a mountain trail, where for unknown reasons Matt wades into a waterfall wearing his blue jeans and starts splashing Josie. Wisely, Josie mostly avoids the water.

They kiss, rekindling their old romance. A few minutes later, Matt disappears into the woods, but of course he only wants to scare Josie. After being stalked by the camera’s POV, they stumble upon Susan’s body.

At the sheriff’s office, Josie and Matt are dismissed by the sheriff. He tells them flatly (a word describing his directness as well as the quality of his voice), “I don’t believe you. Frankly, Josie, I think you two kids went up into the woods, snorted something that you brought back from the big city.” Instead of investigating the body, the sheriff wants to fill out paperwork, but eventually they convince him to return with them to the scene of the crime. Shockingly, however, Susan’s body has vanished.

The sheriff says, even more flatly, “Maybe it moseyed down to the soda shop for a spot of Coke, eh, kids? Ahh, you kids. You get my goat.”

The filmmakers cut to the power plant, where the evil administrators provide some helpful exposition. “When the sheriff called me saying somebody found that body near to the site, I thought it was safer to have it brought in here. And I was right.” They find the body is radioactive, but she died “for some other reason.” It is as if “she swam in a...a pool of uranium.”

Oblivious to the discovery of the body, Dr. Taylor tells the administrators that the source of the radiation is not the power plant itself, but the fact that the trucks transporting radioactive waste have not been reaching their destination.

In the forest, the gas station attendant fires at the noises of branches or roots squirming around, but he is quickly killed and dragged away, presumably by those branches and roots.

The filmmakers next present a thrilling car chase as Dr. Taylor attempts to lose the two shady thugs hired by the power plant. “Subject is not cooperating,” says the driver.

“Just shut up,” says the other thug, speaking at least as flatly as the sheriff. “And step on it.” The thug pulls out his handgun as the chase reaches speeds of 50 miles per hour (though unfortunately the chase fails to remain in focus).

Meanwhile, at the town bar, the patrons watch an episode of Who’s the Boss? on television. Matt drowns his sorrows with tequila because Josie slapped him after he suggested she was more interested in city boys. Matt is approached by the prostitute Paula, though he refuses to cheat on Josie, talking to Paula instead. Paula lets slip that she talked to Dr. Taylor and he was concerned about radiation levels threatening the town. She even gives Matt Dr. Taylor’s map, which he left behind.

Back at the car chase, it is suddenly nighttime, and Dr. Taylor abandons his car on the side of the road. The others, only a few yards behind, walk slowly into the woods after him. One thug smiles and cocks his gun. “Have you ever hunted possum?”

As Dr. Taylor watches, both thugs are attacked by sentient roots a la The Evil Dead. 

Dr. Taylor returns to town, where he finds the sheriff and picks up the phone to call the state capital about the sentient root problem. Shockingly, however, the sheriff points a gun at him and forces him not to call the capital.

The sheriff calls the power plant administrator, revealing they were in cahoots to neutralize Dr. Taylor. However, Matt has found Taylor’s radiation map thanks to Paula, so he goes into the forest to figure out what it means. He even flies in a helicopter with his father, whose job is unexplained. Soon, Matt and Josie are joined by the gas station attendant’s grandson Brian, who happens to be an investigative reporter for a big-city newspaper. 

At the power plant, which is equipped with a medical lab and morgue for some reason, the villains discover that Susan’s body was attacked by mutated tree roots. “An appropriate word would be monstrous,” says the doctor conducting the autopsy. He adds, “These plants are carnivorous.”

Josie, Matt, Brian, and Josie’s little brother Davy decide to dig up the corpse of Brian’s grandfather to see if he was killed by radiation. Fortunately, the casket is buried six inches under the ground, so it is easy to dig up. Unfortunately, the body is not in the casket.

When the sheriff arrives at the cemetery, our heroes run away, but the sheriff discovers they have dug up the grave. He leaves, telling his deputy to fill the hole (which is now much deeper and has no casket, for some reason). The deputy is soon murdered by the mutated roots, which snake through the cemetery from the forest, hundreds of yards away.

Not content to simply desecrate Brian’s grandfather’s grave, Matt and Brian begin to dig up the dead dog’s grave, only to be intercepted by the sheriff, who takes them into the grandfather’s mobile home. Fortunately for our heroes, the roots appear to be on their side, as they smash through the windows and floor to attack the sheriff.

The roots kill the sheriff by poking out one eyeball, as roots are wont to do.

Josie and Davy survive an attack of the roots when they go home to retrieve their mother. At the same time, Matt is attacked in his DeSoto. Also, Matt’s grandmother, who is feeding her horse in the middle of the night, is killed by the roots, as is an old man with a gun who shoots at Brian when he tries to warn the man that roots are attacking.

Coincidentally, Dr. Taylor, having escaped from the town jail, flags down the DeSoto and joins the rest of our heroes. He explains that the roots have turned evil because the waste from the power plant has been dumped in the forest instead of being transported to a safer location. “But how could they do that?” asks Josie.

“When two million dollars is involved,” replies Matt’s father, “there is no ‘why.’” (We must note that Josie asked ‘how’ and not ‘why.’)

They all hypothesize that radiation mutated the roots. Matt’s father says, “I’ve lived among the woods all my life. I can’t believe that’s possible.”

Everybody confronts the power plant administrator, who goes crazy, pulls out a gun, and shoots himself so he won’t be held responsible for the killer roots. Ignoring his suicide, the heroes regroup at a house in the hills. Then, for unexplained reasons, all the townspeople drive to the same location armed with shovels, including the prostitute Paula.

Matt’s father and Dr. Taylor fly in the helicopter to find the toxic waste barrels, which litter a remote clearing in the hills. Dr. Taylor is attacked by the roots and dragged into a pond. Seeing this, Matt’s father tries to fly away in the helicopter, but the roots attack him as well.

Matt’s father fires off a flare so the townspeople drive to the dump site. 

The helicopter suddenly explodes due to the roots grabbing its struts.

Following their foolproof plan, the townspeople dig up the toxic waste barrels and roll them onto pickup trucks. Unfortunately, the roots discover what they’re doing and strangle many of the townspeople, including Paula—leading to what can only be described as hysterical flailing.

Suddenly, however, our heroes are saved by a cavalry made up of five bulldozers. One of the bulldozers stops and a man in a gas mask gets out. He strides toward Josie and Matt. “Who is he?” Josie asks.

“I don’t know, but his timing is perfect,” Matt replies, presumably forgetting that many townspeople have just been murdered by killer roots.

The man reveals himself to be Brian, swooping in after having decided to leave a la Han Solo. The roots get buried under the dirt, which appears to neutralize them for whatever reason. The toxic waste barrels also get buried in the same area, apparently a good thing. 

After everything is safely taken care of, Brian gets on a bus headed to Juneau, Alaska, after paying off a perhaps underdeveloped subplot hinting at a romantic interest between Josie and Matt by Matt revealing he is married.

The film then jumps ahead to Christmastime, when Josie and Matt are married and Josie is pregnant. In a shocking twist ending, as Josie speaks with Matt on the phone, we see the Christmas tree branches shaking by themselves.

One of two movies in English directed by Fabrizio Laurenti (the other being 1988's Witchery), and one of roughly one million directed by Joe D'Amato, Contamination .7 is an efficient and picturesque film that combines elements (that is, one element) of The Evil Dead (1981) with a conspiracy thriller about mishandled toxic waste. While some would complain that some of the actors, such as the sheriff and the power plant administrator, give wooden performances, I would argue that their status as non-actors stymied by the fantastic events of the film increases the reality of the narrative. By the end of the film, what audience member cannot cheer as the clearly real local townspeople begin digging up bright yellow barrels of toxic waste and tossing them on their pickup trucks? Similarly, who would not cheer in real life when bulldozers come to the rescue, burying both the sentient roots and the toxic waste containers (clearly damaging some in the process) under a mound of dirt and taking care of the problem once and for all? Viewers who complain about such things are too cynical to appreciate a film as realistic and nuanced as Contamination .7, so they should look for their entertainment elsewhere.