One of the things I’m always hoping for when I sit down to a horror film is to see something different; some writer/director that either shows me something I haven’t seen, or takes something I have seen and puts a new spin on it that hadn’t occurred to me before. I know you Fellow Fans out there are as sick as I am of the parade of “there’s-something-moving-shit-in-my-house/office/underwear drawer; let’s-put-up-a-camera-to-capture-it” or “let’s-us-nubile-teens-go-out-to-the-woods/cabin/petting zoo-where-old-axe-murderer-died-and-get-high-and-screw” flicks that fill the rank-and-file of most horror movies today. It’s very refreshing when a new idea hits the bricks, and the search for these is one of the things that keep us going.
Eric England’s film Contracted struck me as having a very novel concept of an old idea; although I’ve seen a film with sort of a similar notion, this particular story really grabbed me as original and engrossing (emphasis on the gross, but not necessarily in a bad way).
There’s a brief opening scene with what is obviously a guy in a morgue bangin’ the hell out of a corpse, and then washing his hands and leaving jauntily…
…and we switch to Samantha (Sam, to her friends), who is headed to a party at her friend Alice’s house. Poor Sam’s evening isn’t starting out well; from the get-go, we see her girlfriend isn’t going to make it to the party, and we sense that the couple is having some problems. Her friends try to cheer her up as best they can, and Alice even succeeds in getting her to loosen up and have a few drinks. As the night draws on, Sam gets further down the inebriation road; leaving those pathetic voice mails that we’re all familiar with, and getting more depressed as she goes. She finds herself in a drunken conversation with a guy who looks awfully familiar to us viewers, and despite our pleas to the screen (and her insistence to him that she isn’t interested in guys) she takes a drink that he offers her…and is shortly afterward being pounded away at in a dingy backseat. She awakens at home the next morning, her memory only coming in snippets…feeling hungover and in general pretty shitty. Little does she know that soon, that shitty feeling will involve some of the most horrendous-looking symptoms I’ve seen since The Stand, not to mention quarts of vaginal bleeding.
The story is an original twist on an old idea (I’m not gonna blow it for ya, but you guys will pick up on it fairly quickly); I daresay this film could be a prequel to a score of other, older films that you’d all know by name. I was a little shaky on some of the believability; Sam shows some symptoms that would make anyone I know rush immediately to the nearest emergency room, but instead she goes to a local doc who tells her she has a head cold and a bad rash (defending that, though, she did NOT tell the doctor the severity of her bleeding nor all of what had happened to her). That said, we are shown throughout the film that Sam has had some mental problems in the past, not to mention drug abuse; we see from her behavior that her relationship has become all-important to her, and she feels it would end should her girlfriend find out that she had slept with a guy…so she keeps this illness hidden as best she can.
Yeah…it’s weak, but it’s not completely implausible…it worked well enough for me. I found the acting to be pretty spot-on; Najarra Townsend’s performance as Sam was both sympathetic and annoying, balancing being a troubled young woman against being a selfish little bitch with skill; you really sympathize with her, yet stay kinda pissed at her for being so stubborn and refusing help (especially when we see how much of an inconsiderate asshole her girlfriend is). The other actors in the film, although they didn’t have a lot of screen time, definitely made the most of what they had. Of special note is Caroline Williams, quite smartly playing Samantha’s mother…always good to see her again. The direction was well-done; the pacing of Sam’s progressing illness balanced against her struggle to seem normal was solid and convincing. There’s not gore for gore’s sake, but as I said before, there’s a ton of blood, and as her symptoms continue to manifest themselves with increasing severity, Sam’s appearance becomes most ghastly (and some of those symptoms being revealed really induce some visceral pucker-factor), and some of her actions late in the film will bring at least a little smile to gorehounds.
I found the movie to be a treat; the 78 minute run-time flew by, and I never got bored. Aside from the few gripes about suspension-of-disbelief, I was happy with this one. It’s not only the best goddamn argument for practicing safe-sex I’ve ever seen, but it was a nice new angle on an old favorite.
I’ll watch it again.