Synopsis: A young woman contracts what she first believes to be a sexually transmitted disease following a one-night stand, but soon realizes she is suffering from something far worse as her body begins to deteriorate at an alarming rate.
Release Date: November 22, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
Horror films are usually dependent on monsters or killers to inspire fear. However, every once in a while, a rare movie comes along and takes something normal and natural and makes it frightening. Contracted/ is one of these rare movies.
Contracted focuses on Samantha (Najarra Townsend from Me and You and Everyone We Know), a young woman who, after a spat with her girlfriend, decides to drink her sadness away at a friend’s party. She meets a mysterious man named BJ (played devilishly out-of-focus by You’re Next screenwriter Simon Barrett) and, in her weakened state, has sex with him. She wakes up feeling horrible, and not just from her guilt; she’s physically sick, and it’s much more than just a hangover. At first, she is just freezing cold. Soon enough, she suffers from painful cramps, notices dark splotches on her face and body, and finds blood in her underwear. She goes to see a doctor and, although puzzled by her symptoms, he is sure that she contracted something from her one-night sexual partner. As she progresses through even more stages of infection, she realizes that she has something more serious than a simple venereal disease. To top it all off, she finds that the police are searching for BJ, leading her to believe that he has infected many others with whatever he gave her. As her illness plays with her mind, Sam lashes out violently at her friends and family while she struggles to make sense of her situation.
Written and Directed by Eric England (Madison County, Roadside), Contracted is a cautionary tale about the perils of substance abuse and promiscuous sex that avoids feeling too much like a high school sex-ed film. It’s a pretty straightforward story, but it packs a mean punch. There is very little backstory, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks by themselves, but that does not prevent it from getting its point across. As Sam’s illness progresses, the character is humanized as she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Because of this, the likable Sam is a sympathetic character, even though it is never forgotten that she has brought her troubles upon herself. There is a little of everyone in Sam and her mistakes, and the character (as well as Najarra Townsend’s performance) connects with the audience.
Contracted is a slick, well-made film that falls somewhere between the body horror of The Fly and the viral horror of Contagion. That is not to say that it is derivative of either of these films; on the contrary, Contracted is highly original. Sam’s transformation of both mind and body may be every bit as horrifying and fascinating as that of Jeff Goldblum’s Seth Brundle, but the film comes off as more personal and intimate than other genre films. Because Sam’s story could be based on fact and is not pure science fiction, Contracted strikes a deeper chord. In a horror climate of ghosts, monsters, and psycho killers, Contracted is something new and different amongst the old and recycled.
The music for Contracted, provided by Kevin Riepl (Silent Night), is a prime example of the type of music that works well in modern horror movies. Riepl’s driving score is both suspenseful and explosive, keeping the story moving while not overpowering the visuals. The music is very electronic sounding, but not as dated as the Moog scores of films like The Shining or Assault on Precinct 13. It’s modern, yet still harkens back to the horrifying classic scores of Lalo Schifren and Jerry Goldsmith. The score goes from moody to cacophonous at the drop of a hat, helping Contracted get into the head of its audience. Riepl’s score is horror the way it should sound in the 21st century.
Contracted isn’t scary in the traditional, in-your-face definition of the word. It’s more unsettling in a seat-squirming way, with most of the chills provided by its unadulterated use of gore. However, even the gore isn’t slasher movie, blood splatter gore; it’s simple and implied, which makes it all the more frightening. As Sam’s infection progresses, the viewer is shown Takashi Miike-esque scenes of brutality that include her pulling out teeth, ripping off fingernails, and losing clumps of hair. The film takes a situation that could happen to anyone who is not careful and attentive and amplifies it ten-fold. There’s a lot of gross stuff in Contracted, stuff that makes it hard to watch without gritting teeth or covering eyes, but that’s not what makes it scary. It’s the underlying cause of the gore, and the pleasure-equals-pain moral that makes the film really terrifying. Contracted is an it-can-happen-to-you film that goes far beyond a warning – it’s an indictment.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Eric Englund
- Screenwriter(s): Eric Englund
- Cast: Najarra Townsend (Samantha)Caroline Williams (Sam’s Mom)Alice Macdonald (Alice) Katie Stegeman (Nikki)Matt Mercer (Riley)Simon Barrett (BJ)
- Editor(s): Josh Ethier
- Cinematographer: Mike Testin
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Kevin Riepl
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA