Review: Contracted (2013)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #757

Number of Views: One
Release Date: July 7, 2013
Sub-Genre: Body Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 78 minutes
Director: Eric England
Producers: Eric England, J.D. Lifshitz, Raphael Margules, Matt Mercer, Joshua Petrino
Screenplay: Eric England
Special Effects: Mayera Abeita
Visual Effects: Chris LeDoux
Cinematography: Mike Testin
Score: Kevin Riepl
Editing: Josh Ethier
Studios: BoulderLight Pictures, Southern Fried Films
Distributor: IFC Films
Stars: Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams, Alice Macdonald, Matt Mercer, Katie Stegeman, Charley Koontz, Simon Barrett, Ruben Pla, E-Kan Soong, Dave Holmes, Kaela Crawford

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Relax”

[2] Sara KhulaYou Got Me Feelin”

[3] Faith No More “Falling To Pieces”

[4] HeartAlone”

[5] Kevin Riepl “Contracted”

STD – three letters which, when bundled together, strike fear into the heart of anyone sexually active. We’re safe with our partners for the most part, unless they’ve been engaging in extracurricular activities unbeknownst to us. But the moment we throw caution to the wind and sleep with someone we don’t know from Adam, we’re rolling the dice. Back in the eighties, when the AIDS epidemic was making headlines, there was truly something to fear from such transactions and safe sex became imperative to anyone looking to engage in promiscuous sex.

However, while by 2014 it had been responsible for an estimated 39 million deaths worldwide, AIDS is no longer considered the killer virus it once was. Indeed, with early diagnosis and the correct treatment, those blighted can now hope for a near-normal life expectancy. So it’s safe once more to copulate without fear right?

Not even close. You see, venereal disease comes in many different forms and numerous different infections can be spread by vaginal intercourse, anal or oral sex, none of which are particularly pleasant. Symptoms can include genital itching, vaginal or penile discharge, ulcers on or around the afflicted area, and severe pelvic pain so there are still plenty of reasons not to jump into the sack with anyone whose sexual history is sketchy.

While many STDs are curable, there’s no magic cream for others, and the scariest thing is that they don’t necessarily require intercourse to continue to do the rounds. That said, it’s one night stands that leave us at the greatest risk, and a few minutes of surrendering to our aching loins can have dire repercussions.

Just ask Los Angeleno Samantha Williams (Najarra Townsend). Just a few hours ago Samantha was the picture of good health and had no reason to keep a tube of Vagisil in her medicine cabinet. Granted, she had a lot on her mind, what with her recent break-up with girlfriend Nikki (Katie Stegeman), but she still held out hope of them getting back together in due course.

It’s inevitable that every relationship will go through rough patches from time to time and that’s precisely how Samantha viewed this minor stumbling block. Besides, her best friend Alice (Alice Macdonald) was on hand to cheer her up and kindly threw a house party just to take her mind off the heartburn. What a sweet gesture.

About last night then, well it certainly seemed like your everyday soirée at the offset. It would be fair to say that Samantha wasn’t digging the vibe much and the constant attention of infatuated fellow party-goer Riley (Matt Mercer) was something she could have done without. But good old Alice wasn’t about to let her buddy wallow in her own despair and suggested a little “tonic” to help take the edge off her fast-mounting discomfort.

Okay so you could argue she may have strong-armed Samantha into knocking back those shots and admittedly did ply her with enough alcohol to floor a water buffalo. Still no reason to come down too hard on Alice though as Samantha was responsible for her own actions and seemed to have that side of things covered the last time she was spotted.

If you are looking to point the finger of blame, then might I suggest her friend and neighborhood dealer Zain (Charley Koontz). He made it crystal clear that he could hook her up if she so wished and, even more disconcertingly, may or may not have supplied mysterious party crasher BJ (Simon Barrett) with a few hits of rohypnol.

In turn, he may or may not have slipped a roofie or two into Samantha’s drink when she wasn’t paying attention and she may or may not have ended up in his car, being taken in a manner most snidey. It’s all a little foggy at present as the evening’s events are something of a blur to Samantha. Besides, she’s got a bitch of a hangover to contend with right now and that takes priority over everything else.

Perhaps hangover isn’t the term I’m looking for here. Traditionally this would entail waking up feeling like death warmed up, suffering from a dry mouth, absence of hunger, excessive sweating, nausea and perhaps a dash of mild depression just to top things off and is nothing a couple of Pepto-Bismol and few hits of caffeine won’t fix.

While all of these symptoms are very much present and correct, suggesting nothing more than booze related sickness, that wouldn’t explain the excessive vaginal bleeding or unsightly rash that has suddenly popped up all over her nether regions. A particularly heavy period then? Perhaps, that would certainly go some way to explaining The Shining elevator gush that just played out from her lady parts without prior warning. But there ain’t a tampon on the market absorbent enough to stem this flow.

Oh God, perhaps she’s pregnant. That’s pretty much the last thing a lesbian needs when trying to smooth things over with her estranged girlfriend. The thing about getting drugged and molested against one’s will is that the whole “protection” conversation seldom comes up and, for all Samantha knows, the elusive BJ may be extremely fertile and able to impregnate on command. An unwanted pregnancy would lay siege on her plans of becoming a florist, not to mention drive a further wedge between Samantha and her beloved Nikki. If only a uterus could talk, then she’d have some much-needed answers, but she seems fairly confident that her luck isn’t quite that wretched and has ruled it out on the spot.

