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Contagion (1988)

March. 01,1988
| Horror Action Thriller Science Fiction

A real estate agent is lured to a run-down mansion only to be trapped and tortured by ghosts.


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Offbeat Aussie horror oddity Contagion stars John Doyle as real estate agent Mark, who is driving to a business deal at night when he spots a female hitch-hiker being attacked in the woods by a man. Stopping the car and getting out to investigate, Mark finds himself falling victim to a trio of hicks, one of whom rapes him before tying him up. Luckily, Mark is able to escape, and stumbles upon a mansion occupied by financier Roderick Bael (Ray Barrett), and two attractive young women, Helen (Pamela Hawkesford) and Cleo (Nathalie Gaffney), who tempt him with the promise of sex and great wealth. All Mark needs to do is to prove himself worthy by displaying courage, determination and ruthlessness… by killing those who stand in his way! Meanwhile, Mark's girlfriend Cheryl (Nicola Bartlett) is understandably curious about her boyfriend's behaviour and decides to investigate.As with Kubrick's The Shining, I'm in two minds about the true nature of Contagion: are Roderick, Helen and Cleo malevolent ghosts or simply figments of Mark imagination, the guy having completely lost the plot after his harrowing assault? It's never made absolutely clear either way, but that doesn't prevent the film from being an effective little chiller, made all the more entertaining by a smattering of nudity from Hawkesford and Gaffney, and, towards the end, a spot of gore, including a severed finger and a pitchfork through the neck. Some may be put off by the film's off-kilter atmosphere, but those who enjoy their horror a little off the beaten path should find enough to enjoy about this obscure '80s flick to make it worth seeking out.


John Doyle (Hg and Roy) pretty sure he plays Roy, pops up, in yet another video fizzer from the CBS Fox video collection. Undoubtedly one of the worst Aussie horrors, this one I've come to view, recently again, and asking myself that same question, what's the whole thing about, and what the hell is the three fold path. And what the hell is Ray Barrett doing, acting in this. The film starts off interestingly enough, with a roll of razor wire being strung across a lone country highway, the next unfortunate soul, a bikie buys it, in a scene too reminiscent to that fateful one in Stone. From here we follow Doyle, a real estate agent, who does a night call out in the sticks, in his trusty station wagon. The survivor of a bad accident, where the female occupant wasn't so lucky, he's aided by a beautiful blonde girl, Helen, who takes him back to this palace like house, that doesn't fit into the ordinary of houses out here in the bush. You can easily tell too they're two different shots. Here in this house of luxury, Doyle meets Helen's bitchy twin sister, Cleo, and a mysterious older guy Ronny (Barrett) completely wasted of his talent, the much better, if professional of performances. What the hell is this grumpy old sod, doing out here with these fine two lovelies. Are they somehow related? How did they meet? Barrett's a very successful money magnate, follows the money market, into trading. He is, what you could say, made of the right stuff, something this movie definitely isn't. Pity all these three characters are ghosts. At least Doyle gets to have some nice serves of sex later on in the flick. Doyle becomes so intrigued by this Ronny, brainwashed if you will. He stumbles back to his beat up station wagon, out there on the lonely road. He collapses, ends up in hospital, his girlfriend, a boutique owner, her head full of questions. They eventuate into more serious ones, as she notices changes in him. Yes our Mark (Doyle) has become a changed man, a stronger man, a better man. Obsessed, he returns to his lovelies and Ronny, where to complete this three fold path, whatever, or whatever the hell that is, he's asked to kill certain people, so their place and operation is kept top secret. Really, not much of this movie makes sense, nor does it's existence. It has some nasty, sick bits of violence here and there, minus a finger or two, and sometimes it appears, Doyle isn't even acting, that of a standard to an ANZ ad he did, mid 80's. Really Contagion is just a horribly horrible horror, some scenes pointless, as they are pathetic, as in other Karl Zwicky films. If you're a horror buff, and you actually think this movie's good, get a head check, seriously.


"Contagion" is an obscure and sadly overlooked Aussie horror gem from the late 80's that – and I'm pleased to read that the select few other reviewers around here wholeheartedly agree with me – honestly deserves to be wider known amongst fans of the genre. It's Australian and from the 80's, so it's actually too bad that it wasn't included in the near- brilliant 2008 documentary "Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!". If so, perhaps it could have been a much wanted cult item for collectors to purchase already, like so many other titles highlighted in the documentary. "Contagion" is an intriguingly weird mix of styles and sub genres. It's atmospheric as well as exploitative, sleazy as well as sophisticated and suspenseful as well as gratuitous. It's actually a backwoods road-movie slasher with supernatural elements and melodrama influences. How's that for a plot description? Mark is a traveling real-estate manager on his way to settle a new deal when he witnesses a young hitch-hiker being assaulted by two backwoods hermits on dark forsaken highway at night. His rescue attempt fails miserably and he as well gets captured and viciously male-raped in the woods. Mark manages to escape, however, and ends up at a luxurious mansion at the edge of the forest, where he's warmly welcomed by two blond vixens and a Hugh Hefner look-alike who drivels endlessly about power and money. Mark can share their success, but then he will have to make personal sacrifices and be prepared to get rid of competitors in murderous ways. Mark becomes more and more caught in a web of greed and sexual power, but naturally loses his grip on reality and moral values. "Contagion" benefices from a marvelous sinister ambiance and the desolate Aussie filming locations. The story might be a little hokey and incoherent, but the wholesome strangely makes sense when approaching the climax. The first couple of murders are a bit tame and unexciting, but the film contains quite a number of grisly images and gruesome moments during the finale. The voice-over prologue and epilogue are ultimately macabre, but sadly not all too relevant. The acting performances are adequate overall. Although I fail to see why all the women are so desperately craving for him, John Doyle does a good job at portraying the troubled protagonist Mark. Nicola Bartlett (as his steady girlfriend Cheryl), Natalie Gaffney, Pamela Hawkesford (as the two delusional blond mistresses Cleo and Helen) and Jacqueline Brennan (as his secret crush Trish) are all very likable as the female love-objects.


When a young man named Mark is driving through a desolate wooded area in the dark of night, his headlights espy the assault of a young hitchhiker. He stops to help the girl, but in the process becomes abducted by a group of dangerous backwoods heathens. By and by, he escapes to an incommunicado mansion where a strange tycoon and two mysterious blonde beauties promise him great wealth...at a cost. A killing spree ensues, and Mark spirals deeper and deeper into madness under the watchful eyes of the ghostly three.This is a genuinely creepy supernatural body-count film, and highly original stuff...why it has lingered for so long in relative obscurity is anyone's guess. 7/10