Thursday, April 3, 2014

Contracted (2013)

Director: Eric England
Notable Cast: Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams, Matt Mercer, Simon Barrett, Alice MacDonald

When it comes to body horror flicks, the results can be varied. Early Cronenberg rocked the genre to the core (including the vicious and thoughtful The Fly remake), but usually if it’s a miss it’s a wide miss. Which is what makes Contracted such an intriguing film. I had heard some various reactions to it from friends, but the resulting film is a mixed bag through and through. Director/writer Eric England certainly has the right idea for Contracted with its strong visuals and tense moments, but the rest of the film comes off as a rather hollow and disconnected experience.

For Sam (Townsend), life has been a little rough. Her girlfriend has become distant, her friends seem occupied, and her career with gardening seems to far away to be real yet. So when a party goes sour with a rather unwanted one night stand, Sam feels like it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Then the symptoms start…

Mornings can be rough...
As an independent horror flick, there is still a lot to admire about Contracted. It has ridiculously high production values for its budget and the director seems to understand the core of what is needed to make the film work as a horror film. He cakes the film in some solid atmosphere, utilizing the lead actress’ acting abilities to a wide variety of angles to pull off her ‘deterioration’ for the audience. When the film gets intense, including a few gag inducing sequences as her body starts to decay, it works. By the time we get to the final act, I had a squeamish look for most of the time and in that sense Contracted works in spades as a body horror film.

The issue that remains then is that this indie horror flick ultimately feels disconnected from the audience. I’m sure I might feel a bit differently about it if I were a woman as there seems to be some strong underlying subtext about how a young women is treated by those around her, but even as a character Sam does some very silly things for the sake of the plot. By the end of the film, there were entire choices made for the story by characters that made little sense (most of which for the sake of pacing and keeping us grossed out) and I began to care less and less to see if she could overcome her “illness.” The same goes for a lot of the secondary characters. To often the supporting characters felt cliché and cut out rather than unique people to craft the story around. The inconsiderate druggie friend? The bitch girlfriend who ‘needs more space?’ How about the preachy mother who never listens? Check, check, and check.

"Oh God, do I have pink eye?"
Contracted fails to feel real despite the amazingly effective special effects and horrific tension. I was never disinterested with the film as it kept a solid atmospheric tension throughout and I was curious to see what was going to happen to Sam, but rarely did I care emotionally about the outcome and in the end it cuts this film short. This is not a film for the weak of stomach or those unwilling to buy into the forced plot progressions. If you are willing to overlook them, the film works on a variety of levels. It’s still disappointing overall. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider 


  1. Dude, have you seen the movie that this flick was derived from? Check out 'Thanatomorphose'. It goes way beyond what this movie did, lol.

    1. It's interesting you say 'derived from.' I gathered that Contracted had it's script sold before Thanatomorphose was released when I was doing research for this film for this review.