BoulderLight Pictures / Southern Fried Films
Directed By: Eric England
Starring: Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams, Alice Macdonald
Review By David Mayne
Netflix is something of a mixed blessing when it comes to late night movie-cruising night owls like me. On the one hand, I love sitting down in front of the fireplace with a freshly pourn (sp?) mug of Stone IPA and perusing the latest batch of never-before-heard-of indie flicks, hoping to find just the right one to match one of my many moods. On the other hand, the notoriously indie-filled streaming service also ensures that some of my nights will be spent browsing for an hour and a half rather than actually watching anything, deciding instead on some air disaster yarn or Egyptian documentary out of desperation to simply watch something with my now-fading ale.
It’s on nights like these that I wish Netflix offered something in the way of trailers. Sure, I can switch on over to YouTube or something and search for the trailer, but who the hell wants to do that with a beer in one hand and a remote in the other. Netflix should be a one-stop-shop, right? How many movies did I start, only to decide 10-15 minutes in that I was simply not interested, something a trailer might have told me in 2 minutes. That said, let’s get back on track. To the casual observer, Contracted’s cover-art, which is beautifully horrific, by the way, sold me on appearance alone. Did I read the description? Yeah, but something about a picture of a woman with her face rotting away and a title like Contracted had me at hello. That was enough of a trailer for me, so I hit play, took a sip of San Diego’s finest brew, and dove right in to director Eric England’s latest horror-thriller, hoping that it would make it past my time-honored 15-minute trial by fire. It mostly did.
During a really quick intro sequence, which I had to go back and watch after the movie because I completely missed it the first time, you get the idea that some dude is getting it on with a corpse in what I’m guessing is a morgue. After either washing out or filling a test tube with what looks like baby batter, he 86’s the morgue, suggesting he also might work there. Put 2 and 2 together and also assume that he “contracted” some sort of disease or plague from said corpse (biohazard tag is seen on corpse-toe), and thus becomes a carrier for Hell cooties.
Enter Samantha, a 20-something quasi-lesbian whose man-hating girlfriend, Nikki, is not-so-subtly dropping hints that the relationship might be over. Heading out to a party hosted by her friend, Alice, Samantha (too easily) goes against her better judgement and proceeds to get sauced on shots with Alice, causing her to take a strange drink from a strange guy (lovingly named “BJ”), ending up in a strange car getting raped. I’m not trying to make light of this, but there was actually some outcry on the IMDB forums because Netflix had advertised the movie as a girl who has a “one night stand” with a guy rather than “was raped” by the guy, which was true since the sex didn’t seem to be entirely consensual. It’s implied that the dude slipped something into the drink he handed her, but what wasn’t as evident was who exactly he even was, or what his seemingly calculated assault on Samantha was for, other than rape.
Over the next few days, Samantha develops some pretty disturbing symptoms, including severe cramps and blue tummy-veins which she so-expertly attributes to the possible onset of her “period”. The doctor she visits, who seems like he might also moonlight as a space cadet, simply tells her to shrug it off as nothing more than a head cold and to apply some cream to the affected areas. Thanks, Dr. House. (At least he didn’t say it was Lupus.)
The back story also deals with Samantha’s crumbling relationship with Nikki, who is pushed further and further away as Samantha’s health deteriorates by the day. Samantha’s mother, whose attempts to help Samantha, is only met with constant pushing away and defiance, suggesting a rocky family past with an extra helping of alcoholism.
My main problem with Contracted was the film’s many plot holes. What really gets me more than that is when they are plot holes that could have been avoided. Sometimes I attribute this to lazy film making, budgetary constraints, or a rushed production schedule. Look, I’m not in any way saying that laziness brought Contracted away from being a really great movie, but I am suggesting that perhaps not enough time was devoted to ensure that the major plot elements were explored and explained. I completely understand when a film likes to “put things out there” for the viewer to interpret and figure out, but a lot of Contracted seemed to entirely rely on this formula- never really giving the audience answers to the film’s many questions. I’m all for movies that test me a bit, asking me to do some of the math, but Contracted throws a lot of who, how, when, and whys out there without any real supporting documents. If I want an epic-WTF-does-this-even-mean experience, I’ll watch a Shane Carruth movie, not a horror flick. I’ll tell you what, I’m really nitpicking here because I so dearly loved Contracted’s overall pace, arc, and payoff- which I won’t spoil for you, but as a big fan to a certain genre of horror, this was a cool alt-origin story! That said, WHO the hell is BJ?!
I really dug Contracted, as a whole. Was it heavily interspersed with genuine plot holes and a handful of “really??” moments? Yes, but don’t let that detract you. It’s one of the better thrillers I’ve seen this year and should be seen by anyone interested in body-decomp-horror! Yep, that’s a new one.