If there’s an underlying concern right now, then regrettably it’s one of many. The abdominal cramps are becoming increasingly more frequent and crippling, aural hallucinations are making it nigh-on impossible to complete a shift at her waitress job, her pretty little peepers have undergone some serious discoloration, and that’s not to mention the hair dislodging from her scalp in thick clumps or teeth dropping out in the sink.

To make matters even worse, that fucking Riley guy appears to be having some trouble taking no for an answer. What is it about men where they find the challenge of turning a gay women too tantalizing to pass up, as though homosexuality is some kind of mild sickness that can be cured with a little creepy TLC. To be fair, Samantha is clearly turning, but not quite in the manner that Riley would be hoping.

Fuck it, there’s nothing to lose by heading over to Nikki’s place and trying to make amends. Granted, Samantha looks like shit, indeed I know excrement that would label her an “ugly munter” at this present moment. But true love conquers all right? That may be so but I’m starting to get the idea that Nikki isn’t as into the prospect of mending bridges as her increasingly desperate sweetheart.

It’s just a hunch of course, but it’s not customary to open the front door with a groan, show absolutely no enthusiasm, and generally act like a monstrous bitch when deep in love. That said, I can see why Samantha puts up with this shit as Nikki sure knows how to make being an absolute tool bag tremendously sexy. I’ve got half a mind to try my luck and request a hand job while we’re here, just to break the uncomfortable silence you understand.

It’s widely recognized that, when a girl falls ill, the only person she truly wants is her mother. Nobody else knows how to say the right thing, apply the correct lotion, and rub the areas in greatest need of attention than mommie dearest, although they generally draw a line at strumming snatches to alleviate the distress. The good news for Samantha is that Nancy (Caroline Williams) is seldom not on hand to offer her daughter advice and only too happy to chip in for the cause. The bad news for Samantha is that said cause is her own and their relationship is fractious to say the very least. If you’ve noticed our sick puppy being a little stand-offish shall we say, then Nancy may very well be the reason.

Now I’m not suggesting that Samantha is an angel or that she can blame her tumultuous relationship with mom for acting like such a complete twat 90% of the time. Bearing in mind that the other 10% is currently spent peeling off dead skin, frantically applying eye drops and gushing a gallon of grue from her vulva; the evidence is fairly conclusive. She’s a reasonably horrible person and therefore we should all just kick this skanky rotter to the curb to decompose in silence shouldn’t we? I mean, when did she become our problem? I’ll tell you where. The moment she stepped under the lens of director Eric England, that’s where.

Contracted: Phase I, as it is now known, is every bit as sneaky and unscrupulous as its blight carrier BJ. You see, England slips his audience a roofie unbeknownst to all of us and we find ourselves caring about a group of young socialites who, let’s be honest, are reasonably hateful by all accounts. There are a number of ways that he achieves the improbable and first up is the way this baby is shot.

Warm and inviting from the get-go, Mike Testin’s dreamy photography offers its own kind of intimacy and, like our soon-to-be infected hostess, we leave ourselves open to suggestion. He then deems it time to ply us with shots and they are presented in just as confidential and hard-hitting a manner. Whether Samantha is a cunt or not suddenly matters less as it’s us left scratching, us shipping red from all available orifices, us slowly decaying like a punnet of peaches on a sun lounger. Date-raping motherfucker only went and spread the sickness.

The entire cast play their part but its the broken love triangle of Townsend, Macdonald, and Stegeman that bear the greatest fruit. For a few moments we entirely forget that our leading lady is beginning to resemble human slag as there’s such a train wreck in the making presenting itself and all three play their part marvelously. However, distractions aside, it’s all about hitting the restroom with our festering friend so we can check out which body part has corroded now. It may be a tad cold and inhospitable, but lest we not forget this is body horror we’re dealing with here and at its most effectual when handled in as clinical a manner as possible.

I watched Éric Falardeau’s Thanatomorphose a few years back and knew full well in advance that laughs were going to be thin on the ground. Smiles too were barely warranted as the entire 100 minutes were spent in the kind of gradual decline I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. This is the same and, while far more mainstream-orientated than Falardeau’s venereal vein thumper, Contracted still has a rather persuasive way of making the only point that really counts.

Just how progressive he takes things is for you to find out and me to run a bath because of; but the signs are promising for Josh Forbes’ Contracted: Phase II which I plan to drink in this very evening. Glutton for punishment? Isn’t one hangover enough? Perhaps but you know what they say about the hair of the dog that bit you. Now roll over and play dead while I give your belly a quick scratch. Bear with me a jiffy, let me just pluck off this unsightly fingernail. Hold on, where the fuck did that pile of bloody maggots come from?

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 3/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Here are a few words that sum Contracted up in a nutshell. Icky, yucky, gross, repellent, nauseating, vile, and disgusting. Take your pick and you’ll be rewarded by way of enough creeping flesh to put you off sex for the foreseeable, especially the one-night variety. Personally, I’d still take weeping hives over surrendering my anal virginity to Hugh from It Follows or having to suck on some old coot’s bag balls like poor Sarah from Starry Eyes, but that doesn’t make the scratching any less rigorous. To reveal too much would be to stop the rot for all you good people; but let’s just say those of a weaker disposition may wish to sit this one out.

Read Contracted: Phase II Appraisal

Read Thanatomorphose Appraisal

Read Rabid Appraisal

Read Honeymoon (2014) Appraisal

Read It Follows Appraisal

Read Starry Eyes Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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