Ginger Nuts of Horror
Now don't get me wrong – I love doing Film Gutter. It's kind of the most awesome hobby ever – watch great films that push boundaries, say my two pennies worth about them, and get some really cool interviews to boot. But...
But there are times I wonder why I do this to myself. And watching Contracted was one of those occasions. It's probably not the most disturbing film we've watched here, or the most graphic. But it has driven home to me that – since enduring the filmic nightmare that was Thanatomorphose – I've become very sensitive to the whole idea and area of body horror. It's never a patch of the genre I've been terribly keen on – the idea of the body rebelling against you and you being helpless against it is pretty scary stuff. But Contracted has more than a little in common with Thanatomorphose, my most disturbing movie of 2015, so that didn't help a jot. That's not to say this is a bad movie at all – but there's a lot I saw I could have lived without.
So Contracted follows Sam, a young lesbian in an on-again, off-again relationship with the British Nikki. Her British accent is one minor complaint, but I won't loiter on that. Anyway, at a part Sam gets herself rather drunk and ends up having back-seat car sex with a guy by the name of BJ, which she immediately regrets. Still, you can rest assured she'll come to regret it an awful lot more as time wears on. Because in the heat of the moment she forget to use protection and, it turns out, has landed herself an STD unlike any other.
There were a number of scenes that got me feeling rather queasy here – Sam's hair falling out, teeth coming out, her pulling a nail from her finger... yes, there's a healthy dollop of bodily unpleasantness to keep you gore fans happy. And the maggots were the worst of it all, but I won't spoil that particular moment. No, you have to see that for yourself. From the night of the party onwards, what looks like a simple cold or virus grows and grows in scale, and what's interesting is that the make-up FX are really good here. It seems as though in ever shot Sam is somehow getting worse and worse, be it her skin growing paler, veins starting to stand out, her eyes becoming red and infected... it's downhill every single step of the way for our lead.
It's interesting to see exactly where the story heads here, and I'll certainly be interested to see where Contracted: Phase II goes and also the rumoured third part to the series. This is a relatively low-key beginning to a series that can surely only grow in size and scope, and that could provide a fascinating journey over the next couple of movies. The performances here were pretty good, particularly Najarra Townsend in the lead, and her stature grew as those around her started to drift away and give up on Sam. You could argue in a sense the plot is very flimsy and lightweight, but as a prelude to the follow-ups and seen in context I think it might work just fine in that respect as a way to kick things off. It'll have you looking away from the screen and/or watching through your fingers at times, so ultimately it is an effective if not absolutely startling or revelatory slice of body horror.
RATING: 7/10. Generally very watchable, capably carried by the lead actress and giving enough moments of cringe-inducing body collapse to keep the average horror viewer happy, Contracted does what it does well without especially breaking the mould. However the very effective make-up and effects do lift this one up above the typical body horror, so I'm happy to give this one a hearty 7/10. We'll of course be taking a look at Contracted: Phase II at Film Gutter soon!