20 Days Until Halloween, 2013: CONTAGION (1987)


(I wrote the following in a rush yesterday after an annoying day of work and lack of medication.  It’s reflected in the writing.  However, I’m leaving it unedited because I think, lost in my hazy brain knots, grasping for cliches but not reaching them, I was unconsciously reflecting the style of the movie in my writing…and that’s pretty cool).

Back when I was in college (the first time around) I went out to dinner with a guy who I had known for only a few months. There were a rash of UFO sightings near my college campus at the time and I was getting kicks out of encouraging panic in my peers while observing their unfounded fear with anthropological objectivity.  So, over burgers and fries at Denny’s, I was waxing philosophical about the possibility of repressed abduction experiences in a very, very provocative manner, but he was having none of it.  Firmly grounded fellow, him. The conversation turned to the occult, as it often does, and we started talking about the possibility of “group hallucinations” and the role they might play in UFO sightings. He related a story from his youth.

Down the street from where he lived there were a patch of woods in which he and the neighbor kids used to play “role playing” games.  I’m not talking about “cos play”, or whatever organized activity the kids do instead of playing these days.   These kids were just pretending to be strange characters and deciding “this tree is a castle” and that sort of thing.  Completely impromptu exercises without any intended goal, just like I used to do with my friends.

Well there was one day that the games went funny somehow, went too far, and none of those neighbor kids ever went back to those woods.  He couldn’t exactly explain what happened.  He remembers that the air began to shimmer.  They began to forget who they were.  A panic overcame them and, without a clear transition, the world transformed into an alien landscape.  Somewhere nearby, from what was now darkness (or a different kind of light), an “alien creature” appeared.  It was formless, or misshapen, but very clearly a living entity who did not want them to be there.  They ran.  It ran after them, screaming like a wild animal.  Somehow they escaped.

Afterward they all described this “group hallucination” with the same vivid, corresponding details.

By the time this guy finished telling his tall tail I was firmly spooked.  Not because it’s a particularly original scenario or that it was told with gusto or anything, but because I KNEW the story.  I had LIVED that story.  The story was MINE.

I asked him where it happened and the conversation turned strange (or stranger).  We discovered we had, by complete coincidence,  lived on the same street as children:  Victor Drive, Swan Valley, Michigan.

He wasn’t there with me.  It wasn’t the same day.  We weren’t friends then.  We didn’t have any friends in common.  We were there at different times without any links whatsoever.  That patch of woods didn’t have a reputation that would have suggested the experience to all the children in the neighborhood.  No.  It was just an unlikely, strange coincidence that can’t be satisfyingly explained.

Of course, there’s the possibility that there was SOMETHING about those woods…something unknown that triggers these sorts of experiences.  After all, there are places all over the world that are considered the stomping grounds of Great God Pan…places where the fairies steal children off into mounds and all that. Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING depicts one of these Mystery Spots (TM), and I’ve often felt that certain natural clearings, deep in the woods, are DARKER than others.

I’m open to the possibility of…something…going on.

Maybe that’s what makes me open to this movie.  That, and a passion for movies that begin with male-on-male rape.  Lucky for me, there are at least a baker’s dozen such films from Australia.  Perhaps it’s because they developed from a penal colony?  I don’t know.  In any case, I’m not complaining.  It’s IMAGINARY rape, after all.

Or maybe it’s real.  To be honest, several minutes into this film and I’m sure I have no idea what’s real and what isn’t.  All I know is that it’s delirious and ecstatic and calls into question the sanity of the viewer, the filmmakers, and everyone else even tangentially involved.  Surrealism at its finest!

Plot?  Themes?  It’s about one of those places I was just describing, yes, but it’s also a critique of capitalism.

…and it works!

One of the most interesting whack-a-doodle films I’ve seen this year!


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