By Richard Haridy
January 29, 2014
Contracted is prolific young filmmaker Eric England‘s fourth feature in as many years and it certainly has a notable level of formal sophistication that sets it apart from other low-budget genre entries. Sadly though, there’s also a frustrating thinness to the entire exercise, despite a satisfying “punchline” of a climax.
Samantha (Najarra Townsend) decides to booze her relationship troubles away one night, only to have her drink drugged by a creepy stranger who proceeds to rape Samantha in the back of his car. She wakes the next day and finds herself becoming progressively unwell with an illness the doctor just can’t identify.
A troubling contradiction sits at the heart of this film. Posters for Contracted use the tagline “Not your average one night stand,” playing with the idea that this is a nightmarish cautionary tale exaggerating the repercussions of casual, unprotected sex. It’s a staple of the horror genre to play up the consequences of promiscuous behaviour but for that reading of the film to work here we would need to essentially blame Samantha for putting herself in a position where she was drugged and raped. Even more startling is the amount of reviews that don’t even note the sexual assault as an instigating factor. It seems many simply see Samantha as a girl who got drunk at a party and slept with the wrong guy. This discomforting discordance lives at the core of this mildly unsettling flick and leaves quite a bitter taste.
Genre fans will appreciate the climactic payoff in Contracted, which satisfyingly contextualises the meta-story of the picture. Yet, this suitably glib ending also reductively eliminates all allegorical interpretations of what came before. At one point the camera drifts past an advertisement for an AIDS charity as if this is all one needs to do to add thematic depth to the narrative. England is either unable or disinterested in making his movie more than a straightforward horror vehicle.
As a superficial depiction of a woman’s physical deterioration due to an unknown illness, Contracted is an efficiently icky, gross-out exercise in body horror that should please fans of this kind of thing. Still, the lack of any substance below the surface is ultimately too frustrating to ignore.
Contracted is now available on Quickflix.