Facing off in the center of the Strange Kids Club ring are two of director Roland Emmerich's most abysmal films. Yes folks, you are probably well acquainted with Emmerich's filmography since it includes Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC, and 2012. It's surely an impressive list of big budget special effects extravaganzas, but Emmerich wasn't always a hero to all sci-fi geeks. His domination didn't actually begin until the mid 1990's and that's why we're sanctioning this matchup between two of his earliest films which he both wrote and directed. One of these movies will be buried once and for all... but which one will it be?
Introducing, to my left, Making Contact hailing from 1985 and to my right, Ghost Chase from 1987. Ready? FIGHT! Ding, ding ding!
Ghost Chase, starring Jason Lively (European Vacation, Night of the Creeps), is about two young wannabe filmmakers, Warren and Fred, who are into making movies so they can make out with girls. Their film production has put them in serious debt, however, so when Warren (Lively) finds out that his rich grandfather has made him the heir to his estate the boys think they're out of hot water. Instead of receiving any money, Warren inherits an old suitcase containing an antique clock and some photos. This ain't no ordinary clock, though, as it emits a supernatural smog that causes Warren's partner, Fred, to have a ghostly dream about a man named Louis (who was the butler of Warren's grandfather they saw in one of the photos).
Fred gets the idea to make a film about the ghost of the butler and so they begin constructing an animatronic puppet in Louis' likeness. Somehow the puppet becomes possessed with the spirit of Louis and he helps them find a hidden treasure located in the grandfather's house. Throwing a wrench into their plans is studio exec Stan Gordon (the late Paul Gleason of The Breakfast Club and Die Hard) who is planning to blow up the old house in a movie he's filming.
Surprisingly, Making Contact (known as Joey in other countries) is quite a downer for a supernatural adventure. It tries to capture the spirit of The Goonies and The Monster Squad but fails. Instead, it's one of the most heart wrenching films I've ever seen. Basically, the main character's (Joey) father dies and the kids at school start to make fun of him for it which is evil and makes no sense. The death of his father helps bring Joey's telekinetic powers to the surface and he begins to move objects and make things explode with his mind. He can also talk to his dead father on a toy telephone.
Later on in the film, he finds an old ventriloquist dummy while exploring a nearby haunted house which, it turns out, once belonged to a famous magician who used the dummy in his act. The dummy becomes possessed with the spirit of the evil magician and, unaware of its evil intent, Joey steals the dummy. The dummy torments the crap out of Joey to the point where he hangs it by a noose in his closet. The dummy is unsettling enough with its moans and grunts, but it's way too sadistic to this innocent kid who just lost his father. The rest of the film deals with figuring out whether or not Joey has deep psychological problems and where he got his mysterious powers. The movie also delves into the history of the old house and what the dummy wants with Joey.
A scene from Making Contact
Doubling as the referee and ring announcer I wanted to declare this bout a draw, but after careful consideration I changed my decision. The matchup was very close from the start, since both films include similar looking animatronic puppets (both of which were awesome). While the death theme in Making Contact may bring viewers down a bit, Ghost Chase capitalizes on the fact that it's much lighter fare. Working against both films, however, is that both their plots are ridiculously convoluted and bizarre.
Making Contact definitely has an extreme identity crisis, it has no idea whether it simply wants to be Poltergeist or a straight up E.T. ripoff (which is apparent when the troops of scientists in white radiation suits infiltrate Joey's house for a large scale investigation). As a bit more of focused affair I have to give Round 1 to Ghost Chase. The fight isn't over yet, though. There's one more aspect to judge.
A scene from Ghost Chase
In the showdown between these two abominations of filmmaking, Making Contact has just barely gained the edge. What really gives this film the upper hand is it's nostalgia factor. Ghost Chase's haunted castle coffee maker and new wave opening credits pale in comparison to Making Contact's overload of '80s eye candy. You'll see all kinds of toys, Star Wars memoribilia, and other stuff you used to have when you were a kid. There were shots of Return of the Jedi sheets, a Masters of the Universe folder, an R2-D2 knockoff robot, an E.T drinking glass, TIE fighters, an A-Team game, and Darth Vader even appears at one point. Regardless of how lame the movie is, it's worth owning just to go for a trip down memory lane every once in a while. In the retro food department, Krispy Kreme had a huge product placement in the film and there's also a giant killer hamburger monster. The killer hamburger monster alone pushed Making Contact over the top.
Winner: Making Contact!
At his blog The Sexy Armpit, Jay Amabile wafts the fumes of New Jersey's pop culture. Jay is obsessed with comic books, movies, music, nostalgia, pro wrestling, and Twitter.