Contracted: Phase II (Movie Review)

Contracted: Phase II (Movie Review)
4 10

PLOT: A police officer and a young man suffering from a terrifying disease uncover the threat of a plague that could bring about the end of days.

REVIEW: Writer/director Eric England's 2013 film CONTRACTED was a sneak attack of a zombie movie, taking a unique approach to the concept of zombie infection. For most of the running time, it was a body horror tale, following a young woman named Samantha (Najarra Townsend) as she spends three days suffering the quick, devastating effects of an STD she received from being raped by a mysterious necrophiliac morgue attendant called B.J. It wasn't until the film's climax that things became completely clear and Samantha went full zombie.

When a sequel was first announced, there was some hope that England might return to the helm, and he did start writing a script for it. Things didn't work out, though, and England ended up having no involvement whatsoever with the sequel. Almost nothing is known about what his ideas for a follow-up were, only that the title CONTRACTED: PHASE II was already in place when he was working on it, and that his story picked up right where the first movie ended.

The final version of CONTRACTED: PHASE II may not be England's story, but the film does indeed pick up right where its predecessor cut to credits, much like HALLOWEEN II or EVIL DEAD II. Najarra Townsend and Caroline Williams even reprise their roles as Samantha and her mother, but so quickly that it made me wonder if these glimpses of them were actually deleted shots from CONTRACTED. If you hoped to spend more time with Samantha in PHASE II, this is not the sequel you wanted, but if you wanted to see more gore and grotesqueries seep from her body, you're in luck.

Stepping into the lead role is a supporting character from the first movie, Matt Mercer as the Samantha-smitten Riley, who was infected by the object of his affection. A substantial portion of the film deals with him suffering much of the same zombie STD symptoms viewers watched Samantha experience.

Lest you think this is simply a retread, rest assured that the story does gradually descend into utter insanity. 

Director Josh Forbes and screenwriter Craig Walendziak, both of whom are making their feature debuts with CONTRACTED: PHASE II, had a tough job in trying to figure out how to continue on from England's film. You can't do the same thing all over again, but you should feature some similar moments. Once the zombie element has been established, you have to delve further into it, but CONTRACTED shouldn't become NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. There were a lot of questions left to answer, but shouldn't England have been the one to answer them? It was a tough balancing act to pull off. Unfortunately, CONTRACTED: PHASE II slips off the tightrope.

At first Forbes and Walendziak do a fine job replicating the tone and feel of what came before, but things gradually fall apart as the story expands to include more zombies and to reveal more about B.J. That "patient zero" does return, now played by Morgan Peter Brown rather than YOU'RE NEXT/THE GUEST screenwriter Simon Barrett, and we learn what he's all about. I'm wishing I had been left in the dark.

By the latter half of PHASE II, the movie wasn't working for me on any level. The body horror moments weren't nearly as effective as they were the first time around, some things meant to be gross-outs came off as silly, and the rules of the infection seemed to have been broken. The zombie attacks felt out of place. What was done with B.J. is horrendously cheesy. To see how far the final moments of PHASE II have gone off course is stunning. And a bit appalling.

The film does have some good things going for it. The cinematography by Mike Testin looks great and Jonathan Snipes provided a strong score. The actors do well in their roles, with Marianna Palka and Anna Lore being standouts among the supporting cast. These things do not save the film, however. The negative still outweighs the positive.

The first CONTRACTED is a solid film and could have been the foundation for a franchise that went in some interesting directions, but with PHASE II this series has very quickly been run into the ground. I would advise just sticking with the first movie.

Extra Tidbit: CONTRACTED: PHASE II is being released in theatres and on VOD September 4th.



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