Monday, March 24, 2014

Contracted (2013): Just Say No To The Red Solo Cup!

In the fourth feature from director Eric England, CONTRACTED is a tale of caution, yet another warning to watch who you get too cozy with.

Obviously it's never a good idea to get utterly trashed at a party, in particular when there are people there you don't know who are jonesing to get you into the sack.  Or, in Samantha's (Najarra Townsend) case, the back seat of a car.

Sam, already distraught because her and her lover, Nikki (Katie Stegeman) are on the outs, does multiple shots at a party hosted by her friend Alice (Alice Macdonald) and in the worst move of the century, accepts a drink from a stranger.  Soon after the romp in the car, Sam starts to feel a bit under the weather.

Her relationship on the brink of break-up, she is back living at home with her concerned mother (Caroline Williams), who has seemingly put up with a lot in the past from her daughter.  Drug abuse is inferred, as is her mother's disdain in her romantic choices.

In truth, Sam is not a particularly likeable person.  She rolls her eyes and whines a lot.  She's catty and dismissive with her two closest friends, Alice and Riley (producer Matt Mercer) - who for some unknown reason both still want to sleep with her. She holds down a job at a restaurant but isn't a very friendly waitress. She's cruel to her mother, more or less a spoiled child with a bad attitude.

So it's rather hard to feel any true sympathy for Sam's situation as it grows increasingly worse as the film goes on.  She wakes up the day after the encounter feeling out-of-sorts. Her eyes are unusually bloodshot. There is copious amounts of blood on the sheet under her.  Hangover? Bad period?  I think not.  But she takes it all in stride, just dismissing the problem with a tampon and a squirt of Visine.

At work while waiting on customers she experiences auditory problems, and one of her eyes is completely red (yes, the pupil too!).  In the restroom she notices a problem "down there", so begs off her shift and heads to the doctor.   Assessing her situation, which includes a strange rash in the nether-regions, he explains he can't treat her until he gets the results of some blood work.  He tells her it is most certainly viral but basically sends her on her way.  (This distressed me the most.  Because I work for a doctor, I'm well aware that this physician should have done some vaginal cultures as well as labs, at the very least. Anyhoo....)

Things only go downhill from there.  No reason to spoil all the fun by giving anything else away, but please note that the body horror expands to disgusting proportions in Contracted's short 78 minute running time.  Sam's fingernails, hair, and teeth start to fall out.  She develops sores.  Her mind starts playing tricks on her. Maggots fall from her crotch. (Not joking there, kiddos!)

Just what has Sam contracted??

My only complaint is that to be honest, in addition to Sam, not one of the other characters was remotely likeable either.  You certainly felt Sam's plight, but as stated, she is a truly annoying person. Her friends were all rather irritating and vapid as well. Add to that the fact that everyone had a crush on Sam (except her girlfriend, ironically) and I just didn't care much about anyone in the cast at all.  That did not, however, ruin the film for me.  Perhaps it was the gross-out factor (running overly high here, especially at the end) that kept me interested, but I just couldn't wait to see what the outcome was going to be.  I had ideas of what was going on from the get-go, but as it unfolded I became increasingly intrigued about how far they would go.
And they went all the way.

Eric England (of Madison County fame) is one to watch. Independent film has really come to the fore-front of horror, with interesting ideas that are perceptive to what horror fans are seeking.  Practical effects, decent scripts, and honest acting is all I ask of a film.  This film has all of that, and I'll be watching closely to see what England does next.

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