Contracted (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 22, 2021

PLOT: After getting wasted at a friend's party and having unprotected sex with a strange dude (a necrophiliac to boot), a young woman slowly morphs into a virally infected, flesh-rotting mutant.

REVIEW: Well here you go bible-belters, here's one odious poster-child for abstinence if I've ever seen one. Or perhaps a sly satire of, which I (want to) believe is the intent behind Arkansas born filmmaker Eric England, the 25 year-old who made MADDISON COUNTY a couple of years ago. Problem is, I can't tell. In CONTRACTED, England depicts the harrowing consequences of sleeping around with reckless abandon, but also uses that framing device to illustrate – at the personal, granular level – the painstaking transformation of a human being into a flesh-decaying zombielike mutant. CONTRACTED is a sick and icky flick, sure to induce a perpetual cringe on a viewer's face and sate even the most depraved of body-horror fans (two words…pussy maggots!) Beyond that though, the final third of the film devolves into a confused mishmashes of different subgenres (slasher, zombie, viral) and fails to resoundingly express its point of view. In other words, what starts as a frightening and darkly humorous metaphor turns into a slightly inarticulate curio.

Meet Samantha (Najarra Townsend), a pretty young L.A. waitress and aspiring florist. As she arrives at her friend Alice's party, we soon learn her newfound lesbian love is on the rocks. Melancholic, Sam starts downing shots like Bukowski…at the behest of Alice (Alice Macdonald) of course. Next thing you know, Samantha's three sheets to the wind and getting hit on by a sleazy bald perv (played by horror filmmaker Simon Barrett), whose face we never see and who spouts terrible lines that are more stilted than a bad David Lynch actor. Oh, and who also happens to be a necrophiliac. But nevertheless, Sam finds herself getting pounded in the backseat of her car by this lecherous creep (semi-consensually mind you)…a decision that springboards the repulsive horror that follows. Three days in specific, each one progressively worse for our infected heroine. Bad decision after bad decision follow suit (including snorting heroin), but even more than the bodily decay she experiences throughout, it's Sam's inability to tell anyone about her condition, at least early on, that conjures such deep unease as a viewer.

And really, that's where CONTRACTED is most effective…in its gross-out-ability. As an intimate portrait of a 3-day zombie metamorphosis, no doubt, the flick is quite successful. A lot of that has to do with the lead performance of Townsend, who does a wonderful job with an extremely demanding performance. First off, she's in every single scene and has to register every damn emotion…from happy to sad,  scared to angry, docile to violent. Honestly, I was a bit concerned early on, but as the flick unspooled, it became clear that Townsend is a promising actor to keep an eye on (P.T. Anderson must have felt similarly, having cast her in a bit part for THE MASTER). No doubt, Najarra carries this film on her back, which is essential considering the film doesn't really have a plot so much as it has an elongated 3-day horror-scenario. So in terms of the physical and visual, placing us in the poor girl's shit-covered shoes, the film works quite well. It's in the rest of films story, overarching statements and handful of ludicrous scenes that render the flick a borderline laugh-fest. And I can't tell if it's intentional or not.

For example, all the scenes between Sam and her doctor (Ruben Pla) are flat out ludicrous. Just stupid beyond belief. The girl comes in with a head cold, severe rash and bloody cooch, yet the doc won't even prescribe the poor girl antibiotics until her blood-work comes in…which, in her condition, would have had a rush put on it. Is this a poorly written scene or supposed to be a comment on the negligence of the American health system? I can't tell, which makes me think it's the latter. Same thing with the abstinence/safe sex metaphor.

Equally puzzling if not unconvincing are scenes at home between Sam and her intolerant mother (Caroline Williams). They start out buyable enough, but by the end, not even remotely. In fact, until Sam actually called her "mom" I thought the chick was an estranged aunt or foster parennt reluctant to help a troubled niece. Put simply, anytime Sam has to interact with another person, the film isn't at its best. No, it's at its best when Sam is alone – mortified of and eviscerated by – her escalating virus, and our vicarious experience of such. So yeah, the subtext of the film doesn't work as well as the visceral squeamishness its able to render.

All that to say, if you're a fan of seeing intense bodily grue and ever-increasing flesh-putrescence, CONTRACTED is something you'll definitely want to catch. But for those who demand such visual disturbances come in combination with stronger storytelling and a more intricate plot, CONTRACTED might be one to avoid picking up. I dug it for its strengths – the visceral and emotional toll of slowly transmuting into a zombielike mutant – but found faults in some of the larger statements the film tried or didn't try to make, the emotions it tried to elicit, and the tonal/generic inconsistencies of the third act. That said, I also commend Najarra Townsend for doing a great job in awfully challenging role. I just wish some of the other actors gave her better support at times. Or at least better lines to play off of. But really, vaginal maggots?!?!?! Come on, do I really need to say more?!

Contracted (Movie Review)



Source: Arrow in the Head

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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.