I kept hearing about this sick new horror film called Contracted. The film kind of hits one of my subgenre weaknesses with its sick STD premise. I wanted to watch it...but, something inside me told me that it was icky. So, I made Matt Dean watch it and review it. Check it out.
As all of you know, I eat breath and sleep horror films. Everything from seeds of a plot for a movie that may never come out to a poster premier to a teaser trailer to the official trailer to the film to behind the scenes to imdb trivia sections, etc. etc. etc. It’s because of this that I was really excited for Contracted to arrive immediately when I saw the first poster for it. Just a simple image of a girl’s face; skin pale – almost opaque, one eye almost completely filled with what looks like blood, the other eye completely white, the left side of her lips seemingly beginning to rot down to her chin. It’s a beautiful image for a horror fan. And then, near the bottom of the poster is the tagline, “NOT YOUR AVERAGE ONE NIGHT STAND”. OK, so this girl’s going to have sex and get a sexually transmitted disease that turns her into a zombie-esque monster, right? Well, as it turns out, I’d be wrong in that assumption. Because, the main character does not have a one night stand – she is given roofies and she is raped. RAPE is not a one night stand. According to the urban dictionary, a one night stand is: “Hooking up with someone for one night of sex with no strings attached and hoping to never see them again. It is important not to exchange any personal info with them so they can't track you down and stalk you later.” If you can’t make it clear that it’s not consensual or if you pass out during an attempt to stop said actions, it’s called rape. Ok, let's put that pet peeve of mine behind us, shall we?
The movie opens up with a man having (implied) sex with a dead body in a morgue. When he’s done he zips up the body bag and goes about his business. Telling from that first scene alone, we know this will be a bit deranged. From there we are introduced to Samantha, a young girl who has evidently had some serious drug problems in the past and, when she arrives at a late-night party, we realize that in order to escape her past she has also had to distance herself from those friends as well. Everyone at the party stares at her and places their judgment in plain sight. We also learn that Samantha has recently begun a relationship with a girl that she works with. A decision that it seems none of the people approve of either. [Why even surround yourself with these people?] Once the booze starts flowing and her inhibitions seem to be waning, a man bumps into her – causing her to spill her drink. Of course, he just so happens to have one there to offer her – laced with said roofies. Cut to a hazy remembrance of the back of a car and her now pointless attempts at making the man stop what he’s already intent on doing to her. As a horror fan, I feel that it should be noted that BJ, the rapist we’re discussing, is none other than Simon Barrett; writer and actor of VHS, VHS 2, You’re Next, a segment of The ABCs of Death, A Horrible Way to Die, among others. When Samantha awakens, she’s a bit under the weather. As the days progress, so does her body digress; complete with maggots falling out of her, blood flowing from multiple orifices, fingernails falling off, hair falling out and a bevy of other unsightly images. What follows is pretty much the worst STD imaginable.
I think the film is saying something more than just STDs, though. I think it shows bluntly how someone’s past never really leaves them. Even before the people surrounding Samantha knew that she was sick, each person presupposed something about what was wrong with her. Her mother instantly thought that she HAD to be back on drugs again. Her friends assumed that her newfound lesbianism HAD to be backfiring on her; her boss was positive that she HAD to be lying to get out of coming to work, so on and so on. People only care about themselves. The rapist cares about cumming. The mother cares about creating a perfect fucking member of society. The doctor cares about filling his quota with an empty prescription pad. The restaurateur cares about getting the perfect amount of stars in his review. And, when you get to that point, you almost have to become a completely different person in order for any one of them to believe otherwise. In Samantha’s case, she became something none of them were ready for.
Technically, the film is good. The effects are noticeably low-budget, but appropriately-placed cameras help to add to the realness of the situation and let the mind create the images the camera shies away from. Body horror has never been my thing. Watching a fingernail get pulled out or a tooth get knocked out is freaking cringe-worthy to the fullest extent. I know, I know it’s a downfall. One scene that really got on my nerves was a scene towards the end where Samantha’s teeth have begun to erode. During the course of about ten minutes her back teeth go from pristine and white to dingy and brown a number of times. I just don’t understand how something like that is missed. All of the reviews and blurbs that I saw about the film raved that it “…was great for such a limited budget.” Just because a film has a limited budget doesn’t mean that it has to be poor in quality. The acting was not the worst I’ve seen. The mother was played by “Stretch” from Texas Chainsaw 2 and she was believably bitchy, but the rest of the bit actors either under-acted or were way over the top. I think Najarra Townsend (Samantha) did a great job though and was obviously the key role to anchoring the believability of the subject matter.
So, let’s put it in a meat grinder and see what we come out with. While the film could have been infinitely better, the plot was engaging, the scenes of Samantha degrading / decaying were the perfect amount of awkward and uncomfortable and it has a lot to say about how people view each other and project their expectations onto the people around them. At a mere 84 minutes, that accomplishes more than most 2 hour films.
Matt, Signing Out