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Making Contact (1985)

Kino Lorber
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/9/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/27/2017

If you ask a movie fan -- I mean a real movie fan, not someone who only see releases that have "Furious" in the title -- about the early films of Roland Emmerich, they will most likely mention Stargate or possibly Universal Soldier. But, long before he made Independence Day, the German-born filmmaker was trying his hand at feature films and testing the waters of various genres. Based on the films that I've seen, I've never thought of Emmerich as devotee of Spielberg, but, apparently, he used to be, as the very, very odd Making Contact proves.

Making Contact introduces us to Joey (Joshua Morrell), a young boy who lives with his mother, Laura (Eva Kryll). At some point in the past, Joey's father died and the youngster now talks to the deceased man on his toy phone. Joey makes the mistake of talking about this at school, so his classmates ridicule him. He's also learned that he can make things move just by thinking about it, a skill he demonstrates at both home and school. Joey's mother begins to worry about him, as does his teacher. Meanwhile, Joey visits the abandoned house next door and finds an old ventriloquists dummy. Joey takes the dummy home and it comes to life and makes things move in Joey's room. This doesn't really phase Joey much, nor does the fact that a group of scientists have now come to his house to study him.

I would say that Making Contact is an odd little movie, but that would be the understatement of the year. This is an incredibly odd movie and Emmerich and the various other writers involved in the movie never had a clear vision of what they wanted the movie to be. Well, that's not exactly true. It's clear that they wanted to make a movie which seamlessly combined E.T. and Poltergeist. Well, they failed at the "seamlessly" part, but it's easy to spot the influence of Spielberg here, as Making Contact shamelessly references those movies. From Poltergeist, we get the objects which fly around the room, a glow coming from inside the closet, and it could be argued that the dummy is an extrapolation of the clown from that movie. E.T. is echoed with the scenes at school and things get kind of awkward when the government officials come to Joey's house in a scene which feels like outtakes from Spielberg's film.

Outside of those moments, I don't know what was going on in Making Contact. Joey's room is crammed floor-to-ceiling with licensed characters with his sheets, toys, and curtains. (What boy doesn't want Sesame Street curtains?) The dummy explains to Joey (?!) where he came from, but this does not really tell us why he is alive. (Magic is mentioned, but not elaborated on.) As noted above, the dummy seems to have nefarious plans for Joey...but Joey just moves on with his life. The movie's big plot-twist arrives at the 26-minute mark...but no one seems to care. Following this, Making Contact becomes a different movie all-together. The bullies who had made fun of Joey at school, get lost in the old house next door and find themselves being threatened by a cheeseburger, so Joey must save them. No, I didn't accidentally cut-and-paste words from another review there. That scene really happened. And I may be the only one who cares about this, but what's up Joey's robot toy. It looks like a simple toy, but it also appears to be sentient. What am I missing?

Making Contact was shot in Germany and Virginia Beach, so we get a lot of shots of a Krispy Kreme, along with some obvious sets. This odd combination typifies the truly bizarre nature of this movie. Is this a horror movie? Is it science fiction? It's both and neither, as the movie shifts focus and tone from scene to scene and any viewer who decides to finish the movie will eventually give up trying to make any sense of it. And if you do make it to the finale, you find an ending that could have only come from Europe. I got the feeling that Making Contact was supposed to be aimed at children, and they may be the only ones who would have the patience to watch this film. But, they'll also find a film which takes a very casual approach to grief, death, property destruction, trespassing, and psychic attempted murder. If nothing else, I can say that Making Contact feels like a complete ripoff, and yet like nothing that I've ever seen.

Making Contact must have raided a Toys R Us on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino Lorber. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc carries an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain at times and no defects from the source materials. Some shots are notably soft, while others are very clear and detailed. The colors look good and the image is never overly bright or dark (although the odd finale does skew somewhat dark). The movie does have an overall flat look, which isn't all that surprising given its background. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2-channel track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are several scenes which reveal obvious stereo effects, most notably the finale and the moments where things fly around Joey's room. The score sounds fine and never overpower the actors.

The only extras on the Making Contact Blu-ray Disc are two TRAILERS for the film and an additional trailer featuring the film's alternative title, "Joey".

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long