Take a bunch of obscure deleted scenes from E.T., Poltergeist, and some unreleased haunted house movie made by Disney TV, stitch them randomly together with little to no context – and then you have Making Contact, written and directed by Roland Emmerich. Yes, the “master of disaster“ himself who gave us Independence Day.
And no, Making Contact, which Emmerich made eight years before his global breakthrough with Stargate, has nothing to do with making contact with space or aliens. I don’t exactly know what the movie is trying to make contact with… A cohesive plot it is certainly not, and I don’t even think that a young, struggling Roland Emmerich knew. He just wanted to make an entertaining movie, according to the film’s wiki page. And entertaining it is, but mostly for the wrong reasons. And that’s always something I can appreciate.
The film centers around the young kid, Joey, who’s just had his dad buried. Why, what or how, we never get to know. The same night, while he’s in his room, the house gets haunted by… something. All the toys start to move and a red-glowing toy phone in his closet starts ringing. On the other end is his dad, or that is what we’re supposed to believe. We’re only some minutes in when I can already picture this as one of the many unofficial sequels that got spewed out of Italy during the 1980s. And if that was the case here, this would be released as Poltergeist 2, without any questions.
Joey and his mother also happen to live next door to the same house from the Psycho films. Here it’s condemned and ready to be demolished. One day, Joey goes for an exploration in its cobwebbed basement, where he finds a ventriloquist dummy. The dummy’s name is not Norman Bates but Fletcher, and we soon learn that he’s possessed by a demon or something which should rather be locked up in a blessed cage in the occult museum of Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Weird, supernatural shit also occurs at school where an egg rolls by itself over a ruler from one table to another. Some girls’ pigtails start to float just out of the blue… and when I thought I’d seen it all: instead of a bunch of chairs stacked up on each other in the kitchen, we have some sharp knives stuck in the kitchen cupboard.
Making Contact is a weird mesmerizing mess that can never decide what direction it wants to go with a tone that bounces all over the place. There’s a side-plot with the demon possessed-whatever doll that never gets explained. The other kids in Joey’s class set up a plan to kill him because…because. Joey suddenly has telekinetic powers. Scientists set up a lab at Joey’s house. Kids are running around in Norman Bate’s huge underground basement where a big hamburger-shaped monster pops up, and some other ghoulish creatures for a quick moment. The top of a big maze can be seen in the distance and I wonder if there’s a shrine in there as well. The visual effects look like scraps from Mr. Boogedy.
Almost the entire cast is of non-actors who’s only appeared in this film, most of which are Germans while the shooting took place in Germany, Virginia Beach and at the backlot of Universal Studios in California where the exterior of the Psycho house is located. The film got English dubbing for its DVD release with a new musical score which sounds very familiar to a certain John Williams. And now I’m almost tempted to claim that Steven Spielberg actually ghost directed the film in some bizarre alternative universe while he snorted lines with Tobe Hooper. Because the more I think of this film the more confused I get.
Making Contact is obscure for a reason, but the weird and goofy nature of it, and if not considering who’s directed it, makes it more of a morbid curiosity and something to at least have some fun with. Emmerich followed up with the horror comedy Ghost Chase, aka Hollywood Monster, in 1987 which is even more nuttier.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Roland Emmerich, Hans J. Haller, Thomas Lechner
Original title: Joey
Country & year: West Germany, US, 1985
Actors: Joshua Morrell, Eva Kryll, Tammy Shields, Jan Zierold, Barbara Klein, Matthias Kraus, Jerry L. Hall Jr., Sean Johnson, Christine Goebbels, Ray Kaselonis