Directed by: J.L Jackson
Starring: Bobby Cole, Karin Tracy and Jeffrey Carter
Short Film Review by: Annie Vincent
Dust-covered, gritty post-apocalyptic disaster movies are a big audience draw these days and Contaminate has all the hallmarks of one such dystopian tale. We are presented with a world destroyed by extreme weather phenomenon, brought about by climate change; we have a nomadic society living off what it can and the survival of the fitness (or most violent) to accompany it; and we have our hopefuls who wish for something better and appear to have found a way to achieve it.
The problem here in Contaminate, directed by J.L. Jackson, is that we also have a jealous ex-lover, a few zombies and a significant issue with the relevance of some characters’ motivations, and whilst Contaminate is a fair disaster short in principle, it muddies the water with out-of-genre conventions which detract from the grit that we want to see and that the film works hard to create.
The opening space shots of Earth show a vastly different landscape to the one we all know today and describes the catastrophic effects climate change has had on the world – highly topical and a great setting for a disaster movie because we can all imagine this to be the case. So too, can we imagine a family living out in the wilderness trying to avoid being mugged by local gangs desperate for food or other valuable resources – so far, so good, except for the audio-balancing, which has our characters drowned out by rustling leaves and the wind, and the rapport between our on-screen family isn’t all that strong. There’s a hint of discontinuity too as Drexel Frederick, played by Bobby Cole, explains what the world was like before this to his teenage daughters who were born into a world of chilli cheese fries and drive-ins, so we are left to wonder just how long they’ve been living like this.
What appears to be a random mugging turns to tragedy and our family are thrown into turmoil. Seeking shelter, they stumble upon a warehouse housing a small group who come under attack because they are also sheltering ‘contaminates’. Here, our genres start to merge and when Riley, Drexel’s wife is kidnapped, the plot not only thickens, but runs our disaster movie in the background while a family drama takes the spotlight and our villain loses all credibility by abandoning his original intention and pouring his heart out. The camerawork, shaky early on when some heads were cut off, improves as the film progresses, but as the fight scenes increase, we see a delay between action and sound effect, with some actors not really able to convince us the beating they’re receiving is as violent as it’s made to sound.
The premise of Contaminate was really promising but the script took it in a different direction; it became less about the battle to survive and more about defeating old enemies, both alive and dead: not quite the post-apocalyptic adventure we were hoping for.