Contracted Review [NYCHFF 2013]
Remember all those times where you didn’t use a condom during sex and spent the next few days anxiously waiting to find out if you’d be welcoming an unexpected child into your life? I know, that’s enough of a horror movie right there, thinking about the responsibility of taking care of another life, but Contracted is worse – oh, so much worse. I firmly believe that Eric England’s body-horror flick should be shown in high schools around the world when the importance of using protecting is discussed in Sex Ed classes, because having an STD is one thing, but the thought of contracting whatever the hell this STD is will probably cause any sexually active viewers to carry a whole box of condoms on their person at all times.
Samantha (Najarra Townsend) is a hot young thing currently on the rocks with her bartender “girlfriend” Nikki (Katie Stegeman), so in an effort to have a little fun, she attends a party at her best friend Alice’s (Alice Macdonald) pad. There without any company, she draws the attention of many guys on the prowl, but she easily fights them off – until she gets a little too drunk. At this point, a man named BJ approaches Samantha and starts with some smooth talking, also handing her a drink he made. Fast forward a short amount of time, and we catch Samantha and BJ in a car getting nasty. Thinking no one will find out, she attempts to reconnect with Nikki, but when signs of an infection start appearing, Samantha quickly realizes that BJ may have left her with a bit of a parting gift. This isn’t one of those STDs your learn about in health class though, and unfortunately, Samantha learns the importance of safe sex – the hard way (Heh, get it?).
The beautiful thing about Contracted is that writer/director Eric England wastes absolutely none of your time. We’re hooked from the very beginning with a disturbing introduction involving necrophilia, shortly after we witness the “infection” being spread, and then boom – we’re treated to non-stop mindfuckery that mixes the thrills of infection/disease centered horror with the proper gross-outs that come along with watching a human being slowly deteriorate. There’s really no questioning whether Samantha is in trouble, because England clearly establishes just how monumentally screwed his main character is, and all he simply asks from his audience is to sit back and enjoy the disgusting, twisted ride.
Najarra Townsend does a wonderful job playing Samantha, a confused girl just trying to understand what torturous things are going on inside her, and does so with the right amount of disbelief and ignorance. How many times do we avoid going to the doctor, hoping whatever’s ailing us will just vanish? It’s a human reaction, one that happens more often than not, and Townsend really captures our instinctual reaction to just pretend whatever’s happening isn’t really happening – until a fingernail falls off. She’s supported by a strong cast around her, but Najarra delivers an extremely solid performance as Contracted‘s unfortunate test subject.
To play Devil’s advocate, certain moments took away from the inherent terror that Samantha was in during the later stages of her disease. The effects department did a fantastic job corroding her teeth, mutilating her eyes, distorting her skin-color, inserting maggots, uh, places – yet characters barely reacted to her at times. For example, Nikki has an exchange with Samantha, looking like absolute death, yet barely reacts to her physical appearance. There’s no doubt some viewers will scoff at these characters barely acknowledging a gigantic sore on Samantha’s mouth, but this also lent to the more relaxed, almost B-Movie vibe that I personally dug. Some will dig it, others won’t – I just happened to me more accepting.
Contracted is a fun little horror flick that will make you squirm in your very seat due to the sickness destroying Samantha’s life. Not only that, but England’s ending goes out on a genius high note that lets you interpret exactly what you want to. Don’t worry, there’s a finite ending to Samantha’s story, it’s not like we’re left on a cliffhanger, but Contracted finds a way wrap up this singular tale of debaucherous evil on a perfect note – suggesting something much more grandiose.
If you’re looking to bring a date out for a scary movie in hopes that you might get lucky afterwards while she’s all scared and bothered, heed my warning – Contracted is not that movie. Have fun spending some alone time with “Jill” if you make that mistake my young, lonely friend.
Contracted does for sex what Jaws did for beaches, let's just leave it at that.