I have a thing for bad movies. I like to dig around through the VHS bins at video stores for titles I've never heard of that look interesting, to find movies with unexpected images, performances, juxtapositions that other, more well-behaved movies might not feature. Most of the time this means awful viewing experiences like Cannibal Campout, but every so often there'll be a movie that makes the whole process worthwhile, and such a movie is The Carrier.
Apparently shot in Michigan on a super-low budget and released on video in 1988, this one is an oddball gem, a true indie movie with a great premise. In an idyllic small town, apparently set in some idealized Capra-esque past, an outcast young man is attacked one night by a bigfoot-looking monster (what the townspeople casually refer to as "The Black Thing") in his remote shack. The creature infects Jake with a unique disease, to which he is immune: any object he touches is immediately and permanently infected, deadly to the touch. Contact with one of these objects and a person or animal immediately begins to dissolve and melt away. What this means is that fifteen minutes in, an old man is killed by a copy of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Soon the entire town is in a panic as doors, mirrors, mailboxes, and even trees are deadly to the touch.
From this point, the movie develops in allegorical directions, but not in obvious directions. The townspeople wrap themselves in protective layers of plastic and veils, giving the movie a perverse, micro-budget Road Warrior look and perversely hiding most of the cast's faces. The town, isolated and scared, splits into two rival clans who soon are fighting over the newest valuable resource: cats, which are used to test for infectious objects. This means that there's an amazing, completely straight-faced scene where the leader of one of the warring clans, wrapped in garbage bags, screams, "CATS OR DEATH!!!" as a battle cry, and chaos ensues.
The movie obviously has an uphill battle to climb, with a tiny budget stretched out to cover a pretty ambitious storyline and a shortage of good characterizations. But the movie does have the good sense to play its absurdity with a straight face, as in the above battle scene and throughout. Another web review called it a cross between Twin Peaks and Romero's The Crazies and that's about right. For anyone interested in oddball cinema, it's a must-see. I'll try and capture some images and post them here so everyone can see how weird this little movie is.